France has clarified that six priceless artefacts from Thailand, not one as initially reported, were stolen from the Chateau de Fontainebleau museum last week. In all, 20 artefacts, including six items presented by King Rama IV to Emperor Napoleon III, were stolen.
Thai Culture Minister Veera Rojpojanarat said yesterday that France had initially informed the Thai Embassy in Paris that only the Phra Maha Mongkut Longya, a miniature replica of the Phra Maha Phichai Mongkut, was stolen.
The other stolen items from Thailand comprised a Japanese-made sword, a jar, two scissors and a pedestal tray. All of these items were royal gifts from King Mongkut to Napoleon III.
Paris had initially informed Thailand that 15 items were stolen from the museum's Chinese Room on Friday and that the crown was the only piece from Thailand.
Veera revealed that footage from surveillance cameras inside the museum showed two men wearing hoods.
Less than seven minutes
"The French museum is now coordinating with all authorities concerned, including Interpol, to track down the thieves to prevent them from sneaking out of the country."
Thai Ambassador to France Apichart Chinwanno has been in contact with the French museum to submit full details and photos of the stolen items.
Veera said both Thai and French people were shocked by the theft and deplored the losses of prestigious items associated with Thai-French relations.
According to the National Archives of Thailand, 34 royal gifts such as traditional items, kitchen ware and table utensils from King Rama IV were presented to Emperor Napoleon III during a visit by a Thai delegation in 1861.
French newspapers had reported that the theft took place before 6am on Friday. The museum president, Jean-Francois Hebert, was quoted as saying that the thieves were very determined as they knew what they were doing and exactly what they wanted.
They smashed the glass of the display cabinets with chairs and other objects from the Asian collection and, in a crude attempt to cover their tracks, used a fire extinguisher to spread carbonic "snow" over the site.
The alarm went off and the culprits were filmed, but when the night watchman arrived at the gallery, the thieves had already escaped. The raid took less than seven minutes.
Hebert admitted that the incident was "deeply traumatic" for his staff.