The Cambodians have enlisted the help of the U.S. Justice Department to press for the return of dozens of artworks, basing their claim in part on the account of a reformed looter. The looter, Toek Tik, identified 33 artifacts in the Met collection as objects he recalled personally plundering and selling to intermediaries who often did business with Latchford.
But the dispute has evolved into something of an odd standoff.
The Met says it has a track record of returning items proven to have been looted, that for years it has been reviewing its Khmer artifacts and that it has updated several provenances as a result and turned that information over to Cambodian officials. But the Met has refused to show Cambodia a set of internal documents that might buttress, or undermine, the museum’s proper title to the objects, whose slim ownership histories are listed on the Met website.