The Phnom Penh Post

US returns 27 looted Khmer antiquitie­s back to Kingdom

- Ry Sochan

THE US has returned 27 Cambodian antiquitie­s – including Angkorian Buddhist and Hindu statues – to Cambodia. Cambodian ambassador to the US Chum Sounry and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr signed an agreement on June 9 between Cambodia and the DA’s office for the transfer of custody of 27 trafficked Cambodian antiquitie­s recovered by US authoritie­s.

“The return of these antiquitie­s proves once again the fruitful results of a memorandum of understand­ing signed between the Royal Government of Cambodia and the US government that gave a fresh start to positive bilateral cooperatio­n on cultural preservati­on between both nations,” Sounry said in an embassy press release on June 9.

“We hope the United States will continue its partnershi­p with Cambodia so that we can put a complete end to the illegal traffickin­g of Khmer cultural properties and return our cultural heritage back to our country,” he added.

The press release said that the 27 artefacts – all of which were recovered by the Manhattan DA’s office and the US Department of Homeland Security – include several Angkorian Buddhist statues and Hindu statues such as a bronze meditating Buddha on a Naga throne, a Shiva idol and a Buddhist sandstone sculpture of Prajnapara­mita.

“The Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts of Cambodia has played an important role in coordinati­ng and reaching this historic agreement with the DA’s Office,” according to the embassy press release.

Minister of Culture and Fine Arts Phoeurng Sackona said via video conference from Phnom Penh that she extended her gratitude and praise for the cooperatio­n and assistance provided by the Manhattan DA’s office, US Homeland Security Investigat­ions, the US embassy in Cambodia, the Cambodian embassy in Washington, DC, and the working group of the culture ministry in bringing these important objects home, according to the press release.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Internatio­nal Cooperatio­n spokesman Koy Kuong told The Post on June 10 that the 27 artefacts are currently being stored at the Cambodian embassy in Washington DC. He said he did not know precisely when they would be transporte­d to Cambodia.

Culture ministry spokesman Long Ponna Sirivath could not be reached for comment on June 10.

Chad Roedemeier, spokesman for the US embassy in Cambodia, declined to comment further on June 10 beyond referring The Post to the US embassy’s press release.

“This ceremony is a tribute to the cooperatio­n between our two countries on preventing the looting and traffickin­g of Khmer artefacts,” US ambassador to Cambodia Patrick Murphy said in his remarks to the press.

“The United States is proud to play a role in securing the cultural heritage of the Cambodian people,” he added.

“The repatriati­on of these 27 stunning relics to the people of Cambodia restores an important link between the nation’s classical Angkor era and its modern customs and beliefs that, for far too long, were disrupted by the greed of those who deal in stolen antiquitie­s,” Cyrus Vance Jr was quoted as saying in the press release.

“Today’s event is a powerful reminder that individual­s who plunder and sell culturally significan­t items are committing crimes not only against a country’s heritage – but also its present and future,” Vance said.

 ?? SUPPLIED ?? The antiquitie­s being returned by the US include Buddhist and Hindu statues with an estimated value of nearly $4 million.
SUPPLIED The antiquitie­s being returned by the US include Buddhist and Hindu statues with an estimated value of nearly $4 million.

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