Arts & Entertainment

Cambodia celebrates return of jewelry stolen from Angkor Empire

Bangkok, Mar 17 (EFE).- Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen celebrated Friday the return of dozens of jewels looted from centuries-old monuments and temples of the Angkor Empire (9th-15th centuries), recently recovered from the United Kingdom.

The collection of gold crowns, necklaces and amulets, among other objects, was exhibited today for the first time at the National Museum, where the prime minister went to demand the return of cultural heritage stolen from Cambodia.

“I ask the museums, institutions and collectors of Khmer pieces to continue to voluntarily return these items to Cambodia,” Hun Sen said at an inauguration ceremony broadcast on his Facebook profile.

A month ago, the Cambodian culture ministry said in a statement that 77 pieces were returned in London by the family of the late Douglas A.J. Latchford, a British collector responsible for looting dozens of Cambodian works.

British Ambassador to Cambodia Dominic Williams wrote on Twitter that it was an “extraordinary privilege to see these previously stolen artifacts on display in his ancestral home.”

“It is truly moving to see the reactions of Cambodians to the return of unique pieces that have such deep cultural significance, including recently returned jewelery from the UK,” the diplomat said.

The jewels were exhibited alongside two 10th-century sculptures recently returned from the United States.

The recovery occurs after an agreement reached with the Latchford family after his death in 2020 for the delivery of more than 100 looted works and pieces.

In recent years, Cambodia has increased its efforts to recover pieces looted over decades, mainly during the Khmer Rouge regime (1975-1979) and later.

Most of the stolen pieces belong to the ancient Angkor Empire (or Khmer Empire), a Hindu-Buddhist civilization that dominated large parts of Southeast Asia between the 9th and 15th centuries and built the impressive temples of Angkor, declared World Heritage Sites by UNESCO.

For years, Latchford claimed he saved many sculptures and pieces from being destroyed during the Khmer Rouge, but later investigations showed he was implicated in the looting of dozens or even hundreds of works and died after being charged by the New York District Attorney for trafficking Cambodian artwork.

Some of the works looted by Latchford are believed to have ended up in institutions including New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, the British Museum and the National Gallery of Australia.

Since 1996, more than 600 Khmer works have been recovered by Cambodia from countries including the United States, Japan, France, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada, Denmark, Hungary, Norway, and China. EFE


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