Stolen Khmer Antiquities To Be Repatriated From US Today

Seven stolen Angkorian artifacts recovered by US authorities will be returned to Cambodia today, ac­cording to officials from the US Em­bassy and the Mini­stry of Culture.

The sandstone antiquities, which were recovered separately by the US Customs and Border Pro­tec­tion department, were trans­ported to Cambodia onboard the hospital ship USNS Mer­­­cy, according to a statement issued yesterday by the US Navy.

The Mercy anchored off Siha­noukville port on Tuesday even­ing to begin a 13-day humanitarian mission providing free medical care.

A Navy helicopter will transfer the items to shore today, US Em­bassy Spokesman John Johnson said.

The objects are all from the Ang­korian period, between 1000 and 1500 AD, according to Mr Johnson, and will be officially presented to the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts at a ceremony at the National Museum in Phnom Penh on on July 14.

“The biggest piece is an en­graved plinth that weighs nearly 500 lb [200 kg],” Mr Johnson said, adding the seven pieces have a combined weight of nearly 450 kg. The other items include two Bud­dha heads, he said. Ac­cording to a US Navy statement, a bas-relief and a sculpture of a bust and torso will also be among the repatriated objects.

Ministry of Culture Secretary of State Chuch Phoeung said that a team from the ministry was waiting to take possession of the artifacts and oversee their transport to the National Museum.

Cambodia and the US signed a bilateral agreement in 2003 re­stricting the import of Cambodian archaeological objects.

Mr Phoeung said there had been strong cooperation between the two nations on this issue, and that the US had repatriated many stolen artifacts since the agreement came into force.

“When they find a suspicious artifact, US officials usually return it immediately,” he said.

Oun Phalline, director of the Na­tional Museum, said she will host a small ceremony at the mu­seum this afternoon to mark the return of the artifacts.


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