July 20, 2022
PHNOM PENH – The US government will hand over 30 more Cambodian artefacts confiscated from private collections and museums in the US to Cambodia’s representatives in New York in early August.
Hab Touch, spokesman for the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, told The Post on July 19 that the return of the items was being done in accordance with the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between the US and Cambodian governments Cambodia for “Restrictions on the Importation of Cambodian Antiquities”.
The culture ministry has worked in close cooperation with the US authorities in recent years to ensure that Cambodian cultural properties that were illegally looted and taken from the Kingdom have subsequently been confiscated and returned, Touch said.
He added that, as planned, another 30 Cambodian cultural properties confiscated from private collections and museums in the US would soon be returned to Cambodia.
Among the important Khmer cultural treasures being returned are the “Skanda on a Peacock” and “Seated Ganesha” statues, both of which originated from Koh Ker temple.
“As agreed by both parties, the official handover ceremony will take place on August 8, 2022 in New York City, with the Cambodian ambassador to the US on hand to represent the Royal Government of Cambodia,” said Touch.
He added that the culture ministry is working with transport companies to complete the procedures necessary to export the artefacts back to Cambodia as well as ensuring that they are packaged and shipped safely following the handover ceremony.
If all goes as planned, the items are scheduled to arrive in Cambodia this September and the culture ministry will keep the public informed about the status of the artefacts including their date of arrival.
Chad Roedemeier, spokesman for the US embassy in Phnom Penh, told The Post on July 19 that he did not have any additional details about the handover ceremony in New York.
“The United States is proud of its contribution to Cambodia’s cultural heritage conservation efforts and our joint efforts in repatriating invaluable artefacts from the United States to Cambodia,” Roedemeier quoted US ambassador to Cambodia Patrick Murphy as saying.
The US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, the US embassy in Cambodia and the culture ministry held a ceremony on July 13 to celebrate the previous return of 27 artefacts to Cambodia that were illegally brought to the US and sold to private collectors and museums in past years.
The ceremony at Cambodia’s National Museum in Phnom Penh was presided over by Minister of Culture and Fine Arts Phoeurng Sackona and Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Kritenbrink, with US Ambassador Murphy and other Cambodian officials in attendance.
The 27 Cambodian cultural artefacts were confiscated by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office in New York City, working with the US Homeland Security Bureau, and the items made their return to Cambodia on June 15, 2022.