Cambodia urges UK museums to investigate and return looted treasures allegedly handled by dealer Douglas Latchford

The Cambodian government is calling on the British Museum and Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) in London to investigate the provenance of antiquities in their collections allegedly removed from ancient temples and heritage sites. According to the BBC, the focus on the UK marks the latest phase in the Cambodians’ campaign to recover the country’s precious artefacts that were pillaged during the late 20th-century civil war and then sold on to Western museums and private collectors.

The Cambodian culture minister, Phoeurng Sackona, says in a letter to her UK counterpart, Nadine Dorries, that many of these artefacts “passed through the hands of [the late dealer] Douglas Latchford”. Brad Gordon, the Cambodian Ministry of Culture’s chief legal counsel and the head of its investigative team, says: “We are not sure yet [about] the specific number of Cambodian cultural properties at these museums which passed through his hands.”

A spokeswoman for the V&A says that none of the Cambodian objects in its collection were acquired (purchased or donated) from Douglas Latchford. Latchford always denied any wrongdoing and any involvement in smuggling.

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