Friday, May 30, 2008


NY Times link to article about looted artifacts:

A series of news links about the arrest and death in US custody of Roxanna Brown, director of the Southeast Asian Ceramics Museum at Bangkok University, Thailand. Roxanna Brown was mentioned in the recent articles and affidavits related to the importation of Thai ceramics and alleged tax fraud by Los Angeles based art dealers and museums.

I was sent this statement from a colleague who found it on the Southeast Asian Archeology News Blog:

The death of Dr. Roxanna Brown in prison in Seattle is a huge loss not just to her family but to everyone involved in the field of Southeast Asian ceramics. Her thorough and original research and the work that she has done in recent years as the founding curator of the Southeast Asian ceramic museum have made an enormous contribution to the appreciation and understanding of Vietnamese, Cambodian and Thai artifacts. No one else in any country has done as much.

By rights she ought to have been contemplating a retirement full of honours, respect and gratitude. Instead, through the carelessness of government officials in her own country, she has been forced to endure a lonely, humiliating and undoubtedly painful death.

I have studied the investigation that has been going on in Los Angeles in detail and I have read the affidavits and search warrants that were filed by the US Inland Revenue agents who have been conducting this five-year investigation. It is my considered opinion that they have been on a very long, expensive and futile fishing expedition, pursuing a few slightly shady tax dodges while doing immense damage to the museum community as a whole.

Now that damage has reached Thailand. It is one of the tragic ironies of this scenario that the US Inland Revenue Service, while trying, quite hypocritically, to portray itself as the defender of Thai culture, has taken away the life and destroyed the career of one of the best friends this culture ever had.

Let’s hope that Dr. Brown’s death will not have been completely in vain, and that this ill-advised witch hunt will be called off.

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