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Thai people never buy Buddha statues
but rent them.
In Thai houses, there is often a room reserved for the Buddhist altar. On this altar,
there are Buddha statues, Buddhist amulets. When renting a Buddha, people can get such paper
that states "Wherever you go, think about this Buddha statue and you will be safe".
It is illegal to export antique Buddha images and statues without a license from the Department of Fine Arts.
The export of Buddha images and statues is regulated by the Department of Fine Arts. A new piece can
be exported by requesting a certificate.
In year 2007, in a small ceremony at Phuket International Airport,
Airport Customs officials
handed over to the local Museum around 100 Buddha images seized from departing tourists over the past year.
Most of the images were seized from tourists who bought them from shops unaware that they needed
permission from the Fine Arts Department to take them out of the country.
In year 2008, an increase in robberies of valuable artifacts from
ancient temples in Ayuthaya
are driving monks to despair. Thieves have even removed gold foil from reclining Buddha images.
In old times, people caught in this act were threatened with harsh punishment.
Authorities would force-feed them with boiling liquid, the chemical used in the gold-making process!
Temple robberies mostly involve the theft of ancient Buddha images and valuables such as dharma
cabinets and brass accessories. Few stolen goods are ever retrieved.
A source said that the theft of gold foil could originate from rising
demand in the Buddha amulet market. Buyers want gold from ancient Buddha statues, which are thought
to be sacred, for use in the frames of Buddha amulets.
Robbers are targeting antique objects.
Many temples have only old monks who cannot fight the robbers.
Thieves even steal the eight "sema", leaf-like boundary stones
(สีมาเล็ก), from around temple's ordination hall.
Thai Buddhist monks could be devastated
by the theft of the Buddha statues which are part of their living religion.
They can just wonder why the Westerners are buying their statuettes and what on earth can
they do with them.