Chicago art institute to return Khmer ruin relic
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Chicago art institute to return Khmer ruin relic

The Art Institute of Chicago will return a 900-year-old artefact collected from the Phanom Rung Historical Park in Buri Ram to the Fine Arts Department (FAD).

The 12th-century pilaster fragment with the Hindu deity Krishna lifting Mount Govardhana will be returned to its home at Prasat Phanom Rung in Buri Ram. (Photo: Fine Arts Department)

Phanombut Chantarachot, director-general of the department, said on Wednesday the US institute has expressed its intention to return the fragment of a pilaster that shows the Hindu deity Krishna lifting Mount Govardhana, which dates back to the 12th-century.

He said the Office of National Museums conducted research and found it is part of a door frame of a mandapa located east of Prasat Phanom Rung, an ancient Khmer ruin built as a Shiva shrine, on an extinct volcano in Chalerm Phrakiat district.

It is believed to have been smuggled out of Thailand around 1965 before the FAD's renovation project for the historical site started.

Nicolas Revire, an Art Institute of Chicago expert on Southeast Asian art and archeology, previously visited the Phanom Rung Historical Park and found evidence which suggested the fragment, donated to the institute in 1966, came from the Phanom Rung Stone Castle.

As a result, the institute decided it would return the artefact to the government due to concern that it could have been illegally taken from its place of origin.

The institute's board of trustees approved the proposal to remove the item from its records on June 11 and has informed the FAD about the process of repatriating it. "Even though the artefact is not on the list of ancient objects Thailand is trying to retrieve, the Art Institute of Chicago's offer to return it is joyous news," Culture Minister Sudawan Wangsuphakijkosol said.

She praised the institute for acknowledging the importance of the legal possession of historical objects and the strong relationship between Thailand and the United States.

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