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Ancient Buddha statue theft

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Detectives track down the thieves of Chiang Saen's 500 year old Luang Phor Chiang Saen Buddha image. 


Photo above of a Buddhist monk in his robes meditating next to an image of the Lord Buddha (not the same image discussed in the article).

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Cops crack down on statue thieves: Rash of thefts of valued Buddha icons sends officer on a personal quest by Wassayos Ngamkham

Pol Col Napanwut Polki was in a determined mood after burglars stole a precious Buddha statue from his home town in Prachin Buri province.

The superintendent of Provincial Police Region 3 told himself he would do whatever it took to bring Luang Phor Chiang Saen back to Wat Makok Simaram, the temple in Muang district from where the 500-year-old statue was stolen.

The bronze statue with the Marawichai (victory over evil) posture was made in the style representative of northern Thailand's Lanna kingdom - also known as Chiang Saen art - whose Buddha statues have unique characteristics, including a lotus-like topknot.

Pol Col Napanwut's task began when the Royal Thai Police issued a nationwide call for officers to look for Luang Phor Chiang Saen, which was stolen on Jan 15.

I was not sure if many police officers would take this issue seriously," said Pol Col Napanwut, but he was to be pleasantly surprised

His team started their investigation in early March and closed the case just over a week later when they made two arrests and seized more than 50 stolen items, including Luang Phor Chiang Saen.

Pol Col Napanwut said this quick success came after following three steps.

First, the team studied records of thefts of Buddha statues over the past three years. The records showed 31 temples had fallen victim to thieves, including Wat Bua in Nakhon Ratchasima's Non Sung district.

Pol Col Napanwut suspected the same thieves targeted Wat Bua and Wat Makok Simaram, because the stolen Buddha statues and other assets in both instances were from the same Lanna period, and the burglaries in both cases were carried out by the robbers entering the temples by making a hole in the roof

Next, the team called for witnesses who might have seen the robbers at Wat Makok Simaram to come forward.

Nobody admitted seeing the robbery take place, Pol Col Napanwut said, but one person told police they had seen three suspects making merit at the temple a few days earlier.

The witness told police that the three men were very interested in Luang Phor Chiang Saen.

From the witness's account, Pol Col Napanwut's team were able to make sketches of two of the suspects as well as collect details of the pickup truck they were seen travelling in.

The investigators then started their search for the suspects.

They compared the sketches with photos of criminals in the police database, while Pol Col Napanwut asked police agents, familiar with the illegal trade in ancient Buddha images to help him find more clues.

A week later, Pol Col Napanwut was contacted by one agent who said the suspects were staying at a house on Rama II Road in Bangkok.

An investigation of the residence found a pickup truck matching the witness's description.

Police then decided to raid the premises, where they arrested Adisorn Jaima, 44, an Ayutthaya resident, and Pramote Chinarin, 42, from Bang Bon district in Bangkok.

The two allegedly confessed they had colluded with Chayapon Wongyai, Panom Mithaworn and Ann Boonchai, who are still at large, to steal Luang Phor Chiang Saen and other assets from Wat Bua and other temples.

They said they sold Luang Phor Chiang Saen to a Buddha image collector called Thao Tha Phrachan and informed police that the Buddha statue and other assets were hidden at a statue foundry in Nonthaburi.

A raid on the factory found Luang Phor Chiang Saen.

I'm happy I solved this case," Pol Col Napanwut said.

Villagers really wanted the Buddha statue back.

They did everything they could to ensure his return, from merit-making and praying to cursing the robbers.

The Fine Arts Department is now carrying out restoration work on Luang Phor Chiang Saen and will return the statue to Prachin Buri villagers on April10.

The department said 36 registered ancient Buddha statues have been stolen between 1996 and 2011. Only three have been retrieved, including Luang Phor Chiang Saen.

A further 531 unregistered Buddha statues have been stolen during the same period, of which only five have been found.

To prevent valuable Buddha statues from being stolen, Pol Col Napanwut suggested temples employ security professionals or volunteers to guard their assets at night.

Temple dogs and alarm bells were not sufficient, he said.

Contact Crime Track:

(Source: Bangkok Post, Cops crack down on statue thieves, Rash of thefts of valued Buddha icons sends officer on a personal quest, 28/03/2011, Wassayos Ngamkham, link

track down -
look for and find some person or thing (that cannot be found)

officer - (formal) police officer (polite and respectful term for police)
cop - (informal) slang word for police officer (not very respectful)
crack down  - when the police seriously enforce a law for a period of time
rash of thefts - many thefts happening in a short period of time
icons  -
a picture or model of a holy person used in religious worship
quest - when people are looking for something (example: they took a trip into the mountains on a quest for gold)
personal quest - when one person looks for something, tries to find something

determined - wanting to do something very much and not letting anyone or any difficulties stop you ตั้งใจจริง, ซึ่งมุ่งมั่น
mood - the way you feel at a particular time อารมณ์
burglar - a thief who enters a home or building to steal things

precious - of great value, worth a lot of money because it is rare, expensive and/or greatly loved มีค่า,ล้ำค่า, ที่มีค่าสูงส่ง

superintendent - a person who manages workers doing some work task, doing some job 
posture - position of the body, e.g., sitting, standing, walking, etc. ท่าทาง เช่น ท่านั่ง ท่ายืน
Marawichai (victory over evil) posture - (See photo at Wikipedia and article on iconography of the Buddha in Thailand and Laos
representative - typical of people or things in a group
statues - human or animal images that are made of stone, wood, metal, etc.
unique - very special, unusual or good ที่มีลักษณะพิเศษ เป็นเอกลักษณ์
unique characteristics - things that are special about this thing (that make it different from all others)
lotus -
a flower commonly found in Buddhist art and writings (See Wikipedia)  ดอกบัว
topknot -
a hairstyle in which long hair is tied in a tight round ball on top of your head ผมจุก, มวยผม
X-like Y -
Y that is like X, Y that is similar to or the same as Y
lotus-like topknot -
a topknot that is similar to a lotus flower, that looks like a lotus flower

task - a piece of work that someone does หน้าที่
issued - made available ออกใหม่
nationwide - including the whole country ทั่วประเทศ
officers - high ranking managers in a company (Photo on right of one of the first computers, the gigantic
issue - a problem that needs to be considered seriously ประเด็น
investigation - the process of trying to find out all the details or facts about something in order to discover who or what caused it or how it happened การตรวจสอบหาข้อเท็จจริง
investigators - people who do an investigation
closed the case - when the police case has been solved, the criminal arrested and brought to trial

records - pieces of information describing something written down or stored on a computer บันทึุก
victim - someone who has been harmed, injured or killed as the result of a crime เหยื่อผู้เคราะห์ร้าย
X fallen victim to Y - a person X who had the crime Y committed against them
suspected - thought to be something เป็นที่สงสัย
targeted - intended to attack someone or something ตั้งเป้า เล็ง มุ่ง
assets - things owned, especially property and money สินทรัพย์
assets - a thing of value with an owner ทรัพย์สิน

Lanna period - the kingdom of Lannam, a state in what is now northern Thailand from the 13th to 18th centuries (See Wikipedia) อาณาจักรล้านนา
witnesses - a person who say an event, usually an accident or crime that they describe, an eyewitness
come forward - tell the authorities (government officials) what they know
suspects - people who may have committed the crime, identified by the police ผู้ต้องสงสัย

merit - religious merit in Buddhism, "accumulates as a result of good deeds, acts or thoughts and that carries over to later in life or to a person's next life. Such merit contributes to a person's growth towards liberation" (See Wikipedia)
make merit - in Buddhism the practice of performing certain actions to gain religious merit (See Wikipedia)

witness - a person who sees something happen or knows about something ผู้ที่เห็นเหตุการณ์, พยาน
account - a written or spoken report about something that has happened บันทึกถ้อยคำ  การอธิบาย
search - to look somewhere carefully in order to find something ค้นหา

database - a large amount of information stored in a computer in an organised way ฐานข้อมูล
illegal - against the law อย่างผิดกฎหมาย, นอกกฎหมาย
trade - the buying and selling of goods การค้าขาย
ancient - very old ที่เก่าแก่ ที่โบราณ
clues - an object or fact that someone discovers that helps them solve a crime or mystery ร่องรอย
X contacts Y - X finds Y and communicates with Y (by talking over the phone or writing a message, for example)
residence - a place where someone lives ที่พำนัก  ที่อยู่อาศัย
raid - when police enter a place by force suddenly searching for illegal activities or goods การบุกเข้าจับกุม, เข้าบุก
premises - the buildings and land that a business or organisation uses ที่ดินและสิ่งปลูกสร้าง
resident - a person who lives in a particular area ผู้พักอาศัย, ผู้อยู่อาศัยในบริเวณ ประชาชนที่อาศัยในท้องที่
allegedly - claimed but not yet proven ที่ถูกกล่าวหา
confess - tell the police that you are guilty of a crime (that you committed the crime)
colluded - work together for bad purpose, like breaking the law
at large - location not known
- a person who collects things such as stamps, coins or art as a hobby, for fun นักสะสม
X informed Y about Z -
person X told person Y about Z
foundry -  "a factory that produces metal castings. Metals are cast into shapes by melting them into a liquid, pouring the metal in a mold, and removing the mold material or casting after the metal has solidified as it cools" (See Wikipedia)

ensure - to make certain that something happens or is done ให้การยืนยัน รับรอง ให้ความมั่นใจ
curse - the act of wishing that bad things happen to other person (adversity, misfortune) by using a magical spell (the curse itself and the accompanying ritual is often considered to have some causative force in the result)(See Wikipedia)
restoration - art restoration, working on an art work and repairing to improve its condition and make it look like new (See Wikipedia)
registered - officially recorded by the government
retrieve - to get back again (something that was lost or stolen)

valuable - worth a lot of money มีค่า
employ - to have someone work or do a job for you and pay them for it ว่าจ้าง, จ้าง
security - protecting from harm or damage
professionals - a person whose job requires special training and skills
security professionals - people who are trained in how to protect people or things (example: a body guard is a security professional)
volunteers - people working without (for a good cause, helping people)
alarm bells - burglar alarm, a bell that rings very loudly to tell people that a burglar (or other intruder) has entered the building (See Wikipedia)
sufficient - enough พอเพียง

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