Artifacts Sent to Siem Reap

The Ministry of Culture has ordered Banteay Meanchey provincial officials to register the huge haul of ancient artifacts confiscated from smugglers in the province over the last month in order to protect them, an official said on Friday.

The artifacts—more than 780 antiquities such as bowls, tools, and 21 stones looted from a remote, ancient temple—must be inventoried and listed as national heritage to prevent them from disappearing again, said Vong Von, director of the Culture Min­istry’s Heritage Department.

“Those ancient things are national heritage. We have to put them on the national heritage list because we are afraid of losing them,” Vong Von said.

After the Banteay Meanchey provincial Department of Culture has listed all the items, they will be put in boxes and sent to neighboring Siem Reap—home of the Angkor temples—where facilities exist to store them securely, Vong Von said.

“The National Museum in Phnom Penh is full. We can’t put anything more in there,” he said. “We will send these things back when the Banteay Meanchey Culture Department has its own museum.”

The artifacts in question were gathered on two separate occasions over the last month. On Sept 30, provincial military police raided five houses and reaped what they said was the northwest’s biggest-ever stash of illegally excavated cultural objects.

On Oct 11, military police dug up 21 bas-relief stones that had been stolen from the province’s Angkor-era Banteay Chhmar temple and buried in a field.

The ancient objects range in date from prehistorical times to the medieval Angkor period, which reached its height between the 12th and 14th centuries. Officials are currently trying to sort and identify them, said Heng Tim, director of the provincial Culture Department.

“So far, I have listed 30 artifacts, mostly pots and drums,” he said.

The Culture Department doesn’t have room to store all the objects, so most of them are being housed at the military police station, he said.



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