Hundreds of ancient manuscripts stolen from university

Hundreds of ancient manuscripts stolen from university

Officials examine an old folding book returned to the Arts and Cultural Centre of Nakhon Si Thammarat Rajabhat University on Sunday. Hundreds of ancient manuscripts are believed to have been stolen from the centre. (Photo: Nujaree Raekrun)
Officials examine an old folding book returned to the Arts and Cultural Centre of Nakhon Si Thammarat Rajabhat University on Sunday. Hundreds of ancient manuscripts are believed to have been stolen from the centre. (Photo: Nujaree Raekrun)

NAKHON SI THAMMARAT: An investigation has been launched into the disappearance of "hundreds" of invaluable historical manuscripts from the Arts and Cultural Centre of the Nakhon Si Thammrat Rabhabhat University.

A senior monk said the ancient folding-book paper manuscripts, or samut khoi, contained stories and drawings featuring local history, traditions and cultures, and might have been stolen and sold to people unaware that they belonged to the university.

The university rector, Khanat Thatthong, has been suspended from duty by the university council.

He said the books were stolen from the Arts and Cultural Centre more than 10 years ago, before he became rector.

Mr Khanat denied any involvement in the theft. He said his suspension related to the administration of the university and various complaints brought against him. He had filed a petition for justice with the Nakhon Si Thammarat Administrative Court.

The rector said he set up a committee to investigate the theft, filed a police complaint and asked the Department of Investigation (DSI) to help with the investigation.

A plea has been made for anyone who happens to have one or more of the manuscripts in their  possession to give them back. A centre has been set up by the university to accept the returned books.

Phrakhru Hemjetiyapiban, a senior monk who helped establish the centre, said anyone who returns one of the missing books would not face legal action. It was quite possible they were not aware it was stolen .

On July 19, one of the missing manuscripts was returned to the university centre via a Buddhist centre in Bangkok. 

On July 20, three large boxes containing some more of the missing books were sent to the centre by post from Khon Kaen. The boxes were being kept at the Nakhon Si Thammarat Museum unopened, pending examination.

Phrakhru Hemjetiyapiban said more were expected to be returned from Phetchaburi, Lampang and Rayong provinces, but did not elaborate.

Sompong Raksatham, who is the acting rector during Mr Khanat's suspension, said he expected the investigation would be completed in 30 days. A number of witnesses have been investigated.

He believed insiders were involved in the theft.

Teerawat Changsan, the university's assistant rector acting as director of the Arts and Cultural Centre, said the centre has been closed for forensic examination.

Mr Teerawat said he had reported the disappearance of 309 historical works, but did not disclose how many such books were kept at the centre.


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