If you are looking to buy Buddha images or Buddha statues in Thailand over 12cm or 5 inches in size you must follow the following guidelines or risk having them confiscated by customs on departure.
The restriction says that images of Buddha can be taken out of the country providing they are full images, not just a part of, like a hand or head and written permission is obtained with a limit of no more than 5 replica images of Buddha per trip, can be taken out of Thailand.
If you are planning on buying Buddha statues and will be applying for an export permit it would be best to plan ahead and allow 4 to 5 days for the process.
Shop owners may if they are willing help you obtain a permit, if not you will need to apply to the local Fine Arts Department yourself.
Be aware when applying for an export permit through the local Fine Arts Department that a permit needs to be issued for every image.
The process requires you must have 2 front view photo’s of the Buddha image and a certified copy of your passport with the application.
An official from the Fine Arts Department must inspect each image and the provincial governor must sign the permit. As mentioned you will need to allow 4 to 5 days for this process to happen.
By far the best way to buy your desired Buddha garden statue is to deal with a shop owner or exporter that has had the Fine Arts Department visit and inspect the image of Buddha for sale and do your research on how much it may cost in shipping from Thailand your new purchase
Once the image has been approved, the authorities can grant permits for each image. On the sale of the image the traveler can be given the permit and the statue at the same time.
The following is an extract from the Thailand Ministry of Foreign Affairs for export of images of Buddha.
Buddha images, Bodhisattva images or related fragments, part of ancient monuments and prehistoric objects, are forbidden to be taken out of the Kingdom. Newly cast images of Buddha in complete condition can be exported for worship, cultural exchange or educational purposes with licenses issued by the Fine Arts Department. Not more than 5 pieces per person shall be allowed.
Reproductions of antiquities can also be exported with licenses.
Procedures to obtain a license for export of antiquities or Buddha images:
The following documents should be produced together with the application form :
Office of Archaeology and National Museums, 81/1 Si Ayutthaya Road, Theves, Dusit, Bangkok, Tel: 0 2628 5032
Chiang Mai National Museum, Superhighway Road, Amphoe Muang, Chiang Mai, Tel : (053) 221-308
Songkhla National Museum, 13/1 Jana Road, Tambon Bohyang, Amphoe Muang, Songkhla, Tel : (074) 311-728, 311-881
Thalang National Museum, Tambon Si Sunthorn, Amphoe Thalang, Phuket, Tel : (076) 311-426
Please allow 4 working days for license issuing process.
Click here to go to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Kingdom of Thailand website.