Cambodia to get 16 Pongpat artefacts

Cambodia to get 16 Pongpat artefacts

Thailand will return 16 Cambodian artefacts found among the antiquities seized from disgraced former Central Investigation Bureau chief Pongpat Chayapan, a media report said Monday.

Some of the sculptures and artefacts retrieved from the network of suspects linked to disgraced former Central Investigation Bureau chief Pongpat Chayapan. The Cambodian embassy has asked to see the collection to determine if any were stolen from temples there. (Photo by Apichit Jinakul)

The Phnom Penh Post quoted the Cambodian Foreign Ministry saying Thailand, on Friday, announced it also could send back 20 other antiques found in nearly among the nearly two billion baht in assets seized from Pol Lt Gen Pongpat and a ring of aides and subordinates charged with him on a number of serious offenses.

The repatriation would depend on whether investigators conclusively decided they are Cambodian, Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong was quoted at the Jan 14-15 Joint Commission for Bilateral Cooperation in Siem Reap. Foreign Minister Tanasak Patimapragorn attended the session, leading the Thai delegation.

Kong Vireak, director of Cambodia's National Museum, told the paper that Thailand has not specified which artefacts would be returned and has not forthcoming about the type of objects, their age or where they were stolen from.

Friday's reported announcement came about six weeks after the Cambodian embassy in Bangkok wrote a letter requesting access to the huge trove of antiques and art seized from the former CIB chief's network that contains thousands of Buddhist and Hindu statues, reliefs and figurines.

On Jan 1, Cambodia complained the Thai Foreign Ministry had postponed indefinitely any decision on whether access would be granted. Mr Vireak said museum executives still have not been allowed to see the artwork.

A November survey of the inventory by Thai officials determined that the majority of pieces are fakes, although a few genuine items could date back 1,400 years and originate in Cambodia's Phnom Da, the Thai Arts Department director-general said at a press conference in Bangkok after the items were seized.

Mr Kuong said Thailand, since 1999, has repatriated 43 Cambodian antiquities, seven of which were returned in 2009.

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