Minister of Culture and Fine Arts Phoeurng Sackona said experts from the ministry are working to ensure the return of artefacts that were looted from the Kingdom during wartime periods and are currently in the US.
She said while the exact number of artefacts located in the US is still unknown, 42 statues had been returned so far.
Sackona told The Post on March 15 that ministry experts are cooperating with US legal experts and authorities in order to return artefacts which were lost at Koh Keh, Angkor Wat and other ancient temples.
“In 2019, we had 42 ancient statues returned from the US. We are still working on returning others that were taken from the Kingdom which are now in the US.
“We are working closely with the US Embassy in Cambodia to find all lost artefacts. We don’t know the exact figures but we know there is still a considerable number missing,” she said, when speaking at a panel discussion Women in Cultural Preservation organised by the US Embassy in Cambodia on March 13, at the National Museum in Phnom Penh.
She said the US has already provided around $4.5 million in funding for Cambodia’s cultural protection and that the funds had been vital in helping in a variety of conservation efforts across the country.
“The funds have assisted us to repair several temples including the Bakheng, Banteay Srey and Preah Vihear temples.
“Phnom Da Museum in Takeo province and Sleng Museum have also benefitted from the US funding and it has helped us compose comprehensive documents on the Cambodian genocide.
“The funding we receive allows us to continue our work to preserve our national heritage and we are very grateful,” she said.
By press time on Sunday, US embassy spokesperson Emily Zeeberg had not responded to The Post for comment.
US ambassador to Cambodia Patrick Murphy said at the panel discussion that the embassy had signed a Memorandum of Understanding every five years since 2003 with the purpose of protecting and preventing the looting of artefacts.
He said the US supported Cambodia to find its lost artefacts and that continued cooperation ensured strong relationships and enduring commonality between the two nations.