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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Summit may see return of artefacts

Summit may see return of artefacts

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A bronze reclining Buddha from the Angkorian period on display in Cambodia’s National Museum in Phnom Penh. Cambodia is hoping to recover similar artefacts stolen from the nation over the years.

OFFICIALS ... WILL DISCUSS TAKING ACTION ... TO RETURN STOLEN ANTIQUITIES.

CAMBODIA will likely take part in a conference in Egypt later this year demanding the return of stolen antiquities that are on display in museums worldwide.

The Kingdom would be one of 30 countries worldwide invited to the conference, which is scheduled to be hosted by Egypt in April.
Cambodian officials applauded the initiative.

“This will be a gathering to send a message to the world, as well as individuals, to return antiquities to their origin countries,” said Hab Touch, director of the National Museum in Phnom Penh.

Besides Cambodia, other countries participating in the Cairo gathering include Greece, Mexico, Peru, Afghanistan, Iraq and China, officials with Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities announced.

“Officials from these countries will discuss taking action internationally to support efforts to return stolen antiquities to their countries of origin,” Zahi Hawass, secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities in Egypt, said Wednesday.

The conference will look at existing international laws on the subject and provoke discussion on how they can be used to “protect the rights of the countries to recover their cultural and archaeological property”, Hawass said.

It is hoped that each country involved in the conference will draw up a list of antiquities it claims.

Cambodia has worked with UNESCO and cooperated with other countries to urge the return of its ancient artworks.

Many significant pieces have been lost over centuries, particularly during periods of war, said Hab Touch. Many pieces are on display in international institutions in France, Britain and the United States, as well as in private collections.

Hab Touch said there was no figure available on how many Cambodian antiquities are currently residing in foreign countries.

But at the same time, individual pieces long ago removed from the Kingdom have also been returned.

Treasures restored
In 2009, Cambodia received antiquities from the United States, Germany and Thailand, he said, including a statue of a headless four-armed deity dating back to the 11th century. The statue had been missing since the 1970s, until a German man encountered the object for sale by a private collection. He purchased it on the Kingdom’s behalf and donated it to the National Museum in December.

The work to repatriate Cambodian antiquities, however, remains an uphill battle.

“It is not an easy job,” Hab Touch said. “It is a complicated task that needs further work.”

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY AFP

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