Australia returns 9 ancient Buddha statues to Thailand after 112 years

Nine wooden Buddha statues have returned to Thailand after being in Australia for 112 years.

Murray Upton, an Australian man from Canberra, contacted the Royal Thai Embassy that he was in possession of nine ancient Buddha statues from Thailand.

The Australian said he received the Buddha statues from his father. He said they were in his father’s possession since 1911.

Upton said that his father was a surveyor and engineer for the Southern Siam Company, who built the Southern Railway for the State Railway of Thailand in 1911 in Trang province.

Realising the value of the statues, Upton decided to return them to Thailand by contacting the Thai embassy in Canberra.

Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Fine Arts Department coordinated the antique’s delivery back home.

The statues, carved from wood and 10 – 15 centimetres tall, are thought to have been made by local artisans in Trang, which is fitting with the artistic style of the time.

Today, the Buddha statues were handed over to the Fine Arts Department by the deputy permanent security of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Natthaphon Khanthahiran.

Now, the Fine Arts Department will have experts examine the statues to figure out their validity, age and origins.

Then, the nine Buddha statues will be exhibited at the National Museum’s Central Treasury in Pathum Thani province.

In June last year, a 500 year old golden Buddha crown was returned to Thailand from the US thanks to the work of the Department of Homeland Security.

The department was set up by the government around five years ago to track artefacts smuggled out of the kingdom.

The crown, in Lanna style, weighs about 42.6g and is made of 95% pure gold. The crown was designed to decorate a stone-sculpted Buddha statue, which was a popular practice during the period as a religious offering.

In September, a 500 year old Buddhist stupa collapsed in Chiang Mai, revealing an entire collection of ancient Buddhist amulets and artefacts. The moment was captured on camera.

Inside the rubble, numerous Buddha statues and other relics were found, some made from glass and some carved from stone.

Australia returns 9 ancient Buddha statues to Thailand after 112 years

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Leah is a translator and news writer for the Thaiger. Leah studied East Asian Religions and Thai Studies at the University of Leeds and Chiang Mai University. Leah covers crime, politics, environment, human rights, entertainment, travel and culture in Thailand and southeast Asia.

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