The theft and destruction of Hanoi's cultural and historical relics continues to rise due to weak management and low awareness by managing agencies, said the city Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism.

The violations include placing a statue of Phat Duoc Su (Bhaisajya Guru, or Medicine Buddha) in Ba Da Pagoda, a national cultural site in Hoan Kiem district, or putting an iron horse, iron rod and iron armour at the Phu Dong Temple, a special national historical site in Gia Lam district, and several others, without an agreement by city authorities.

They also involved removing four valuable timber pieces from a temple in Cuu Quan village, in Hoai Duc district - and changing designs while upgrading Quang Huc Communal House, in Ba Vi district and Ngo Quyen Mausoleum in Son Tay town.

The violations not only created misunderstandings among the public, but also a headache for cultural managers who did not have the skills or knowledge to deal with the problems.

Truong Minh Tien, Deputy Director of the Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism, admitted that the department itself was largely responsible for controlling violations.

He said it had not shown enough concern about the relics and that inspections were rarely carried out.

In addition, the awareness of the importance of many of the relics was not understood by laymen or even the monks in some pagodas, Tien said.

He said these people also thought that if a kind-hearted person offered an object, even if it had little religious or artistic merit, it should be added to the altar displays.

For example, a building in the Quang Huc Communal House (dinh) had beams replaced with inappropriate modern ones proposed by local people.

They also changed ancient lions standing guard outside the building with new and bigger ones that had little significance.

Tien added that these changes were not approved by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and that they violated the Cultural Heritage Law.

Tien said the Hanoi Department of Culture would now widely popularise the Cultural Heritage Law among local administrations and communities.

"We need to highlight the need for each locality's management board, monks and people to understand their obligations in protecting the relics," Tien said.

He further said the culture department would ask each locality to make an inventory of all relics and confirm their actual state of preservation.

The department would ask localities not to receive new objects if they were not sure if they were compatible with existing relics, Tien said.

Last year, violations of preservation laws was reported at Tram Gian and Chang Son pagodas.

So-called restorers almost demolished the 1,000-year-old Tram Gian building to rebuild it.

Chief Buddhist monk Thich Minh Phuong also replaced a 300-year-old Ngoc Hoang (Jade Emperor) statue by a new and modern bronze one.-VNA