A wealth of Khmer heritage is being returned to Cambodia by the New York District Attorney’s Office in the United States. The 27 Angkorian artifacts had been illegally trafficked out of Cambodia, but were seized by US security officials.
Cambodia’s Ambassador to the United States, Mr. Chum Suntory, attended a signing ceremony in New York on Wednesday, paving the way for the stolen artifacts to be returned. The event was also attended via video-link by Cambodia’s Minister of Culture and Fine Arts, Dr. Pheung Sakona.
Among the 27 artifacts recovered by the Office of the Attorney General and the US Department of Homeland Security are some priceless Angkorian-era Buddhist and Hindu statues, including a statue of the Buddha meditating on a bronze dragon and a statue of Shiva.
The Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts played a key role in facilitating the historic agreement. The minister expressed her gratitude and appreciation for the cooperation from the United States in working to repatriate the cultural treasures. Dr. Pheung Sakona said the return of the artifacts underscores the fruitful relationship of cooperation between Cambodia and the United States in contributing to the protection of Cambodia’s cultural heritage. She stressed that the Royal Government of Cambodia is committed to continuing research to have all illegally exported Cambodian cultural property returned.
Cambodia’s Ambassador, Mr. Chum Suntory, emphasized that the return of the artifacts reaffirms the fruitful results of the Memorandum of Understanding signed by the Royal Government of Cambodia and the Government of the United States, which has opened a new page in bilateral cooperation on cultural preservation between the two countries.
"We hope the United States will continue its partnership with Cambodia so that we can stop the illegal trafficking of Cambodian cultural property and return our cultural heritage to Cambodia," he added.
The Ambassador called on all Cambodian antiquities collectors to carefully examine the origins of their artifacts and acknowledge that most of Cambodia’s cultural treasures abroad have been taken illegally. He said they should be returned to Cambodia.