Cambodia Officially Celebrates the Return of Khmer Artifacts

The Kingdom of Cambodia this morning celebrated the return of Khmer artifacts under the presidency of Prime Minister Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen.

In his remarks, on behalf of the Royal Government of Cambodia, Samdech Techo Hun Sen highly appreciated the cooperation and coordination of the governments of friendly countries and all stakeholders, especially the United States of America and the United Kingdom in preventing illegal trafficking of cultural properties and repatriating Khmer artifacts to their homeland, and UNESCO in protecting and preserving the heritage of humanity.

The Premier also praised the tireless efforts of the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts and concerned institutions in bringing home the invaluable Khmer treasures.

Samdech Techo Hun Sen took the opportunity to re-appeal to museums and private collectors of Khmer antiquities to voluntarily return them to Cambodia, which is a respectful gesture.

According to H.E. Dr. Phoeurng Sackona, Minister of Culture and Fine Arts, there are hundreds of pieces of returned artifacts, both large and small, from abroad, particularly from the US and UK. They are made of stone, bronze and gold.

The treasures presented at today’s official celebration are only some parts of the returned Khmer artifacts, while others are still in the restoration process, she pointed out, adding that a number of jewellery discovered by the APSARA National Authority in the Angkor area were also exhibited on the occasion.

H.E. Dr. Phoeurng Sackona commented on "the importance of peace and political stability through the Win-Win policy and the wise leadership of Cambodian Prime Minister Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen that has given the opportunity for Cambodia to return the souls of Khmer ancestors and invaluable treasures which departed from their homeland for many years during the decades of war".

H.E. Minister attributed the return of looted cultural properties to the active cooperation from all stakeholders, including state institutions, the private sector, national and international experts, and to the close relations between Cambodia and other countries in the bilateral, multilateral and UNESCO frameworks.

According to the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts’ press release, under an agreement on Sept. 18, 2020 between the ministry, representing the Royal Government of Cambodia and the family of Douglas Latchford, all Cambodian artifacts held by the Latchford's family shall be returned to Cambodia. In addition, many important Khmer cultural treasures in the possession of museums and private collectors (some confiscated by US authorities, and some returned by individuals) have been returned to Cambodia from the US and the UK.

Recently, 77 large and small pieces of Khmer ancient gold and precious metal jewelries were brought from the UK to Cambodia on Feb. 17, 2023 by the Cambodian team led by H.E. Hun Many on behalf of the Royal Government of Cambodia through cooperation with the UK and support of the Cambodian Embassy to the UK. Furthermore, the ministry has been working with the US Government and other countries, as well as through negotiations with institutions and private collectors, in order to bring more Khmer artifacts back to Cambodia.

Amongst the returned Khmer cultural treasures, there are some important Hindu and Buddhist statues, as well as ancient jewelries from the pre-Angkor and Angkor periods, especial the large stone statues such as: Shiva and Skanda, Skanda on a Peacock and Ganesh originated from the Koh Ker site, a former capital of the Khmer Empire in the 10th century A.D. Koh Ker which had been the target of large-scale theft for many years during the period of civil war and insecurity.

Source: Agence Kampuchea Presse