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Australia Hands Seized Artifacts Over to Cambodia

On June 17, 2010, the United States returned seven sculptures from the great Angkorian era that had been smuggled out of Cambodia.

The Australian government has returned a collection of stolen prehistoric artifacts to Cambodia that were smuggled out of the country and seized by Australian authorities last year.

The collection of 30 artifacts included earrings and ornamental leg and wrist bangles, along with human remains. They were handed over to the Cambodian government at its embassy in Canberra on Thursday.

The jewelry had been brought into Australia and were being sold on the website E-Bay through an Australian art gallery, Australian Art Minister Simon Crean said in a statement.

“Illegally removing human remains and cultural property deprives countries of their ancestry and history,” he said.

Dougald O’Reilly, director of the Cambodian conservation NGO Heritage Watch, said in an e-mail the jewelry was likely looted from northwest Cambodia, where in recent years villagers have begun to raid ancient burial sites. The jewelry could date back to 100 AD to 300 AD, he said.

“The return of these artifacts demonstrates the cooperation and understanding between Cambodia and Australia in protecting cultural heritage and combating the illegal trade of cultural property,” Cambodian Ambassador to Australia Chum Sounry said.

Hat Touch, director general of the Ministry of Culture’s heritage department, in Phnom Penh, said he was in contact with the Cambodian Embassy and was working to bring the artifacts back “as quickly as possible.”