United States Welcomes Return of Khmer Artifacts to Cambodia

For Immediate Release
March 17, 2023

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia – The United States joins Cambodians in celebrating the return of looted artifacts back to their rightful home in the Kingdom following a cultural repatriation ceremony held March 17 in Phnom Penh.

Among the repatriated Cambodian artifacts are magnificent 10th century sculptures of ‘Skanda on a Peacock’ and Ganesha looted from the ancient Khmer capital Koh Ker and returned from the United States.  The return of these and other sculptures represents a broad U.S. government effort to conserve global cultural heritage, including collaboration among the U.S. Department of State, Department of Justice, and Homeland Security Investigations.

For 20 years the United States has worked to protect, preserve, and honor Cambodia’s rich cultural heritage with local partners, American academic institutions, and nonprofit organizations. Through a long-standing U.S.-Cambodia cultural property agreement, the United States has facilitated the return of over 100 priceless antiquities; helped build the capacity of Cambodians working on cultural preservation; disrupted organizations seeking to profit from the theft of cultural heritage items; and supported the preservation of Cambodian heritage sites and collections. The cultural property agreement is the only one of its kind between the United States and an ASEAN member state.

“The United States is proud of its longstanding support for the restoration and protection of historic sites of cultural significance for Cambodia and to repatriate invaluable artifacts back to Cambodia,” said U.S. Ambassador to Cambodia W. Patrick Murphy. “U.S. efforts in support of Cambodian stakeholders will help restore the soul of the Kingdom’s culture.”

Since 2001, the United States has provided over $5 million for cultural preservation efforts in Cambodia, including efforts to conserve the 9th century temples of Phnom Bakheng in the Angkor Archaeological Park and Preah Vihear in northern Cambodia.