NY Met Museum agrees to return 14 stolen cultural artefacts to Cambodia
Phnom Penh: New York’s Metropolitan Museum (the Met) has agreed to return 14 stolen cultural artefacts in its possession to Cambodia after several years of negotiations, the Cambodian Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts said in a statement on Saturday.
The repatriation includes several masterpieces such as the breathtaking sculpture of a 10th-century female goddess (Uma) from the ancient royal capital of Koh Ker, a 10th-century bronze head of Avalokiteshvara which has a matching torso now at the National Museum of Cambodia, and a 10th – 11th century Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara sculpture, Xinhua news agency quoted the statement as saying.
Cambodian Minister of Culture and Fine Arts Phoeurng Sackona said the return of these artefacts, held by the Met is of utmost importance not only for Cambodia, but for humankind.
“The enormous importance to the Cambodian people, of these returns is difficult to overstate,” she said in the statement.
“We have many more treasures at the Met we also hope will be returned to Cambodia.”
The Minister said this repatriation shows once again Cambodia’s continuing commitment to finding and bringing back its ancestors’ souls that departed from its motherland.
Sackona also called on other museums and private collectors to return their looted collections of Cambodian antiquities.
“These returns contribute to the reconciliation and healing of the Cambodian people who went through decades of civil war,” she said.
“We look forward to further returns and acknowledgments of the truth regarding our lost national treasures.”
Max Hollein, the Met’s director, said in a separate statement that the museum has been “diligently working with Cambodia and the US Attorney’s Office for years to resolve questions regarding these works of art”.
“New information that arose from this process made it clear that we should initiate the return of this group of sculptures.”
Much of the looting took place over a three-decade period of civil war and strife between the mid-1960s to the late-1990s when the Khmer Rouge regime held power.
In 2013, the Met returned two other objects to Cambodia.