Tag Archives: Vietnam War

Cambodian Statue Looted During Bombing and Genocide in Limbo at Sotheby’s

Cambodia has asked the United States for help in recovering a thousand-year-old statue of a warrior that at Sotheby’s in New York and that experts believe was looted amid the bombing of the Vietnam War and the killing fields of the Khmer Rouge.

The statue, which has a catalog estimate of $2 million to $3 million, was pulled from auction at the last minute last March after the Cambodian government complained it had been “illegally removed” from the country.

The Department of Homeland Security has opened an investigation. Cambodian officials have held off asking for the piece to be seized while they negotiate with Sotheby’s.

The auction house says that the seller is a “noble European lady” who acquired it in 1975, the year the Khmer Rouge took power following widespread bombing. Although it was severed from its feet and pedestal, which were left at a Cambodian archaeological site, Sotheby’s says there is no proof that it was taken illegally.

Archaeologists and Cambodian officials say the case of the footless statue is all the more poignant because researchers have found the pedestal and feet belonging to the artwork. The discovery was made in Koh Ker, sixty miles northeast of Angkor Wat. Koh Ker, another city in the Khmer empire, was at one time a rival capital to Angkor, which was once the largest city in the preindustrial world, more than three times the area of New York City today.

The sculpture, which is five feet tall and weighs 250 pounds, is one of two athlete-combatants from the mid 900s who come from one of Koh Ker’s temples; it is about 200 years older than the famous sculptures at Angkor Wat.

In 2007, archaeologists matched the other statue, on display since 1980 at the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, California, to its similarly detached pedestal.

All clues suggest the work at Sotheby’s was plundered in the 1970s amid the chaos, when looters hacked their way into temples, pillaged antiquities, and sold them to Thai and Western collectors.

“Every red flag on the planet should have gone off when this was offered for sale,” said Herbert V. Larson Jr., a New Orleans lawyer and antiquities expert who teaches legal issues involving smuggled artifacts. “It screams ‘loot.’ ”

To write the catalog entry for the statue, Sotheby’s hired Emma C. Bunker, a co-author of the book “Adoration and Glory: The Golden Age of Khmer Art.” She called it an unrivaled example of Khmer sculpture, and the lot was on the catalog’s cover. It was withdrawn on the day it was to be sold, March 24, 2011, after a Cambodian official working with the United Nations, Tan Theany, complained in a letter “that this statue was illegally removed from the site” and asked Sotheby’s to “facilitate its return.”

Via The New York Times.

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Khmer Rouge Leader Calls Accusations Against Him a “Fairy Tale”

Khieu Samphan at a public hearing before the P...

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A Khmer Rouge leader insisted Wednesday he had no authority during the regime’s rule of Cambodia and allegations he bore responsibility for its atrocities were a “fairy tale.”

Head of state Khieu Samphan told a tribunal he was a figurehead who never joined key policy meetings in the radical communist government, which is accused of orchestrating the “killing fields” and causing the deaths of 1.7 million Cambodians in the 1970s.

In his rebuttal, he said the prosecutors’ opening remarks were exaggerations based mainly on unreliable old news reports and books.

After the trial of Khieu Samphan and two other leaders opened Monday, prosecutors described the pitiless policies the Khmer Rouge imposed to build an agrarian utopia.

The tribunal is seeking justice on behalf of the quarter of Cambodia’s population who died from executions, starvation, disease and overwork under the Khmer Rouge rule.

The defendants are the most senior surviving members of the regime: Khieu Samphan; Nuon Chea, the group’s chief ideologist; and former Foreign Minister Ieng Sary. They are charged with crimes against humanity, genocide, persecution, homicide, and torture.

The Khmer Rouge’s supreme leader, Pol Pot, died in 1998 in Cambodia’s jungles while a prisoner of his own comrades.

Khieu Samphan stressed the nationalist credentials of the Khmer Rouge, who opposed French colonialism, fought against a pro-Western regime and its U.S. backers, and finally forced a showdown with neighboring Vietnam.

Mr. Khieu’s French lawyer, Jacques Verges, dismissed the prosecution statements as similar to the novels of Alexandre Dumas, author of dashing adventure yarns.

Khieu Samphan has said he has known Verges since he attended university in France in the 1950s, when both were active in student movements against French colonialism.

“He and I used to attend meetings of student committees against colonialism. That’s what bound us together in friendship,” Mr. Khieu said in a 2004 interview with The Associated Press.

Verges has defended Venezuelan terrorist Carlos the Jackal and Nazi Gestapo officer Klaus Barbie and is noted for a slashing, sarcastic courtroom style, aimed as much at discrediting the judicial establishment as getting his clients off the hook.

Khieu Samphan, along with Verges, reminded the court that intensive U.S. bombing of his country during the Vietnam War contributed to its misery. “Can you imagine what my country faced after such bloody killing and war?” Mr. Khieu declared.

While decrying the case against him, Khieu Samphan added that he welcomed the opportunity to explain his role to the Cambodian public.

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On This Day…

Washington, D.C.

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In 1969, a quarter of a million protesters staged a peaceful demonstration in Washington, D.C., against the Vietnam War.

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On This Day…

Names of Vietnam veterans at Vietnam Veterans ...

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In 1982, the newly finished Vietnam Veterans Memorial was opened to its first visitors in Washington, D.C.

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