Cambodia celebrates return of dozens of jewels stolen from Angkor Empire

Cambodia celebrates return of dozens of jewels stolen from Angkor Empire

Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen on Friday celebrated the return of. dozens of plundered jewels from centuries-old monuments and temples of the Angkor Empire (9th-15th centuries), recently recovered from the United Kingdom.

The collection of crowns, necklaces and gold amulets, among other objects, was exhibited for the first time today at the National Museum, where the prime minister went to claim the return of the cultural heritage stolen from Cambodia.

“I ask museums, institutions and collectors of Khmer artifacts to. continue to return those items voluntarily to Cambodia,” Hun Sen stressed at an inauguration ceremony streamed on his Facebook profile.

A month ago, the Cambodian Ministry of Culture noted in a statement that. 77 pieces were returned in London by the family of the late Douglas A. J. Latchford, a British collector responsible for the plunder of dozens of Cambodian works.

British Ambassador to Cambodia Dominic Williams called it an “extraordinary privilege on Twitter to see these previously stolen artifacts displayed in their ancestral home.”

“It is truly heartwarming to see the reactions of Cambodians to the return of unique pieces that have a such deep cultural significanceincluding the jewelry recently returned from the United Kingdom,” the diplomat remarked.

The jewels were exhibited together with two sculptures from the 10th century recently returned from the United States.

Van Gogh's 'The garden rectory at Nuenen in spring'.

The recovery follows an agreement reached with Latchford’s family after his death in 2020 for the handover of over a hundred works and plundered pieces.

In recent years, Cambodia has increased its efforts to recover pieces plundered over the decades, mainly during the convulsive Khmer Rouge regime (1975-1979) and later years.

Most of the stolen pieces belong to the former Empire of Ankor (or Khmer Empire), a Hindu-Buddhist civilization that dominated large swathes of Southeast Asia between the 9th and 15th centuries and built the impressive temples of Angkor, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

For years, Latchford claimed that he saved many sculptures and pieces from being destroyed during the Khmer Rouge, but later investigations showed that he was implicated in the spoliation of dozens or even hundreds of works and he died after being charged by the New York District Attorney’s office for illegal trafficking in works of art Cambodian.

Image of the 17th century dress now on display in the Netherlands.

Some of the works plundered by Latchford are believed to have ended up in institutions such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art New York, the British Museum and the National Gallery of Australia.

Since 1996, more than 600 Khmer works. have been recovered by Cambodia from countries such as the United States, Japan, France, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada, Denmark, Hungary, Norway and China.

Kayleigh Williams