101 EAST









DURATION:         26’00”


















101 EAST











STEVE CHAO VOICEOVER:   Up in these Himalayan mountains, you feel you could almost touch the sky. 


STEVE CHAO VOICEOVER:   No wonder people who live here feel close to the heavens, and their gods.  But the reality is, there are a lot of very unheavenly things going on here.  Thieves are stealing precious religious icons.  It’s a theft not only of valuable treasures, but also of culture.


STEVE CHAO:   I’m Steve Chao.  On this episode of 101 East we’re deep in the Himalayas tracking those behind the theft of Nepal’s Gods.






STEVE CHAO VOICEOVER:   The drive into Nepal’s remote region of Mustang starts here, three thousand metres high.  Dusty.  Dangerous.  Yet stunning.


STEVE CHAO:   Tashi this place is beautiful.

TASHI BISTA:   I know huh it’s amazing.  It’s just tucked away in the corner of the Himalayas you know.

STEVE CHAO VOICEOVER:  For Tashi Bista these mountains are not only home, they’re a place he’s fighting to protect.

TASHI BISTA:   I grew up here all my life you know.  I love it.  I’m like every time I’m away I just can’t wait to be back you know.  It never like ceases to amaze me.  I have like such a strong feeling belongingness to the place you know.

STEVE CHAO VOICEOVER:  A sense of belonging to an ancient Buddhist culture, dating back centuries.

TASHI BISTA:   And like Mustang has always been just a very unique isolated kingdom.  And ah until 1992 there were no visitors allowed into the area.  So there’s a very strong sense of a living heritage that still governs a lot of life today.

STEVE CHAO:   But it’s a religion and culture at risk?

TASHI BISTA:   Yes yes.  Religious places of worship all over the place are being broken into.  It’s pretty drastic at the moment.  We’re suffering heritage loss at quite an alarming rate.


TASHI BISTA:   So this is one ah Samdalang Monastery.

STEVE CHAO VOICEOVER:   Tashi has spent the last decade studying the region’s religious icons, fighting to protect them, and the culture they represent.

TASHI BISTA:   Go take a look.


STEVE CHAO VOICEOVER:   Stupas, built to hold sacred relics, are places of devotion for the Buddhist community.


TASHI BISTA:   So look at this.  I mean like this is a stupa, a very religious monument, that has been broken into. This is this is supposed to be completely sealed up, and people have ah put all of their religious sacred offerings inside.  But look look how how vulnerable this the belongings of the stupa are to just anybody who could come in and try to make away with stuff you know.


STEVE CHAO VOICEOVER:   Ancient scraps of fabric and clay statues are all that remain.  The more valuable items, says Tashi, have been stolen.

TASHI BISTA:   The powerful rulers, the emperors, the monks, they were donating their belongings to stupas.  So ah they do hold like a lot of ancient very precious artefacts.  So normally you have ancient thangkas, scroll paintings that are painted on fabric and in some cases also a lot um metal statues, copper, bronze statutes, dating like from back in the ages like.

STEVE CHAO:   On the black market . . .


STEVE CHAO:   . . . these would fetch tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of dollars?

TASHI BISTA:   That’s the sad part you know because these precious items that are such a big part of our living heritage have such a big market value it somehow fuels the happening of such things you know.


STEVE CHAO VOICEOVER:   And demand he says is at an all-time high.  Over several days we visit a number of religious sites.  They’ve all been pilfered.

TASHI BISTA:   So this one right here used to be a passage stupa.

STEVE CHAO VOICEOVER:   Here barbed wire was put up to stop thieves.  But it’s only managed to stop the faithful.

TASHI BISTA:   People would ah pass underneath to receive blessings during their journeys.  But as you see unfortunately it’s not possible anymore because there’s all these barbed wires that go around to ensure the safety of the stupa.

STEVE CHAO VOICEOVER:   Robbers got inside anyway.

TASHI BISTA:   Who knows the belongings that they could have made away with.

STEVE CHAO:   Did the police ever catch those responsible?

TASHI BISTA:   No, no.  Sadly there has been no police cases filed in any of the lootings in all over Mustang.

STEVE CHAO:  Why is that?

TASHI BISTA:   There was no proper record keeping or inventory that could have been used as a reference to file a case on what has been stolen.


STEVE CHAO VOICEOVER:  To better understand what’s being lost Tashi takes us to a monastery which so far as kept their treasures secret from outsiders.  Safe under lock and key.

TASHI BISTA:   Come on in.  This is an ancient collection of Namgyal Monastery.

STEVE CHAO VOICEOVER:   Inside are dozens of Buddhist statues, all priceless treasures.

TASHI BISTA:   Look at this one, you know.  This one look look how interesting and how intricate the patterns, the designs, the details, you know.

STEVE CHAO:  The handiwork is incredible.

TASHI BISTA:   It it’s absolutely eh I I I would imagine people probably spend like I don’t know decades or lifetimes coming up with these masterpieces you know.

STEVE CHAO:   How old would say this one is?

TASHI BISTA:   Ah I think this could be anywhere between 14th to 15th Century.  And look at this.  Another absolute masterpiece here.


TASHI BISTA:   Really really ancient, 11th Century.

STEVE CHAO:   11th Century.

TASHI BISTA:   Exactly.  So it’s a thousand years old.

STEVE CHAO:   How much would this go for on the black market?

TASHI BISTA:   Oh I wouldn’t be able to tell for sure but ah I wouldn’t be surprised if it fetches a f- a few hundred thousand dollars or so.  But that’s not the kind of value that we look up to.  For us it’s the ah religious value.  You know th-these these are ah like very important symbols of something that binds the communities together you know.  A treasure like this if taken away would would be an absolute disaster.


STEVE CHAO VOICEOVER:   In Mustang’s capital, Lo Manthang, prayers and religion are clearly an integral part of life here.


STEVE CHAO VOICEOVER:   In the town’s main monastery monks perform the same rituals that have been carried out for centuries.


STEVE CHAO VOICEOVER:   It’s here we meet Chime Gurung, a Tibetan spiritual leader.  He’s also concerned that the thefts are not just a loss of treasure, they are harming the Buddhist religion itself.


CHIME GURUNG:  Ah welcome to the Chode Monastery…



Welcome to the Chode Monastery.


STEVE CHAO VOICEOVER:   Chime takes us to a hall that’s normally off limits to outsiders.  He has something to show us.  It’s an ancient manuscript.


CHIME GURUNG:  Every holy script have three different ah covers.  In Tibetan we call them Lakbum, and then Laixing and Laituki.  It mean, the wood, and the cloth and the belt.



Every holy script have three different covers.

In Tibetan we call them…

Lakbum, and then Laixing and Laituki. 

It means, the wood, the cloth and the belt.


STEVE CHAO VOICEOVER:   More than seven hundred years old, it’s considered so priceless and so significant to their religion it’s never been shown to a foreigner before.



CHIME GURUNG:  It’s a very important script.  Very valuable manuscript.  Because all its ah written with the gold handwriting.


It’s a very important script.

A very valuable manuscript.

Because it’s all written in gold.

STEVE CHAO VOICEOVER:   Every page of Buddhist teachings is meticulously written in pure gold.  It was rescued from a neighbouring stupa after a break in.

CHIME GURUNG:  We brought it into here, because the the stupa there is the unsafe way.  That’s why we keep it here.


We brought it here, because the stupa there

was very unsafe.

STEVE CHAO:   A second manuscript, also written in gold, has already been stolen, and with it ancient Buddhist teachings.

CHIME GURUNG:  If we can’t learn then what is the value?  What is Buddhism, if  you don’t you didn’t have a script like this?  It’s very said news for us.


If we cant learn, then what is the value?

What is Buddhism, if we don’t have a script like


It’s very sad news for us.


STEVE CHAO VOICEOVER:   Chime is eager to show us more, but for that we have to join him on a pilgrimage high up into the mountains.


STEVE CHAO VOICEOVER:   The journey takes us through more of Mustang’s incredible landscape and sights.

CHIME GURUNG:  So these are the Mhazong cave.  The cave that we call before the 14th Century.


So this is Mhazong caves.

The caves date before the 14th century.

STEVE CHAO:  So very ancient these caves?

CHIME GURUNG:  Yeah this very ancient caves, before Buddhism ah are in the Himalaya regions.


Yes, these are very ancient caves…before

Buddhism entered the Himalayan regions.


STEVE CHAO VOICEOVER:   Chime asks us to keep our destination a secret, for fear we could lead thieves to their hidden icons.


STEVE CHAO VOICEOVER:   Many hours later, we arrive in a valley, and begin to climb.


CHIME GURUNG:   Now we get to the monastery.


Now we get to the monastery.


STEVE CHAO:   Oh wow!  Beautiful monastery.

TASHI BISTA:   Yes.  And look at this ancient shrine.

STEVE CHAO VOICEOVER:   Here we find giant copper statues, including Holy Buddhas.

STEVE CHAO:   So that one’s 14th Century?

TASHI BISTA:   Yes.  It’s a 14th Century standing boddhisatva, a very rare piece.

STEVE CHAO VOICEOVER:   But sadly even here we’ve come too late.

TASHI BISTA:   All of these big statues, all their bases have been cut, and the insides have been taken away.

STEVE CHAO:   Why would someone want to steal what’s inside?

TASHI BISTA:   Probably in search of the belongings that are easier to take than the statue itself.

STEVE CHAO VOICEOVER:   Tashi says typically inside these statues are scrolls of Tibetan prayers, items collectors would pay a fortune for.


STEVE CHAO:   So what’s this Chime?

CHIME GURUNG:   Ah this is very sacred room.


This is a very sacred room.

STEVE CHAO VOICEOVER:   We go deeper into the monastery.


TASHI BISTA:   So this is the gongkang, which means the room of the protector deity.  And the protector deity’s room ensure that the monastery is safe, that it is safeguarding the monastery and the villages around.

STEVE CHAO:   So it’s the most powerful in the monastery?

TASHI BISTA:   Absolutely.

STEVE CHAO VOICEOVER:   The irony here is these deities were created to protect the monastery, but now they themselves need protecting.



STEVE CHAO VOICEOVER:   Later outside Chime and his monks carry out what they came to do, holding a special ceremony asking for higher powers to keep the monastery and its gods, safe.


STEVE CHAO:   What do you think Buddha is saying about those who steal these things?  Do you think he’s angry?

CHIME GURUNG:   No Buddha’s not angry. Because if somebody is stealing some things it’s their own karma.

No, Buddha is not angry.

Because if somebody steals something,

It’s their own karma.

STEVE CHAO:  What impact would you say all these thefts is having on Buddhism?

CHIME GURUNG:   It is awful.  It’s very awful, it’s very sad news for us also, because the if the statue thangka is not inside the monastery how people they get blessing from there.

It’s really awful.

It’s really awful, and it’s very sad for us.

Because, if the statue or the thangka

Is not inside the monastery…

How will people get blessings from there?

TASHI BISTA:   The the more ancient the things are in religious places of worship the more stories and histories and ah tales of their worship have been passed down for generations, and so people just have more faith in it you know.  And and when it’s gone of course the faith is also gone.


STEVE CHAO VOICEOVER:   We want to track down those robbing Nepal of its spiritual treasures.


STEVE CHAO VOICEOVER:   So we’ve come to the country’s capital, Kathmandu.  It’s here we’re told dealers in illegal antiquities ply their trade.


STEVE CHAO VOICEOVER:   Posing as buyers, and wearing hidden cameras, we enter a store on Kathmandu’s most expensive street.

STEVE CHAO: Nice to meet you.  Namaste

STEVE CHAO VOICEOVER:   We’re shown to a back room.

STEVE CHAO:   Hi how are you?  Nice to meet you.  Thank you.

DEEPAK SHAKYA:  Right now I have one or two pieces.


Right now I have one or two pieces.

DEEPAK SHAKYA:  This is better one but this has a little damage.


This is little better one…but this has

a little damage.

STEVE CHAO VOICEOVER:   We soon see he has far more than one or two pieces.

STEVE CHAO:   Oh okay.

STEVE CHAO VOICEOVER:   And they are all ancient.

STEVE CHAO:  What time timeline would you place that at?

DEEPAK SHAKYA:  This is around like ah 14th 15th .


This is around like…14th to 15th.

STEVE CHAO VOICEOVER:   14th to 15th Century.  In Nepal selling artefacts more than a hundred years old is a crime.

STEVE CHAO:   How much for these two?

DEEPAK SHAKYA:  This one is ah seventy thousand dollar.  This sixty-five thousand dollar.


This one is $70,000…this is $65,000.00.

STEVE CHAO:  Seventy thousand.

STEVE CHAO VOICEOVER:   He introduces himself as Deepak Shakya, and says his family has been dealing in antiques for generations.

DEEPAK SHAKYA:  Our this business it first start- started by my grandfather.


This business was first started by my

grandfather…this is my grandfather.


DEEPAK SHAKYA:  This is my grandfather.

STEVE CHAO:   It’s your grandfather.  How many years now altogether for the family?

DEEPAK SHAKYA:  Must be sixty-five seventy years.


Must be 65-70 years.

STEVE CHAO:   Sixty-five seventy years.

DEEPAK SHAKYA:  He’s the one to open the first art shop in the New Road.  Be-before there was n-n-no art shop in Kathmandu.  He the first one.


He was the one to open the first shop

on the New Road.

Before, there was no art shop in Kathmandu.

He was the first one.

STEVE CHAO VOICEOVER:   Deepak also says his grandfather was called on by Nepal’s King to sell to royal visitors of the country.

DEEPAK SHAKYA:  He invite to sell eh my grandfather and his friends all are invite to ah put the stall on the palace so that the guests will choose and buy it.


He invited my grandfather and his friends.

They were all invited to put a stall in the palace…

So the guests will choose something, and buy.

STEVE CHAO VOICEOVER:   We press him on how he smuggles antiques out of the country.

STEVE CHAO:  What about papers and shipping?

DEEPAK SHAKYA:  Shipping is no problem.  I can do.  Export paper yes.

Shipping is no problem…I can do that.

Export papers?  Yes.

STEVE CHAO:  No problems?

DEEPAK SHAKYA:  Can do.  No problem.

SUBTITLE: No problem.


STEVE CHAO VOICEOVER:   By law the country’s Department of Archaeology cannot issue export papers on items more than a hundred years old.  But Deepak says he has a tried and proven way.

STEVE CHAO:  So Government no problem getting these out?

DEEPAK SHAKYA:  No.  I mean we have to give some money under the table, otherwise no problem.


No…I mean, we have to give some money

under the table, but otherwise no problem.


DEEPAK SHAKYA:  I mean it’s not legal.


I mean, it’s not legal…


DEEPAK SHAKYA:  But still I mean we can get the stamp.  It’s no problem.  This is-


But we can still get  it done, it’s no problem.

STEVE CHAO VOICEOVER:   And according to Deepak Shakya his contacts include some of the world’s top dealers, auction houses, and museums.

DEEPAK SHAKYA:  Many pieces from my hand has gone through so I have done.  And I have deal-many dealers.


Many pieces have gone through my hands…

I have dealt with many dealers.


DEEPAK SHAKYA:  In New York, many dealers I know.


In New York, I know many dealers.

STEVE CHAO:  In New York yes.

DEEPAK SHAKYA:  . . . Yes.  Ten fifteen years before many Christie’s or the Sotheby’s, they have many comes here.  So I always deal with mostly with the dealers.

10 to 15 years years ago…

Christie’s, Sotheby’s…many came here.

So, I always deal mostly with dealers.

STEVE CHAO:  Okay.  Great.  So like Rubin Museum?



DEEPAK SHAKYA:  Rubin’s ah mostly my father has a lot of connection.

Rubin, mostly my father has a lot of connections.

STEVE CHAO:  Oh really.  Okay.

DEEPAK SHAKYA:  Rubins,  Christie’s and Sotheby’s I have ma-many.

Christie’s and Sotheby’s, I have many.

STEVE CHAO:  Thank you very much.  I much appreciate it.  Really a pleasure meeting you.  Thank you very much.

STEVE CHAO VOICEOVER:   We leave, promising to return.


STEVE CHAO VOICEOVER:   And take what we’ve uncovered to police.


STEVE CHAO:   Director.


STEVE CHAO:  Nice to meet you.

PUSHKAR KARKI:  Hi.  How are you?

STEVE CHAO:  Good.  I’m Steve from Al Jazeera.

PUSHKAR KARKI:  I’m Pushkar, Director, CIB

STEVE CHAO VOICEOVER:   Pushkar Karki heads the Central Investigation Bureau, Nepal’s equivalent to the FBI.  He’s keen to see our evidence.


STEVE CHAO:  So in this case he was referring to the Department of Archaeology’s export stamp.

PUSHKAR KARKI:  . . . Yeah.  Yeah I know.  I understand this.  He is definitely engaged in criminal activities.  Yeah.  He knows what the laws are.  He knows ah he has to make fake documents to transfer them.  He knows and he’s clearly stating that he has to bribe people.

STEVE CHAO:   What are your thoughts?

PUSHKAR KARKI:  Well this is something if you ask me frankly speaking the police hasn’t looked at this in in this depth yet.

STEVE CHAO:  How surprised are you that this sort of operation is going on right here in Kathmandu?

PUSHKAR KARKI:  Well I’m very surprised.  I mean in a way it’s our I I do admit that we should have been more proactive on this.

STEVE CHAO:  Is it enough for your Force to act?

PUSHKAR KARKI:  . . . Is it en-enough for my Force to act?  It is.  It is enough.





One of you, Ganga, standby in the car.

Are there any other questions?


STEVE CHAO VOICEOVER:   By next morning Pushkar has assembled a team, led by his Deputy, Kabit Katawal.





The sensitivity of this issue is high.

This is a priority of the government.

STEVE CHAO VOICEOVER:   Twenty officers have spent the night planning a raid.

KABIT KATAWAL:  You ah you help us to the shop.  The shopkeeper will bring out every items.


KABIT KATAWAL:  Which supposed to be.


KABIT KATAWAL:  And then you can give me a missed call.

STEVE CHAO:  Sure.  Yeah.

KABIT KATAWAL:  With with that signal.


KABIT KATAWAL:  I move forward.

STEVE CHAO:  Okay.  Great.



You two…you will help us at the shop.

The shopkeepers will bring out

all the items that he has for sale…

and then you give me a missed call.

And with that signal, I’ll move forward.


STEVE CHAO VOICEOVER:   We’ve been asked to help by again posing as buyers.  Our role is to confirm the dealer still has antiquities for sale.


KABIT KATAWAL:  Thank you so much.  Good luck to everybody.


Thank you so much, good luck to everybody.


STEVE CHAO VOICEOVER:   As undercover officers take their positions, we head for the store.

STEVE CHAO:   Hello.  Namaste.  Good to see you again.

STEVE CHAO VOICEOVER:   Back in the shop we again meet with Deepak Shakya.

DEEPAK SHAKYA:  Two item have sold.  The big one.

Two item have sold.  The big one.

STEVE CHAO VOICEOVER:   He says he’s sold some of the items, including the one that costs sixty-five thousand dollars.  But not all.

STEVE CHAO:   Oh this one is still here, okay.

STEVE CHAO VOICEOVER:   He’s also acquired new ones, including some Hindu artefacts.

STEVE CHAO:   So this was put in temples right?

DEEPAK SHAKYA:  Temples or doorways.


Temples or doorways.

STEVE CHAO:   Temples or doorways.

DEEPAK SHAKYA:  . . . Temple doorways.

STEVE CHAO VOICEOVER:   Having confirmed that Shakya’s still has idols for sale . . .

STEVE CHAO:  I’m going to make a phone call.

STEVE CHAO VOICEOVER:   . . . I signal Kabit and his men.  They move in.




We are the police.

We are CIB an I’m the Deputy Superintendent.


KABIT KATAWAL:  You are the buyers?

SUBTITLE:  You’re the buyers?

STEVE CHAO:  I’m just looking.

KABIT KATAWAL:  , , , What are you doing?

SUBTITLE:  What are you doing?

STEVE CHAO:   Ah I’m just looking sir.

KABIT KATAWAL:  What is this curio?

SUBTITLE:  What is this?

STEVE CHAO VOICEOVER:   Throughout the store authorities uncover hidden artefacts.


You cannot sell archaeological artifacts.

Do you understand?

You cannot sell antique items…

so bring everything out.

- You can look…

- No, bring everything out.


STEVE CHAO VOICEOVER:   Over the course of the day investigators raid three stores in Kathmandu, all belonging to the Shakya family.  They seize more than a hundred antiques. 


STEVE CHAO VOICEOVER:   Deepak Shakya and two others are brought into police headquarters and charged with trafficking.  They face up to five years in gaol.

PUSHKAR KARKI:  The raid went well.  My guys are still on the documentation.  That’s something needed to produce for the court.  Ah it wa- it was a good operation.  There’s a lot of activities involved here.  You buy, you sell.  There’s a network where it goes, where it ends.  So it is a long chain.



The raid went well.

My guys are still on the the documentation…

That’s something needed to produce

for the court.

It was a good operation.

There’s a lot of activities involved here.

You buy, you sell…there’s a network

Where it goes, where it ends.

So this is a long chain.



STEVE CHAO VOICEOVER:   CIB Director Karki wastes little time in rattling that chain of illegal trade.



We want to show you all

what has been recovered.

STEVE CHAO VOICEOVER:   At a press conference he shows off the illegal antiquities seized.  And confirms Nepalese police are investigating Deepak Shakya’s shippers, and customers.


According to our initial information

we can see that most of the idols are exported

from HLK Enterprises.

Some made it to the USA…

And some of those to museums.


STEVE CHAO VOICEOVER:   And one of those museums the police confirmed is being investigated is the Rubin in New York, home to one of the most outstanding collections of Himalayan antiquities in the world.


STEVE CHAO:   So this is your section on Nepal?

JORRIT BRITSCHGI:   Exactly.  This is our floor that features the masterworks from the collection and we’re here in the region where we talk about-

STEVE CHAO VOICEOVER:   Jorrit Britschgi heads the museum and agrees to show us around.  The Rubin has more than three thousand eight hundred Himalayan works of art in its collection, including some of the finest copper and bronze statues, in the world.


JORRIT BRITSCHGI:   It is really quite an amazing piece of of of craftsmanship.  There’s a sense of power of movement yet it’s it’s really got this sense of monumental calm.

STEVE CHAO:  And how did the Rubin come to find this piece?


JORRIT BRITSCHGI:   This piece has a long history as I recall of being in the West already, um.  It was I believe in the Sixties um that that it was in the US and and then was was collected by the by several collectors in fact before it entered the collection of of the Rubin Family and it was then-


STEVE CHAO VOICEOVER:   While most of the collection is displayed in typical museum fashion, in one room the Rubin has also built a shrine.


JORRIT BRITSCHGI:   Because that’s what those paintings were painted for and what those sculptures were created for is you know to serve a living tradition which-

STEVE CHAO VOICEOVER:   Their visitors get a true cultural experience.   But what about the Nepalese who once worshipped these icons?


STEVE CHAO:   Should items be returned back to their country?

JORRIT BRITSCHGI:   I don’t think I’m going to answer that.  I don’t have a good answer for that.

STEVE CHAO:   You don’t have a good answer for that?

JORRIT BRITSCHGI:   . . . No.  ‘Cause it’s it’s a very, you know saying this very generally, it’s it’s very hard.

STEVE CHAO VOICEOVER:   And that’s not the only question he finds hard to answer.

STEVE CHAO:   In Nepal authorities recently arrested a number of antique dealers.  Has the Rubin Museum done any dealings with Deepak Shakya or his family the Shakyas?

JORRIT BRITSCHGI:   I don’t think we should answer that.  Do we?’


STEVE CHAO VOICEOVER:   The museum’s PR person intervenes.

MUSEUM PR:  . . . I mean we’d have look into the, you know we’d have do a lot of research to know that.


We’d have to do a lot of research to know that.

STEVE CHAO:   . . . Do you want to say that to me?

MUSEUM PR:   Do you want us to get like back to you about it?


Do you want us to get back to you about it?

STEVE CHAO:   That would yeah that’d be good.


STEVE CHAO:   It was a just recent raid.

JORRIT BRITSCHGI:  . . . Yeah.  Well we’ll ge-get back to you on that . . .

MUSEUM PR:  Yeah yeah.

JORRIT BRITSCHGI:   . . . I suppose that’s- yeah.

STEVE CHAO VOICEOVER:   A few days later the Rubin emailed to say to their best knowledge they don’t have any connection nor objects from Deepak Shakya or his family, and they have strong guidelines against buying items known or suspected to be stolen.  Christie’s and Sotheby’s also both deny selling any stolen artefacts, and state they have no record of ever having dealt with the Shakya family.


STEVE CHAO VOICEOVER:   Back in Mustang, Tashi says he doesn’t fully blame museums or collectors.

TASHI BISTA:   I believe that not every museum or not every private collectors ah realise that their collections or some artefacts that they own have been stolen you know, because because it’s a very long process on how these artefacts are stolen and how they travel to different parts of the world.

STEVE CHAO VOICEOVER:   But no matter who’s responsible, it’s estimated that more than eighty percent of all Nepal’s religious artefacts have been stolen and sold abroad. 


TASHI BISTA:   [Nepali]



Okay, let’s get these statutes out there

and take our photos.

STEVE CHAO VOICEOVER:   To ensure what remains in Mustang stays here.

TASHI BISTA:    [Nepali]

We’ll put them on the table.

STEVE CHAO VOICEOVER:   Tashi is now training monks in his village monastery to protect their gods.

TASHI BISTA:   [Nepali]

Let’s aim the light

so that it casts the least shadows.

TASHI BISTA:   We’re trying to ah record all these all metal statues, glazed statutes, ah the ritual items.  The foremost importance is that we have a database that um has a proper record of our belongings you know.  And secondly this is this database is what can help us track these items tomorrow in the future if they get stolen somewhere.

STEVE CHAO VOICEOVER:   Tashi’s dream is that one day stolen items will be returned.

TASHI BISTA:   Nothing justifies the artefacts not being in their places of origin and where the people worship them.  Nothing justifies the fact that they are not in the place where it’s still a part of the living heritage.  I think nothing justifies that they’re not here.

STEVE CHAO VOICEOVER:   Until the artefacts are returned and the thefts stop Tashi says the ancient way of life for his people will remain under threat.






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