Japanese collector returns ancient artifacts to Cambodia

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Phnom Penh (AP) — Millennium-old Cambodian artifacts displayed in a Japanese collector’s home for two decades have been returned to the Southeast Asian country’s National Museum.

The 85 artifacts are mostly small bronze items and include statues of Buddha and the Hindu god Shiva, plus jars, ceramics and jewelry. Cambodia’s Culture Ministry says some items were older than the Angkor era, which began about 800 A.D. Others date from the Angkor era or just after it ended in the late 14th century.

Cambodia has made intense efforts to recover artifacts looted during its civil war in the 1970s.

Prak Sonnara, secretary of state for the Culture and Fine Art Ministry, praised the Japanese collector for voluntarily returning the artifacts. He said her actions set a good sample for other countries and collectors to follow.

The collector, Fumiko Takakuwa, told reporters after the handover ceremony that she and her husband had bought the items in Japan and liked to collect and display them in their home. But she knew they were originally from Cambodia and that is why she returned them.

“My husband has said before he passed away that those artifacts have to be returned back to Cambodia, and today I am happy that I did,” Takakuwa said.

Prak Sonnara said the 85 items were believed to have been stolen from Cambodia’s temples during the war, when intense looting occurred and valuables were smuggled through neighboring Thailand.