Looting Angkor

When I was in Angkor
in 2003, I remember how the nearby town of Siem Reap seemed right on the verge of exploding. Hotels were sprouting
up everywhere, and there was lots of hustle on the streets as people were clearly developing and refining their
techniques to separate tourists from their dollars.

It turns out, though, that tourists are not the only ones
being taken. Over the last
few years, due to the worldwide interest in Angkor antiquities, people have been looting the World Heritage Site and
selling the goods on the black market. As
this article explains,
temple raiders are more often than not stealing items to sell to Western collectors. Buddhas are literally being
chiseled out of temple walls, arms are sawed off statues. Growing cultural awareness will help change things, but more
important are tighter controls, like the 2003 American ban on trade in illicit Cambodian artifacts.
Hopefully the Cambodians will realize, as I’m sure they are, that their tourist trade depends on sites like Angkor, and
they’ll act fast to stop the looting.