Pongpat 'treasures' fake, P'Penh says

Pongpat 'treasures' fake, P'Penh says

Thailand believes five of 16 Cambodian artefacts found among the antiquities seized from disgraced former Central Investigation Bureau chief Pongpat Chayapan are historical “treasures,” but the Cambodian experts aren’t so sure.

The Phnom Penh Post on Friday quoted the Thai Fine Arts Department as saying the statues, set to be returned to Cambodia, were long-lost Khmer treasures. But Cambodian experts who reviewed pictures of the artefacts said the statues were obvious fakes.

Several of 104 statues and artefacts currently under investigation at the Thai Fine Arts Department that Thailand believes are ancient in origin. (Thai Fine Arts Department photo via Phnom Penh Post)

Thailand claims the statues date back to the early 15th-century Kulen era.

"I don't know why they think the statues might be real," Kong Vireak, director of the National Museum, told the Post.

The paper said the Fine Arts Department selected the five "Khmer-style figurines depicting a Buddha, a Shiva, a Brahma and an unknown "4-arm cult image[s]".

Bertrand Porte, from Ecole Francaise d'Extreme-Orient, was quoted as saying they were not old at all.

Cambodia's Foreign Affairs Ministry said there is no timetable for when Cambodian experts might get their hands on the figures.

The Cambodian Foreign Ministry earlier said Thailand 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.

Last week's announcement that artefacts would be repatriated 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.

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.

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