Tomb raiders give the dead no rest in Vietnam's Central Highlands

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Dinh Truyn of Gia Lai Province holds a portion of a coffin found after a tomb raid.

Ethnic people in the Central Highlands bury their dead with jewels and antiques since they believe the person would need them in the afterlife, only for the graves to be destroyed by thieves.

An old cemetery in Mo H'ra village in Gia Lai Province has more than 100 graves, some hundreds of years old, but grave robbers have left none of them untouched, news website VietNamNet reported Sunday.

The village head, H'Mung, said the tomb of a rich or powerful person would have gold and silver, old pottery, and a coffin made of sua, a rare and valuable wood.

Some thieves even dump the corpse and steal the coffin, he said.

"One such tomb could turn a thief into a billionaire overnight."

He said this has caused thousands of Bana, Jara, Ede, and K'ho tombs in the highlands to lose themselves to be vandalized.

It began since late last year.

In many cases, people no longer know which corpse belongs to which grave.

A number of corpses have been left lying on the ground because reburying them is a costly affair. In many ethnic communities, a family has to offer many buffaloes, pigs, chicken and a lot of wine as a sign of apology to a corpse before burying it again.

Though not all families are rich, all have to bury their relatives with something since custom requires the living to share some of the family's fortune with the dead.

Dinh Van Ngheo, a Gia Lai resident, said he buried a relative two years ago with some old bowls and bottles and found the tomb dug up a week later.

He said the items could have been sold to antique collectors.

Locals broke the bottom of old bowls and bottles they buried to discourage the thieves, but it did not work. They still took them and fixed them with some glue before selling, H'Mung said.

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