Cambodia thankful for return of antiquities: PM Hun Sen

The premier expressed gratitude to the British and US ambassadors for their aggressive efforts to recover the parts of the Kingdom’s cultural legacy.

Neang Sokunthea

Neang Sokunthea

The Phnom Penh Post


Prime Minister Hun Sen at a reception to welcome home antiquities returned from the US on March 17. SPM

April 18, 2023

PHNOM PENH – Prime Minister Hun Sen commended Cambodia’s foreign partners for their cooperation in returning precious antiquities that were looted by unscrupulous dealers during the country’s darkest hours.

He also singled out a number of nations for their assistance in preserving the Kingdom’s greatest cultural treasures, its temples.

The prime minister addressed the April 14 opening of the 2023 Angkor Sangkran event, the 10th to be staged by the Union of Youth Federations of Cambodia.

“I would like to thank all the foreign friends who are present for their contributions to the conservation of Angkor Wat, as well as other temples in Cambodia,” he said.

He also expressed his gratitude to the British and US ambassadors, for their aggressive efforts to recover the precious parts of the Kingdom’s cultural legacy that were stolen and trafficked to the UK and US.

“With the help of the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, which collaborates closely with many partners, we hope that more countries will come forward to return any parts of our lost cultural heritage that they possess. The US is one of the leading nations when it comes to repatriating such items,” he said.

On March 17, the prime minister was present at a ceremony in which precious Khmer artifacts were returned to the Kingdom’s ownership. The 77 pieces of traditional Khmer jewellery – made of gold and other precious metals – were returned to Cambodia by the family of Douglas Latchford, a well-known dealer of Khmer antiquities who died while under indictment for smuggling items looted from the Kingdom.

Among the other cultural treasures that have been reclaimed in recent years are several significant statues, some from both Brahman and Buddhist periods, as well as the pre-Angkorian and Angkorian eras.

These include the statues of Vishnu, Skanda, Skanda on a Peacock, and Ganesha, which date from the 10th century. They were taken from the temples of Koh Kor, an isolated site in Siem Reap province that was the scene of extensive looting during the time of the civil war and the chaos that followed.

The fines arts ministry is currently negotiating with several nations, as well as private institutions and collectors, to prepare the necessary procedures to return more antiquities home.

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