Dozens of pieces of Angkorian crown jewellery stolen from Cambodia, many never seen by the public, have been returned after resurfacing in London, the Cambodian culture ministry said on Monday.
The trove includes crowns, necklaces, amulets and other treasures from the Angkor period, which ran from the ninth to the 14th century AD, when the Khmer empire was a dominant force in south-east Asia.
The ministry said officials in Cambodia received the 77 pieces from the family of British antiquities dealer Douglas Latchford.
Latchford died in 2020 while awaiting trial in the United States for art trafficking, and his family reached an agreement with Cambodia the same year to return his collection of Khmer antiquities.
The collection, which arrived discreetly in Cambodia on Friday, features “gold and other precious metal pieces from the pre-Angkorian and Angkorian period including crowns, necklaces, bracelets, belts, earrings and amulets”, the ministry said.
As Cambodia was ravaged by civil wars and a genocide by the Khmer Rouge regime in the 1970s, thousands of antiques were looted and sold through dealers in Thailand and Hong Kong to wealthy buyers and museums in Europe and the US.
US prosecutors have been pushing to return many of the works in recent years.
In 2021, Cambodia received five lost stone and bronze artefacts from the Latchford family.
Last year, the US also returned to Cambodia 30 looted antiquities, including bronze and stone statues of Buddhist and Hindu deities that were carved more than 1,000 years ago.
Cambodia’s culture minister, Phoeurng Sackona, appealed to individuals and museums around the world to return stolen artefacts to the country to contribute to the “reconciliation and healing of Cambodians who went through decades of civil war”.