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Cambodia celebrates return of ‘priceless’ stolen Angkor jewellery

Gold crowns, necklaces and amulets were among the trove of treasures from the Angkor period
Gold crowns, necklaces and amulets were among the trove of treasures from the Angkor period - Copyright CAMBODIA'S GOVERNMENT CABINET/AFP Kok KY
Gold crowns, necklaces and amulets were among the trove of treasures from the Angkor period - Copyright CAMBODIA'S GOVERNMENT CABINET/AFP Kok KY

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, pleading for other long-lost treasures to be handed back.

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 Southeast Asia.

The Cambodian culture ministry characterised the items — expected to go on display at the national museum — as “priceless cultural heritage”.

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

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

The culture ministry last month 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.

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 United States for art trafficking, and the same year his family agreed to return the antiquities to Cambodia.

The family returned five stone and bronze artefacts in 2021.

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

Last year, the United States 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 United States, and private collectors to return more Khmer artefacts to the kingdom.

AFP
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