Home >news >world >Looted Cambodian sculptures returning home from US

Phnom Penh: Two 10th century statues that Cambodia says were looted from a jungle temple several decades ago are set to arrive home on Tuesday from New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, in what the kingdom described as a “historic" moment.

The Met announced in May that the Khmer sculptures, known as the “Kneeling Attendants", would be sent back after 20 years on display in its Asian Wing.

A religious ceremony will be held at the airport in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh on Tuesday to welcome them home, Hab Touch, director general at the Ministry of Culture, told AFP.

“The return of the statues is a historic event for us," he said, voicing hope that more looted Cambodian sculptures would be returned from foreign countries.

The two statues were stolen from the Koh Ker temple site, located 80 kilometres (50 miles) northeast of Cambodia’s famed Angkor Wat complex, in the early 1970s, he added. At the time the country was in the midst of a brutal civil war and looting was rampant.

They were donated piece by piece to the Metropolitan Museum in the late 1980s and 1990s and were considered legal. However, the Met said last month that it had come into possession of new documentary research that was not available when the objects were acquired.

The sculptures will be put on display at the Peace Palace in Phnom Penh during the 37th meeting of UNESCO’s world heritage committee which starts on Sunday, government spokesman Ek Tha told AFP.

After that they are likely to be kept either at the National Museum in the capital or a museum near in the northwestern city of Siem Reap, close to Angkor Wat.

Another ancient Cambodian statue known as the Duryodhana is at the centre of a legal dispute in New York.

Cambodia claims the sandstone artwork of a warrior was also looted from Koh Ker.

It has the support of US authorities, who last year blocked auction house Sotheby’s from selling the item, worth an estimated $2-3 million.

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