Cambodia celebrates return of ‘priceless’ stolen Angkor jewellery

The items, which include gold crowns and necklaces, are expected to go on display at the national museum in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. PHOTO: AFP

PHNOM PENH – Cambodian leader Hun Sen unveiled a collection of stolen Angkor crown jewellery on Friday which was recently returned to the kingdom after decades in Britain.

Gold crowns, necklaces and amulets were among the trove of treasures from the Angkor period, which ran from the ninth to 14th centuries AD when the Khmer empire dominated vast parts of South-east Asia.

The Cambodian culture ministry characterised the items as “priceless cultural heritage”.

They are expected to go on display at the national museum.

“I appeal to museums, institutions and Khmer artefact collectors to continue to return those items voluntarily to Cambodia,” Mr Hun Sen said at the ceremony.

“Heritage items should be returned to their country of origin.”

The culture ministry in February discreetly received 77 pieces from the family of the late, disgraced British art dealer, Douglas Latchford.

Two 10th century sculptures recently returned by the United States were also displayed on Friday.

Mr Dominic Williams, the British ambassador to Cambodia, tweeted that it was an “extraordinary privilege to see these previously stolen artefacts displayed in their ancestral home”.

When he died in 2020, Latchford was awaiting trial in the US for art trafficking. That year, his family agreed to return the antiquities to Cambodia. They returned five stone and bronze artefacts in 2021.

Thousands of antiques and artefacts were stolen from Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge regime in the 1970s.

In 2022, the US returned 30 looted items, including bronze and stone statues of Buddhist and Hindu deities that were carved more than 1,000 years ago.

The Cambodian government has been negotiating with other countries, including the US, and private collectors to return more Khmer artefacts to the kingdom. AFP

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