Bangkok, June 4 :
Three Khmer art statues nearly a thousand years old have been returned to Cambodia after a long legal process in the US, media reported Wednesday.
The two art pieces represent the warriors Duryodhana and Bhima, and another one is of a spectator, Balarama.
The statues were taken in the 1970s from the temple of Koh Ker, located in the middle of the forest about 80 km northwest of Angkor Wat, the precious symbol of Khmer art and considered as one of the architectural marvels in the world.
“After a long travel of 40 years, surviving civil wars, looting and smuggling, these three statues have recovered their freedom after returning home,” Cambodian Vice President Sok An said during the auspicious welcome ceremony Tuesday, The Cambodia Daily said.
According to the authorities, the figurine of Duryodhana was stolen in 1972 and was auctioned in London three years later.
In 2011, the Cambodian authorities, along with Unesco, stopped this 1m-by-58cm tall sculpture from again being auctioned in Sotheby’s auction house in New York.
After a long legal process, in early May this year, it was agreed that the art piece would be returned to Cambodia.
The statue of Bhima was bought in 1976 by a museum in California, which last month agreed to return the statue to its original place.
The return of Balarama is part of an agreement between the Cambodian government and Christie’s auction house.
The repatriation of these three figures follows last year’s return of two other Kneeling Wizards statues, which were also stolen from the temple of Koh Ker.
Thousands of art pieces were taken from Cambodia, most of them through the Thai border, between the 1970s and 1990s due to wars and political conflicts that then ran rife in the country.
Cambodian authorities said they would continue their search for three other sculptures from the Koh Ker temple which are still missing.