Inside the effort to return stolen cultural artifacts to Cambodia

It was Hollywood that turned the temple complex around Angkor Wat into an ultra-famous location, but the Cambodian site is so much more than a movie set. For nine hundred years, it has been a wonder of history, religion and art.

It’s also the site of an epic theft. Thousands of people visit the temple every day, but look closely at some of the lesser-known parts of the complex, and you’ll notice vital statues of Hindu gods and Buddhas are missing.

In the decades of lawlessness following Cambodia’s civil war, which raged from 1967 to 1975 and left hundreds of thousands of people dead, looters raided these sites and made off with the priceless artifacts. Many have ended up in private collections and museums.

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