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Laos to fight against illicit trafficking of cultural property

Laos highly respects its obligations to protect cultural heritage, in particular its movable cultural heritage, after the country accepted the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the illicit trafficking of cultural property at the end of 2015.

This message was stressed by Director General of the Heritage Department under the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism, Mr Thongbay Phothisane at yesterday's National Consultation on the 1970 UNESCO Convention on illicit trafficking on cultural heritage in Vientiane.

“Our country can also benefit from the collaboration with other 130 countries around the world to protect this heritage,” he said, adding that the acceptance of this convention is demonstrating the priority of the Lao government to protect its heritage as it is already stated in the national strategies, policies and legislation.

Mr Thongbay also said that “Our country joined the 1970 UNESCO Convention only a bit more than one year ago, so it is too early to see a large benefit of this acceptance. However we have to understand the content of this convention and then we can adopt its various measures before making a request in collaboration with line ministries.”

The consultation meeting was to listen to all the ministries and departments concerned to see what they are doing and to monitor if Laos complies with this convention.

In addition, it is also an opportunity to define what else Laos must do to prevent its national cultural heritage from being sold abroad. These heritages include both objects and intangibles.

At the meeting, an expert at UNESCO, Mr Etienne Clement also highlighted the principles, measures and tools for the 1970 convention and the floor for question and answer session were for representatives from various ministries concerned to discuss future collaboration towards more effective protection of cultural property.

Besides the 1970 UNESCO Convention, Laos also has a priority that is reflected in the Vientiane Declaration on reinforcing Cultural Heritage Cooperation in Asean adopted by the 16th Asean Socio-Cultural Community Council (the 16th ASCC Council Meeting ) Meeting on August 31, 2016.

The meeting expressed its concern about the increasing threats to tangible cultural heritage as a result of illicit trafficking of cultural heritage.

The 16th ASCC Meeting has agreed to continue to ensure the effectiveness of laws and policies protecting cultural heritage from illicit traffic and trafficking.

Asean member states are also set to strengthen efforts to exchange information on stolen or trafficked cultural artifacts as well as agreeing to return, seek the return and help facilitate the return to their rightful owners of cultural heritage items that have been stolen from a museum, site or similar repositories. Moreover, to protect cultural heritage, Laos has law on such heritage which was adopted in 2005 and amended in 2013.

According to the definition of cultural property in Article 1 of the 1970 Convention, objects with cultural significance for history, religion and science are defined as cultural property.

Most importantly, the artifacts, works of art and museum items are also counted. Religious objects at religious places, products from archaeological excavations and objects of ethnological interest are also stated in Article 1 of the convention.

Yet there are still many more objects which are defined as cultural property under Article 1 of the 1970 UNESCO Convention. For instance, statues, sculptures and objects in public or private collections are also stated as cultural property.


By Times Reporters
(Latest Update
February 22,

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