SEVEN Angkorian artefacts smuggled into Thailand almost a decade ago will be returned to Cambodia, a Ministry of Culture official said Sunday, adding that negotiations are under way with Bangkok for the repatriation of dozens of other pieces.
The artefacts - seven severed stone heads - are expected to be handed over during Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva's visit to Cambodia, which is to begin Saturday.
They were among 43 pieces seized in 2000 as they were being smuggled into Thailand, said Srey Thamrong, an adviser to Prime Minister Hun Sen.
"The Thai culture minister will return seven pieces ... to Cambodia, and we will welcome [the artefacts] with a traditional ceremony before taking them into the National Museum," said Chuch Phoeun, a secretary of state at the Culture Ministry.
He added that Thailand had asked for detailed evidence that the pieces belonged to Cambodia, and the talks were ongoing for the return of the remaining artefacts.
"We are in a difficult situation because we have more than 2,600 temples, and at the time of the civil war there was no registration," Chuch Phoeun said.
"We did not know at the time what we were losing or where they were stolen from." Chuch Phoeun added that the return of the artefacts would help to improve ties between the two countries.