via New York Times, 05 December 2021: Reformed Cambodian looter ‘Lion’, who was instrumental in efforts to repatriate stolen antiquities from Cambodia, has reportedly passed away from Covid-19 last month.
Cambodian officials say a reformed looter who directed a ring that pillaged Khmer-era temples for two decades, ending in the late 1990s, has died, but that they will continue to use the testimony he provided as they work to reclaim more stolen artifacts.
The man, Toek Tik, 62, spent the last two years informing officials of his activities as he sought to help them reclaim hundreds of statues and other relics he said he had personally looted, many of which, Cambodia says, are now in private hands and museum collections.
Based in part on Toek Tik’s testimony and on evidence like bases, pedestals and the broken remnants of statues found at the sites he said he had pillaged, Cambodia recently asked the Metropolitan Museum of Art to document how it had obtained 45 “highly significant” Khmer items that are part of its collection. The Met is in discussions with Cambodian officials and has said it had “proactively” begun to research its collection, independent of the recent request.
Diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, Toek Tik, who went by the nickname Lion, died on Nov. 29 after contracting the coronavirus, his family said. He had been assisting Cambodian officials in efforts to recover artifacts by revisiting overgrown temples and crawling into hidden alcoves where the objects had once stood in search of remnants that would provide evidence of the items’ origins.