Two 10th-century Cambodian statues escorted by representatives from New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art arrived at the Phnom Penh International Airport at 5:27pm yesterday, 40 years after they were looted from a war-torn nation and smuggled abroad.
At the airport, UNESCO officers, government representatives and seven Buddhist monks greeted the statues, which the Met agreed to return to Cambodia after verifying they had been stolen from the Koh Ker temple complex in the 1970s.
“Evidence clearly shows they belong to Cambodia, so we transported them back today,” said Maxwell K Hearn, chairman for the Met.
“We have all waited for such a day for a long time,” said Chan Tani, secretary of state at the Council of Ministers.
Addressing the statues, he added: “We respect and welcome you both for returning to your homeland.”
The statues will be displayed at the Peace Palace during the World Heritage Committee meeting this month and then be placed in the National Museum.