Around two tons of ancient coins have disappeared from a sunken boat yet to be salvaged off Quang Ngai Province on Vietnam's central coast and locals held the blame of stealing them.
Nguyen Dang Vu, director of the province’s culture department, said many people have taken advantage of the rough weather that delayed salvaging efforts to steal from the shipwrecks at night, Tuoi Tre newspaper reported.
Archeologist Nguyen Tuan Lam from Ho Chi Minh City company Doan Anh Duong, which is hired to recover ancient boats from the province’s waters, said locals have stolen around two tons of coins from the 9th to 11th centuries from a recently-discovered boat around 100 meters off Binh Chau Commune, Binh Son District, the paper said.
Culture officials have asked the police and border guards and heighten security in the area.
Vietnam’s heritage laws require residents to hand over relics they find to authorities for a cash reward of 15-30 percent of the artifact’s value.
But the government usually fails to obtain many relics because dealers offer finders much better prices.
Experts have said that the government also loses out because it was never the one finding the boats.
The Seabed Exploration, an excavation company of shipwrecks relics in Southeast Asia, estimated Vietnam’s waters have around 40 old sunken ships.
But Vietnam has only excavated five over the past ten years, and always after local fishermen found and exploited them first.
Ten ships dating to between the 8th and 18th centuries have been spotted in Quang Ngai alone since 1999.