Centuries-old cultural artifacts of Cambodia that had been unlawfully smuggled out from the country returned home on March 18. The artifacts were welcomed at a celebration led by Prime Minister of Cambodia Hun Sen, who appealed for further efforts to retrieve other stolen treasures.
The returned items included important Hindu and Buddhist statues, apart from ancient jewelry from the empire of Angkor. Most of the returned items had been looted during periods of war and instability, including in the 1970s when Cambodia was under the rule of the communist Khmer Rouge. The artifacts, through corrupt art dealers, made their way into the hands of private collectors and museums around the world.
The Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, in a statement, credited the items’ return to “tremendous cooperation and support” from public and private institutions, national and international experts, and close relations with other countries through bilateral, multilateral and international institutions, such as UNESCO. The ministry especially thanked the cooperation from the US government, as many of the items returned so far have come from the United States.
Hun Sen appealed for the return of Cambodian sculptures in the spirit of goodwill. He said his government is determined to use all means at its disposal to secure those stolen artifacts, including negotiations and legal action.