NY Met Museum Returns Stolen Artifacts to Cambodia, Thailand

New York’s Metropolitan Museum is set to repatriate 16 ancient artworks to Thailand and Cambodia, after determining that they were illicitly looted.

The museum, alongside New York’s federal prosecutors, announced the return last Friday.

The artifacts originated from Douglas Latchford, a British art dealer indicted in 2019 for managing a major illegal antiquities network in Southeast Asia.

According to prosecutors, the museum voluntarily decided to repatriate the art.

On Friday, US Homeland Security Special Agent Erin Keegan stated, “As demonstrated with today’s announcement, pieces linked to the investigation of Douglas Latchford continue to reveal themselves.”

Keegan remarked that the artworks “were shamelessly stolen.” In this repatriation, Cambodia will receive fourteen Khmer sculptures, while two will be sent to Thailand.

Max Hollein, director of the Met, stated in an individual announcement that the museum has been actively collaborating with Cambodia and the US Attorney’s Office for an extended period to clarify issues surrounding these artworks.

“New information that arose from this process made it clear that we should initiate the return of this group of sculptures.”

He added that the museum is “committed to pursuing partnerships and collaborations with Cambodia and Thailand that will advance the world’s understanding and appreciation of Khmer art, and we look forward to embarking on this new chapter together.”

Dating from the 9th to 14th Centuries, the art pieces showcase Buddhist and Hindu influences from the Angkorian era.

Over the past ten years, investigators in the US and UK have successfully traced and retrieved numerous pieces of art stolen by Latchford, who passed away in 2020 amidst ongoing legal proceedings in the US.

The thefts occurred during periods of significant political unrest in Cambodia and Thailand.

Extensive looting happened during the three decades of civil conflict and turmoil from the mid-1960s to the late-1990s, including the era of the Khmer Rouge’s reign.

In 2013, the Metropolitan Museum took a similar step by repatriating two artifacts back to Cambodia.”