US museum gives up Thai lintels stolen in 1960s

Two ancient lintels previously shown in a museum in the United States are expected to be returned to Thailand soon. They are the lintels of the Prasat Nong Hong ancient temple in Buri Ram (upper picture) and the Prasat Khao Lon sanctuary in Sa Kaeo.

Thailand will get back two ancient artefacts which were on display at a museum in the United States.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Tanee Sangrat said the Thai consulate in Los Angeles had told the ministry that a lintel smuggling case had finally come to an end after the defendant allowed the US government to take the two ancient lintels displayed at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco. The case had finished earlier than expected.

The US Homeland Security Investigations had assisted the Thai government to retrieve the artefacts which many believe were smuggled out of Thailand a long time ago, he said.

After the museum removed the two ancient lintels from its list, the US government would send them back to Thailand, said the spokesman.

The schedule of a ceremony to return the lintels to Thailand has yet to be announced.

The museum on Saturday agreed to return the lintels after it entered a mediation process with the US government, assisting Thailand's efforts to retrieve the items. The lintels, each weighing about 680 kilogrammes, were taken from the Prasat Khao Lon historical sanctuary in Sa Kaeo and the Prasat Nong Hong in Buri Ram.

The Attorney's Office for the Northern District of California said the two lintels are believed to have been stolen and later sold to European merchants in the late 1960s. The lintel from Prasat Nong Hong was given to the museum in 1966. The museum bought the other one in 1968.

Mr Tanee thanked the US Attorney's Office and Homeland Security Investigations for their years-long efforts to help return the antiquities to their real owner.

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