US returns 27 stolen antiquities worth $5m to Cambodia

Antiquities for repatriation to Cambodia on display on Wednesday at the Manhattan District Attorney's Office in New York. They include several Hindu and Angkorian Buddhist statues.
Antiquities for repatriation to Cambodia on display on Wednesday at the Manhattan District Attorney's Office in New York. They include several Hindu and Angkorian Buddhist statues.PHOTO: REUTERS

PHNOM PENH • The United States has repatriated 27 antiquities to Cambodia, including Hindu and Buddhist statues, after years of work by New York investigators to recover the smuggled artefacts.

Valued at about US$3.8 million (S$5 million), the items included several Hindu and Angkorian Buddhist statues, such as a bronze meditating Buddha on a Naga, a statue of Shiva, and a Buddhist sandstone sculpture of Prajnaparamita.

"The repatriation of these 27 stunning relics to the people of Cambodia restores an important link between the nation's classical Angkor era and its modern customs and beliefs that, for far too long, was disrupted by the greed of stolen antiquities traffickers," Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance Jr said in a statement.

Cambodia's Minister of Culture and Fine Arts, Ms Phoeurng Sackona, said the antiquities were the "missing souls" of the country's ancestors.

The Cambodian items were among nearly 400 being returned to 10 countries after investigations by Manhattan's Antiquities Trafficking Unit and Homeland Security Investigations.

The US authorities last week returned to Thailand two 680kg stone carvings stolen decades ago, which had been on display at a San Francisco museum.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 12, 2021, with the headline 'US returns 27 stolen antiquities worth $5m to Cambodia'. Subscribe