KUALA LUMPUR: The National Heritage Department has warned that it will throw the book at souvenir hunters, following reports of people digging for artefacts at the newly found site of a shipwreck in Sungai Pahang.
Anyone finding items of historical value there must turn them over to the authorities or face five years in prison and a fine of up to RM50,000, it said, adding that it was illegal to dig for relics without a licence.
The wreck, discovered in Kampung Tanjung, Paloh Hinai, on May 4 during the dry season, was believed to be that of Singapore steam ship SS Amherst which sank during a storm in 1901.
A spokesman for the department said that since the discovery, there had been reports of the public going to the wreck and possibly removing items.
“The department is very concerned over any theft of objects and artefacts that could deprive the country of important historical items,” it said in a statement yesterday.
“Efforts to record history and heritage through conservation will also be wasted if locations that are meant to be protected are intruded upon.”
It said that under the National Heritage Act 2005, any artefact found was property of the Federal Government and those who found such objects on their land would be compensated when they turned them in.
Anyone who finds an object that may have significant historical value must alert the authorities of the discovery while those excavating for artefacts without a licence from the department would be prosecuted, it added.