After decades of being overseas, the “King of Khmer Medicine” artefact has been returned by a Cambodian-American man who bought it in the United States.
The National Museum yesterday held a welcoming ceremony for the ancient Buddhist statue.
David Leng, the man who brought the statue, said it came from Hawaii, and that it was handed to the government in order to allow younger generations of Cambodians to know their ancestral heritage.
“I bought the artefact in Hawaii because this is [Cambodian] property, which was displayed for sale in the United States,” Mr Leng said. “I decided to buy the statue because I dreamed about bringing it back to the Kingdom.”
“My purpose is to have the artefact displayed at the National Museum so Khmers can pray diseases away,” he added. “I want the next generation to know the King of Khmer Medicine statue.”
According to Mr Leng, the statue was taken from Angkor Wat in 1930 and was recently put on sale in the US.
Phoeung Sakona, Minister of Culture and Fine Arts, thanked Mr Leng for bringing the artefact back to its rightful place.
“This is the spirit that we wanted from all Cambodians – in or outside of the country,” Ms Sakona said. “You have to maintain what belongs in the Kingdom.”
“This statue will be among hundreds of thousands of other statues at the museum,” she added. “They are available here forever and serve as a reminder of heritage for the next generation of Khmers.”
Ms Sakona said the public should be aware that many ancient artefacts were lost during the time Cambodia was colonised by France and in wars.
She called on the public that if they come across an ancient Cambodian artefact overseas, it should be reported to the government.
“We have seen artefacts damaged or go missing during wars,” Ms Sakona said. “But artefacts return to the Kingdom because our country has clearly demonstrated that we have peace in the country.”