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Thais To Hand Over Statue to Hun Sen

Prime Minister Hun Sen will return from an Asean summit in Thailand Sunday carrying a symbolic statue that signals the return of a handful of stolen artifacts from Cambodia’s ancient past, an official said Friday.

Hun Sen is attending the Asean summit in Pattaya and was scheduled to meet with his Thai counterpart, Abhisit Vejjajiva, Friday afternoon, to reclaim one statue constructed during the rule of King Jayavarman VII, Chuch Phoeung, secretary of state for the Ministry of Culture, told VOA Khmer Friday.

Jayavarman VII built the Bayon temple inside the Angkor temple complex.

The statue will be the first of seven artifacts to be returned, all the heads of gods or giants, taken from Cambodia by artifact thieves and confiscated while in transport in Thailand.

“All seven of the statues were stolen and trafficked out of Cambodia during the war,” said Sri Thamrong, a senior adviser to Hun Sen. “Finally, they were arrested by the Thai authorities and we have shown the Thais documents to prove with evidence that all seven artifacts belong to Cambodia.”

Thai authorities are holding 24 artifacts that are claimed by Cambodia.

Abhisit is expected bring the six remaining statues to Cambodia on a visit later this month.

“We will hold the hand-over ceremony for the ancient Khmer artifacts at the National Museum on April 17,” Chuch Phoeung said.