30 Khmer Cultural Pieces Returning Home

Thirty (30) Khmer cultural pieces are returning from the United States to Cambodia, after a repatriation ceremony held in New York on Aug. 8.

According to a press release of the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, among these Khmer cultural treasures, there are several important Buddhist and Hindu statues, such as the extraordinary sculptures of “Skanda on a Peacock” and “Ganesha” that were removed about two decades ago from temples at Koh Ker, the former royal capital of the Khmer empire in the 10th century. Koh Ker was the target of widespread looting over a number of years during a period of war.

These objects have been seized by civil forfeiture actions in connection with cases brought against the illegal possessions of artifacts let by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York (SDNY), in collaboration with U.S. Homeland Security Investigations (HIS) under the Memorandum of Understanding between the Royal Government of Cambodia and the Government of the United States of America concerning the Imposition of Import Restriction on Categories of Archaeological Material of Cambodia.

The Ministry is working with an arts logistics company to arrange the transportation of these objects to Cambodian in due course and there will be a further announcement when these objects arrive in Cambodia.

“We are thrilled to welcome back such precious treasures that are the souls of generations of Khmer ancestors that represent awe-inspiring past Khmer empire,” H.E. Dr. Phoeurng Sackona, Minister of Culture and Fine Arts stated. “This repatriation is made only possible thanks to the joint efforts and cooperation between the governments of our two countries and owing to the win-win policy under the wise leadership of Samdech Techo Hun Sen, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Cambodia that has brought peace in Cambodia, opening an opportunity for the return of the souls of Khmer ancestors, which have illegally departed from their motherland over a number of years during a period of war and turmoil”.

On behalf of the Royal Government of Cambodia, the Minister of Culture and Fine Arts, H.E. Dr. Phoeurng Sackona extended her gratitude and praise for the cooperation and great efforts provided by relevant U.S. institutions, in particular, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, the U.S. Homeland Security Investigations and the U.S. Embassy in Cambodia.

She also thanked the relevant ministries, the Cambodian Embassy in Washington, D.C., the ministry’s team, particularly to Mr. Bardley Gordon and Mr. Steven Heimberg, who have spent many years helping the ministry’s team in research and recovery of many priceless cultural properties. She would also like to extend the appreciation to museums and private collectors, who are voluntarily returning national treasures to Cambodia. As part of a global call for action, H.E. Minister has also urged museums and private collectors around the world to share provenance documentation and to repatriate cultural properties to their rightful owners.

Source: Agency Kampuchea Press