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15 Crime and Conflict: Temple Looting in Cambodia

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Chapter Summary

This chapter presents an empirical study of a wartime antiquities trafficking network constructed from interviews conducted during ethnographic criminology fieldwork. Villagers at temples across the country repeatedly told us that organized looting and trafficking started in approximately 1970, the same year that war officially erupted between the Khmer Rouge and Cambodian government. The best illustration of the Khmer Rouge's ambiguous, and shifting, relationship with antiquities is the general known as Ta Mok. Regional looting in war-torn Cambodia by various military forces seems to have been an exploitation of available resources to provide necessary financial support for ongoing participation in conflict. The corruption and instability endemic in post-war countries like Cambodia creates an environment amenable to antiquities trafficking and other organized crime. The line between mafia and soldiers was often blurred, and even when the two groups were distinct, they still worked closely together.

Keywords: Cambodia; conflict; corruption; regional looting; temple looting; wartime antiquities trafficking



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