Collector’s Daughter Returning Artifacts to Cambodia

After three years of negotiations with the late controversial art collector Douglas Latchford and his family, more than 100 Cambodian artifacts will be returned to Cambodia, according to the government.How Latchford, a British art collector and co-author of three books on Cambodian art and antiques, built his collection was a topic of art world speculation. He faced accusations of trafficking the artifacts to his homes in Bangkok and London. In November 2019, federal prosecutors in New York City charged Latchford with falsifying the provenance, invoices and shipping documents to transport valuable Khmer-era relics to private collections, museums and auction houses across the world.At the time, FILE – Cambodia’s famed Angkor Wat ancient Hindu temple complex stands in Siem Reap province, some 230 kilometers northwest of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, June 28, 2012.The first shipment of five artifacts is expected to arrive in late February or early March. Cambodian authorities anticipate these will include a 10th-century sandstone sculpture of Hindu deities Shiva and Skanda, a 12th-century sandstone sculpture of Prajnaparamita – a female deity worshipped during the Khmer Empire – and a bronze statue of a male deity from the late 11th century.Kriangsak said she didn’t anticipate the complexity of the lengthy negotiations.“I am delighted that this complete collection, gathered over many decades, will be returned to their ancestral home in the Kingdom of Cambodia,” she said in the same Culture Ministry statement.In an interview with The New York Times published last week, Kriangsak skirted questions about the accusations and charges levelled against Latchford.“Despite what people say or accuse against Douglas, my father started his collection in a very different era, and his world has changed,” she FILE – Tourists visit the Angkor Wat temple in Siem Reap, Cambodia, March 14, 2018. Cambodia’s main tourist destination, Angkor Wat, was built between the 9th and 15th centuries.The indictment alleges that Latchford intentionally faked the provenance of antiquities that were the “product of looting, unauthorized excavation, and illicit smuggling” to encourage the sales and boost the prices of merchandise he was putting on the international market.United States federal law enforcement authorities worked with the Cambodian Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts in 2020 to return two statues that were confiscated from an auction house in California in 2017. The U.S. and Cambodia signed a memorandum of understanding to place import restrictions on archaeological artifacts being taken out of the country.Hab Touch, secretary of state in charge of illicit trafficking and restitution at Cambodia’s Culture Ministry, said the government had negotiated with Douglas before he died last year.“We had worked with [Kriangsak’s] father for a long time,” he said. “His daughter had the willingness and intention to return what she has got from her father to Cambodia.”The official did not comment on the accusations and charges against Latchford.Thuy Chanthourn, who has researched Cambodian artifacts for 30 years, said many artifacts were lost most recently during the civil war in the 1970s and 1980 but also during the late 1800s and early 1900s.“Our ancient objects are not only with Douglas. There are many in Thailand, England, the U.S. and France. They are privately owned,” he said.The artifact researcher claimed that Latchford did not steal the artifacts himself but that they were trafficked to Thailand, which is one of the biggest markets for Cambodian relics.Vong Sotheara, a professor of history at the state-run Royal University of Phnom Penh, said numerous Cambodian artifacts remained in private collections, with many people having small museums to display their antiques.“The rich and millionaires spend their money buying authentic old objects from Cambodia as a hobby,” he said, adding that it was a long process to prove the provenance of these objects so they could be returned to Cambodia.

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