The Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts has no immediate plans to link the carved hands of King Jayavarman VII – found during the 1990s – to his statue, which is kept at the National Museum. This work is being discussed with the leadership, according to Chhay Visoth, director of the ministry’s Department of National Museum.
Visoth told The Post on April 10 that the fragments of Jayavarman VII’s hands were found in the 1990s by Frenchman Michel Trane.
“In this work, the important thing is that we have to discuss the best course of action with the leadership first. As long as they allow us to study the best way to connect the hands to the statue, we will continue, but without their permission, we would not dare,” he said.
“However, we are considering how we will get it done, in case we are told to go ahead and attach them,” he added.
He said they would be sure to publicise the change, if it was decided to make the attachment.
“We had not seen these fragments since they were discovered by the Frenchman. At that time, we did not publicly announce the discovery because the hands were not in our possession here at the museum. Later, some French archaeologists publicised the discovery,” he said.
“A decision about reattaching the hands will be made only after extensive discussions with the leadership of the culture ministry, especially the minister,” he said.
According to Visoth, the team is examining the possibility of both positive and negative outcomes, as their work could cause a backlash from the public. Most Cambodians are accustomed to current state of the statue.
“Thus, if we reconnect the fragments without any explanation to the public, it could have a negative effect,” he said.
Regarding a recently published image of the hand being tested against the statue in the presence of culture minister Phoeurng Sackona , Visoth explained that the minister was at the National Museum that day and took the opportunity to have the ministry experts show her how the fragments matched up to the statue.
“This work needs to be publicised, but we also need to be very careful and make sure we can reattach the parts without any breakage,” he said.
According to Visoth, the fragments are very heavy and made of sandstone. The right hand is in excellent condition, while the left is cracked across the forearm.