US museum returns ancient Rama statue to Cambodia

Phnom Penh, March 28 (IANS) An American art museum on Monday returned to Cambodia a 10th century Khmer statue of Hindu god Rama reportedly looted from an archaeological site during the 1970s.

The sandstone statue was stolen from Prasat Chen sanctuary in the remote Koh Ker temple and sold to the Doris Weiner Gallery in New York, after which the Denver Art Museum bought it in 1986, EFE news reported.

“The voluntary return of the statue demonstrates the museum’s sensitivity to the importance of Koh Ker era to the Cambodian culture,” said Cambodian Secretary of State Chan Tani.

Over the past decade, a number of stolen artefacts centuries old have been returned to Cambodia from museums overseas amid ongoing legal battles involving the Cambodian government, aided by UNESCO, to have the artefacts repatriated to the National Museum in Phnom Penh.

“It’s very easy to recognise the style of Koh Ker because statues are extremely massive and at the same time extremely defined,” said Anne LeMaistre, the UNESCO representative to Cambodia.

The repatriated statue is still missing pieces including its head and arms. The government is urging collectors worldwide to return the pieces, which are “part of our soul as a nation”, Tani added.

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