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London’s school denies sculpture was smuggled

London's School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) has denied claims the prestigious institution possesses a 13th-century sculpture likely smuggled from Thailand, according to The Nation.

We strongly reject any suggestion that SOAS University of London has handled this donation improperly. The allegations made in the blog post by this student are without foundation, SOAS spokesperson Vesna Siljanovska was quoted by The Nation as saying in an email.

The paper reported earlier that an SOAS scholar, Angela Chiu, had alleged that the one-metre-tall Buddha statue that stands at the entrance to its Brunei Gallery was smuggled from Thailand. It was gifted to the SOAS by American alumni Mary and Paul Slawson who reportedly bought it minus documents attesting to its provenance some 30 years ago. On its website, the SOAS describes the statue as a delightful 13th-century Lopburi Buddha torso of Thai origin. It has denied any wrongdoing in accepting the sculpture.

Siljanovska added due diligence was carried out by SOAS in accordance with SOAS's Collections Management Policy and Due Diligence Procedure for the acceptance of Philanthropic Gifts. These make clear that: The School will not acquire any object or specimen unless the Governing Body or Responsible Officer is satisfied that the School can acquire a valid title to the item in question, and that in particular it has not been acquired in, or exported from, its country of origin (or any intermediate country in which it may have been legally owned) in violation of that country's laws.

Source: Thai Public Broadcasting Service (ThaiPBS)

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