The culture ministers of Cambodia and Thailand will meet Tuesday in Thailand to discuss the return of looted Khmer artifacts that have been seized by Thai authorities, officials said Wednesday.
Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong confirmed the meeting but added that it was still unclear how many of the artifacts Thailand will return or when.
“We have clarified that about 18 artifacts [seized in Thailand] belong to Cambodia because we have documents in the National Museum that clarify those are Khmer artifacts and Thailand doesn’t have artifacts like these,” said Chuch Phoeurn, secretary of state at the Ministry of Culture. Cambodia has officially requested the return of all 18 pieces, he added.
“Thailand agreed to return seven Khmer artifacts when [then-Prime Minister] Samak Sundaravej visited Cambodia, but I did not get any information from Thailand on when they would return them yet,” Chouch Phoeurn said. He added that Samak, who came to Phnom Penh in March 2008, had then brought pictures of seven pieces and offered to return them without providing a date.
The topic was raised again at a meeting between Foreign Affairs Minister Hor Namhong and his new Thai counterpart Kasit Piromya on Jan 26 in Phnom Penh.
At least the seven artifacts proposed by Thailand should be returned soon and added to the collections of the National Museum, said museum Director Hab Touch. They are decapitated heads of statues—one of a spirit, and six of ogres,.
Meanwhile, the meeting of the Joint Border Commission charged with demarcating the Thai-Cambodian boundary was still in session in Bangkok past its scheduled end as of press time Wednesday evening, according to Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan.
“The ambiance, the atmosphere [at JBC meetings] is very good, but the substance is different. The content of our discussion is dependent on the good will of each side,” Var Kim Hong, Cambodian co-chairman of the commission, said in an interview before his departure to Bangkok on Monday night.
The Cambodian delegation was scheduled to return to Phnom Penh this morning.
(Additional reporting by Isabelle Roughol)