Australia Will Return Looted Sculptures to Cambodia

A centuries-old Buddhist sculpture was taken from a rural area in Cambodia nearly 30 years ago. It was later sold with two other statues to the National Gallery of Australia.

An ancient gilt bronze Buddhist sculpture that traveled a circuitous and legally questionable route from a rice paddy in southern Cambodia to the capital of Australia will soon be headed back to its homeland.


The sculpture of the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara Padmapani — the benevolent “lord who looks on from above” and “lotus bearer” — dates to the ninth or 10th century. Over about 15 years, it traveled from a rural area near the Vietnamese border to the hands of Douglas A.J. Latchford, a notorious trafficker of Asian antiquities. In 2011, he in turn sold it and two smaller accompanying statues to the National Gallery of Australia, where they have resided ever since.

Now, after an extensive investigation into the work’s provenance, the gallery will return the sculptures in no more than three years to Cambodia, giving the government time to prepare an appropriate place for them in Phnom Penh, the capital.

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