Cambodian Effort to Find Artifacts Won’t End With Informant’s Death

Officials plan to use evidence from the former looter known as Lion as they seek the return of stolen objects from museums and private collections.

Cambodian officials say a reformed looter who directed a ring that pillaged Khmer-era temples for two decades, ending in the late 1990s, has died, but that they will continue to use the testimony he provided as they work to reclaim more stolen artifacts.

The man, Toek Tik, 62, spent the last two years informing officials of his activities as he sought to help them reclaim hundreds of statues and other relics he said he had personally looted, many of which, Cambodia says, are now in private hands and museum collections.

Based in part on Toek Tik’s testimony and on evidence like bases, pedestals and the broken remnants of statues found at the sites he said he had pillaged, Cambodia recently asked the Metropolitan Museum of Art to document how it had obtained 45 “highly significant” Khmer items that are part of its collection.The Met is in discussions with Cambodian officials and has said it had “proactively” begun to research its collection, independent of the recent request.

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