Thailand celebrates return of looted statue from NY’s Met Museum of Art

A 900-year-old statue that spent three decades at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York after being taken out of Thailand was welcomed back to the kingdom at an official restoration ceremony in Bangkok on Tuesday.

A 129cm statue of the Hindu god Shiva, known as the “Golden Boy”, has been recovered after being linked to British-Thai art dealer Douglas Latchford, who was accused of trafficking waste from Cambodia to Thailand shortly before He died in 2020. The statue, which was on display at the Met from 1988 to 2023, was discovered near the Cambodian border during archaeological excavations at the ruins of Prasat Ban Yang more than 50 years ago.

Latchford is believed to have exported it to Thailand in 1975. The Met restored a second 43cm bronze sculpture of a kneeling woman with hands above head in a Thai greeting, attributed to Latchford.

The return of these objects comes as a growing number of museums around the world are considering ways to recover stolen art. “We are honored to receive these items, they will be permanently in their homeland,” said the director of the Department of Technology of Thailand, Phnombootra Chandrachoti, said at the time repatriation ceremony at the National Museum in Bangkok.

“However, the effort to return the looted items did not stop there,” he later added at a press conference. “Our goal is to get them all back. »

The two statues are among 14 sculptures to be returned to Cambodia and Thailand by the Met, which said in a statement that it is “removing from its collection all works of Angkorian sculpture known to the Museum to be associated with -sold by Douglas Latchford.

Latchford, who died at the age of 88 at his home in Bangkok, was regarded as the archeologist of Cambodia, receiving praise for his books on the art of the Khmer Empire. In 2019, New York prosecutors charged him with trafficking in stolen Cambodian artifacts and helping to sell them on international art markets.

The looting of artifacts from Cambodian archaeological sites was common in the mid-1960s and early 1990s, as the country faced ongoing civil unrest and constant civil war, traffickers and -applicable to Thailand site.

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