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US Returns Three Stolen Statues to Cambodia

  • Theara Khoun

Walter Timoshuk, right, president of Norton Simon Museum of Art in Pasadena, California, places flowers onto a 10th century Cambodian sandstone statue returned from the United States during a handover ceremony at the Council of Ministers in Phnom Penh, Ju

Walter Timoshuk, right, president of Norton Simon Museum of Art in Pasadena, California, places flowers onto a 10th century Cambodian sandstone statue returned from the United States during a handover ceremony at the Council of Ministers in Phnom Penh, Ju

Three major statues looted from Cambodia during its civil war have been formally returned home during a ceremony in Phnom Penh.

All three had been returned from collections in the United States. At the ceremony Tuesday, Cabinet Minister Sok An thanked U.S. officials for their support in securing the return of the statues.

“In a long 40-year journey, surviving civil war, looting, smuggling and traveling the world, these three have now regained their freedom and returned home," Sok said.

Two of the statues were returned from U.S.-based auction houses after an announcement in New York last month. The third artifact was sent back by a museum in (the western state of) California.

The statues (called Duryodhana, Bhima and Balaram) were thought to have been looted from the Koh Ker temple complex in Siem Reap province during the upheaval of the 1970s.

Jeff Daigle, the U.S. Embassy’s deputy chief of mission, said the U.S. has a longstanding dedication to working with Cambodia to safeguard the kingdom’s unique historical and cultural legacies.

“Repatriation of these statues demonstrates strengthening commitment of American collectors and institutions to adhere to the highest ethical and legal standards in acquiring objects, and reaffirms the U.S.’s pledge that our country will not serve as a safe heaven of illegally acquired arts and antiquities," Daigle said.

Thousands of artifacts have been taken over the years from Cambodia's northwestern Ankor area, which spans more than 400 square kilometers and includes dozens of temples that are hundreds of years old.

This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Khmer service.
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