Accessibility/Mobile Features
Skip Navigation
Skip to Content
Editorial News
Entertainment
Classified Sites

The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Cambodia welcomes return of 3 Hindu statues looted from temple during civil war

Cambodian dancers perform a blessing dance near the three pieces of the 10th century Cambodian sandstone statues from the United States, during a handover ceremony at the Council of Ministers, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Tuesday, June 3, 2014. Three 1,000-year-old statues depicting Hindu mythology were welcomed home to Cambodia on Tuesday after being looted from a temple during the country's civil war and put in Western art collections. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Enlarge Image

Cambodian dancers perform a blessing dance near the three pieces of the 10th century Cambodian sandstone statues from the United States, during a handover ceremony at the Council of Ministers, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Tuesday, June 3, 2014. Three 1,000-year-old statues depicting Hindu mythology were welcomed home to Cambodia on Tuesday after being looted from a temple during the country's civil war and put in Western art collections. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia - Three 1,000-year-old statues depicting Hindu mythology were welcomed home to Cambodia on Tuesday after being looted from a temple during the country's civil war and put in Western art collections.

The pieces were handed over at a ceremony attended by Deputy Prime Minister Sok An and U.S. diplomat Jeff Daigle after being returned by the U.S. branches of auction houses Sotheby's and Christie's, and the Norton Simon Museum in California.

Cambodian officials say the statues were looted in the 1970s by being hacked off their bases in the Koh Ker temple complex in Siem Reap province, also home to the Angkor Wat temples.

A 1993 Cambodian law prohibits the removal of cultural artifacts without government permission. Pieces taken after that date have stronger legal standing to compel their new owners abroad to return them. But there is also general agreement in the art world that pieces were acquired illegitimately if they were exported without clear and valid documentation after 1970 — the year of a U.N. cultural agreement targeting trafficking in antiquities.

The three statues are representations of the mythological Hindu figures Duryodhana, Balarama and Bhima.

Their return marks a step forward in efforts to bring back together nine figures that once formed a tableau in a tower of the temple. The scene captured a famous duel in Hindu mythology in which the warrior Duryodhana is struck down by his cousin Bhima at the end of a bloody war of succession while seven attendants look on.

Two statues from the same temple that had been displayed for nearly two decades at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art were returned to Cambodia last November. The voluntary return of the pair of "Kneeling Attendants" statues by one of America's foremost cultural institutions was seen as setting a precedent for the restoration of artworks to their places of origin, from which they were often removed in hazy circumstances.

Experts say that looters hacked the Koh Ker figures off their bases during the civil war. Some were apparently smuggled out of the country and eventually landed with private collectors or in museums, as did statues from other temples that the Cambodian government hopes to reclaim.

The Cambodian government is asking other museums to return similar objects. Sok An said the handover ceremony was "to welcome these three heroes back where they belong."

"In a long 40-year journey, surviving civil wars, looting, smuggling and travelling the world, these three have now regained their freedom and returned home," he said.

The Norton Simon Museum has displayed for nearly four decades its 5-foot (1.52-meter)-high sandstone figure of Bhima, which is missing its hands and feet. It said last month it had acquired the statue from a reputable dealer in 1976, but that the chaos of war in Cambodia made it unclear how the dealer had acquired it.

The Pasadena, California, museum announced in a statement that it was returning the statue "as a gesture of friendship, and in response to a unique and compelling request by top officials in Cambodia to help rebuild its 'soul' as a nation."

Sotheby's agreed to return the footless figure of Duryodhana, valued at $2 million to $3 million, which was placed in Sotheby's catalogue in 2011 after the widow of its former Belgian owner gave it up for sale. Sotheby's later pulled it from its catalogue. The auction house agreed to surrender the statue, settling a lawsuit filed by the U.S. government on Cambodia's behalf.

Jeff Daigle, deputy chief of the U.S. Embassy in Cambodia, said over the past two decades 97 Cambodian artifacts have been repatriated from the United States.

"While celebrate a happy ending for the statues we see today, we must not forget that the commercial trade in illicitly acquire art still strives. It is incumbent upon each of us to be part of the solution in the combatting this shameful crime," he said.

  • Rate this Rate This Star Icon
  • This article has not yet been rated.
  • We want you to tell us what you think of our articles. If the story moves you, compels you to act or tells you something you didn’t know, mark it high. If you thought it was well written, do the same. If it doesn’t meet your standards, mark it accordingly.

    You can also register and/or login to the site and join the conversation by leaving a comment.

    Rate it yourself by rolling over the stars and clicking when you reach your desired rating. We want you to tell us what you think of our articles. If the story moves you, compels you to act or tells you something you didn’t know, mark it high.

Sort by: Newest to Oldest | Oldest to Newest | Most Popular 0 Commentscomment icon

You can comment on most stories on brandonsun.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is register and/or login and you can join the conversation and give your feedback.

There are no comments at the moment. Be the first to post a comment below.

Post Your Commentcomment icon

Comment
  • You have characters left

The Brandon Sun does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. Comments are moderated before publication. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

Brandon Sun Business Directory
The First World War at 100
Why Not Minot?
Welcome to Winnipeg

Social Media