Even With the Khmer Rouge Gone, Cambodian Antiquities Are Still Looted

The Observer, 12 April 2017: “I went into it because I thought I might be able to afford to buy what I thought was a copy of a Cambodian statue in the window. Then the man named a price which was absolutely incredible. I said, ‘Do you mean that this piece is authentic?’ He said, ‘Yes.’ I said, ‘Then you are a thief.’”

An exiled prince tries to recover antiquities stolen from his home country of Cambodia.

Source: Even With the Khmer Rouge Gone, Cambodian Antiquities Are Still Looted | Observer

The voices arguing against repatriation

Coming from a region that falls victim to frequent looting of archaeological sites, I personally find it hard to agree against the repatriation of artefacts that have been proven to be stolen, such as the case of the Koh Ker sculpture that still remains in the Denver Museum of Art.

Experts disagree over antiquity repatriations
Phnom Penh Post, 23 May 2015

While an unknown number of looted Cambodian artefacts – mostly taken during the turbulent 1970s and ’80s – are scattered in private collections around the world, a number have found their way into major museums’ exhibits. The recently returned Hanuman statue, for instance, was one of nine statues looted from Prasat Chen temple in the Koh Ker temple complex.

Four of the other Prasat Chen statues have been repatriated by various US museums and auction houses in recent years, three are unaccounted for, while a torso of the Hindu god Rama remains in the Denver Museum of Art.

“I would be very grateful to these private owners, if they read these lines, to give them back generously to Cambodia to reunify the nine sculptures of this unique but incomplete ensemble depicting the Mahabharata,” said Anne LeMaistre, head of UNESCO in Cambodia.

Full story here.

Cambodia seek access to seized trove of artefacts in Bangkok

Cambodian officials are seeking access to a seized trove of artefacts in Bangkok to determine if they were looted from Khmer sites.

Seized trove of artefacts in Bangkok. Source: Bangkok Post 20141217
Seized trove of artefacts in Bangkok. Source: Bangkok Post 20141217

Gov’t seeks access to Thai trove
Phnom Penh Post, 16 December 2014

Cambodia asks to see Pongpat trove
Bangkok Post, 17 December 2014

Cambodian PM asks Thai counterpart to allow experts to inspect seized artifacts
Global Times, via Xinhua, 21 December 2014
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The looting of antiquities in Southeast Asia

Last week Unesco organised a symposium on the illicit trafficking of antiquities (which I will write a little bit more about in a later post), here is a news writeup on it, although it doesn’t actually mention the symposium itself, it quotes a number of speakers there.

SE Asian artefacts under threat from looters: UN
Channel NewsAsia, 21 November 2014
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Tracking how antiquities get stolen and sold on the black market

A new study published in the British Journal of Criminology reveals the inner workings of a statue trafficking network in Cambodia and Thailand and sheds light on how the particular form of organised crime works.

Evidence of looting in Angkor. Source: The Cambodia Daily 20140618
Evidence of looting in Angkor. Source: The Cambodia Daily 20140618

Temple Looting in Cambodia: Anatomy of a Statue Trafficking Network
Simon Mackenzie and Tess Davis
British Journal of Criminology 2014, doi: 10.1093/bjc/azu038

New Evidence Ties Illegal Antiquities Trade to Terrorism, Violent Crime
National Geographic News, 13 June 2014

Study Details Sophisticated Temple-Looting Ring
Cambodia Daily, 18 June 2014
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Cambodia lauds American prosecution team for return of antiquities

The American federal prosecution team responsible for sparking a wave of repatriation of Cambodian antiquities from American universities were honoured recently by the Deputy Prime Minister of Cambodia.

Tomb Raiders and Returns: Recovering Cambodian Antiquities and Our Collective Culture
Huffington Post, 23 May 2014
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Cambodia calls for return of artefacts from other American institutions

Following the return of two guardian statues from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Cambodia puts a call out to other American museums for the return of antiquities with questionable provenance.

Cambodia Presses U.S. Museums to Relinquish Antiquities
New York Times, 15 May 2013
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