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Cambodian sculptures looted in the 1970s may be returned

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A set of statues taken from ancient temples in Cambodia dating to the 900s A.D. have been identified as looted property. Some links to recent news articles from the New York Times and LA Times.
Kneeling Male Attendant
While the details are murky, it appears the stone statues disappeared from the remote Buddhist temple site in the mid 1970s during the Khmer Rouge takeover. The statues were hacked from their bases, leaving the feet in place. While it is not clear who took the statues, the communist Khmer Rouge appear to be the prime suspect (despite the statement of the British art dealer suspected of being one of the middlemen in bringing them to the United States who claims the theft saved them from Khmer Rouge!).
The temple site is in a remote mountainous area in northern Cambodia near the Thai and Laotian borders. During the early 1970s, this area was heavily infiltrated by the communist Khmer Rouge (then supported by North Vietnam), and often under their direct control. It seems unlikely that the statues could have been removed without at least the tacit support of one of the world’s most murderous communist regimes.
One of the statues, seized last year by federal authorities from Sotheby’s auction house is valued in excess of 2 million USD.
Posted in: The Cultural Front
John T. Radzilowski

About the Author:

John T. Radzilowski is Assistant Professor of History at University of Alaska Southeast (UAS) and a Piast Institute Fellow. Before joining UAS he taught at University of St. Thomas, Hamline University and University of Minnesota. He has authored, edited and co-edited numerous books including Disintegration: The Communist Secret Police and Polish Society since 1944 (forthcoming), Encyclopedia of American Immigration (2013), Travellers History of Poland (2007), Ukrainians in North America (2007), The Eagle and the Cross: A History of the Polish Roman Catholic Union of America (2003) and Spanish Carlism and Polish Nationalism: The Borderlands of Europe in the 19th and 20th Centuries (2003). Dr. Radzilowski is the recipient of the Mieczysław Haiman Medal, Oskar Halecki Prize, Krzyżem Kawalerskim Orderu Zasługi (Cavalier’s Cross of the Order of Merit) and the Joseph Swastek Prize. His articles have appeared in Journal of Genocide Studies, Glaukopis, The Public Historian, U.S. Catholic Historian, Polish American Studies and Journal of American Ethnic History. He writes the The Cultural Front blog for the Journal of Property Rights in Transition. Dr. Radzilowski was educated at Southwest Minnesota State University (B.A.) and Arizona State University (Ph.D.).

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