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Thursday, June 17, 2010

US returns stolen Angkorian sculptures to Cambodia

PHNOM PENH — The United States on Thursday returned seven sculptures created in the great Angkorian era that had been smuggled from Cambodia, a US embassy spokesman said.

John Johnson said the sandstone artefacts, dating from between 1000 and 1500 AD, arrived by ship and were blessed by Buddhist monks in a handover ceremony in the southwestern port of Sihanoukville.

The sculptures, which include a head of the Buddha, a large bas-relief and an engraved plinth, were recovered by US immigration and customs enforcement officials in Los Angeles in 2008, Johnson added.

The great Angkorian empire emerged as a powerful regional force beginning in the ninth century and built the stunning Angkor temple complex in northwestern Cambodia, which remains the country's main tourist attraction.

But the country's key temples suffered huge damage from looters during three decades of civil war, which ended in 1998.

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