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Japanese collector returns ancient artifacts to Cambodia

41 Comments
By SOPHENG CHEANG

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41 Comments
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Glad these were returned to their rightful places. I wonder why it took so long for the collectors to do the correct thing.

3 ( +8 / -5 )

The collector, Fumiko Takakuwa, told reporters after the handover ceremony that she and her husband had bought the items in Japan and liked to collect and display them in their home. But she knew they were originally from Cambodia and that is why she returned them.

While this story is trying to make what this woman do as being commendable the fact remains that they purchased them illegally, and from how I read it, they knew it was wrong and there should be consequences for that as well!

-5 ( +10 / -15 )

While this story is trying to make what this woman do as being commendable the fact remains that they purchased them illegally, and from how I read it, they knew it was wrong and there should be consequences for that as well!

Too right.

-5 ( +6 / -11 )

Good that she didn't resell them...

8 ( +9 / -1 )

Glad these were returned to their rightful places. I wonder why it took so long for the collectors to do the correct thing.

Better late than never.

10 ( +11 / -1 )

Better late than never.

True, but they knew they were obtained illegally, and kept them even so, and waited until AFTER her husband died to return them!

There should be some type of legal ramifications to this.

Not the same, but similar to someone who robs you of your cash or belongings, and then decides to return them "out of the goodness of their heart" and expect you to be happy about it!

Sure she eventually did the right thing, but, in my opinion, she should not be praised for doing the right thing, particularly so long after the fact!

-6 ( +6 / -12 )

Times are that a country in turmoil will destroy it's own treasures. I've seen it happen all too often. That the artifacts were returned to Cambodia is nice,but more important is that Cambodia is now stable enough to care for them.

12 ( +13 / -1 )

As Japan is an island they must have came by air or ship and passed customs at some point....

7 ( +8 / -1 )

Regardless of how she acquired them, she is doing something that Europe, America, and Canada are refusing to do. They are consistently making arguments that the countries where artifacts were pillaged from are not equipped to take care of those artifacts. Furthermore, they say that the only reason they are considered art or seen as valuable is because they made it so and not the origin countries.

4 ( +11 / -7 )

she is doing something that Europe, America, and Canada are refusing to do.

It seems you didnt read whole story. It says Takakuwa acted several years after people and institutions, including New York'' Metropolitan Museum of Art, in the West returned their items.

5 ( +9 / -4 )

Yubaru - It's a fair point you make but legal ramifications come with the risk of deterring people from returning artifacts like these in the future. Promoting the return of stolen artifacts is more important than punishing those who do choose to return them after illegally obtaining them. She shouldn't be praised for this though.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

She did the right thing. Why not call for the arrest of people at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art? It took them 2 decades to return them. This woman is clearly losing a lot of money on the deal. And it's quite possible that, had these been left in Cambodia, they would have been destroyed. That's what extreme ideologies do.

If the Cambodian government is praising her actions, what's with all the hostility here?

10 ( +13 / -3 )

2 statues and 1 museum doesn’t constitute America, Europe, and Canada.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

 Promoting the return of stolen artifacts is more important than punishing those who do choose to return them after illegally obtaining them. She shouldn't be praised for this though.

True, I agree it's a sticky situation, and yet I am have a hard time accepting that people with the money to actually purchase these items can do so without any repercussions.

They are not above the law, and I am not suggesting any type of jail time or criminal proceedings, more along the lines of some hefty fine, donated to a charity of the choice of the country that these items were taken from.

If they have the money to buy them, they have the money to pay the fine!

-10 ( +2 / -12 )

Did anyone think to ask did they buy these items at a curio shop or antique store? The article made reference too that they knew the artifacts were from Cambodia not that they were cultural relics I know of craftsmen in Indonesia that could turn out a image like that in about a week and sell it to some unsuspecting tourist letting them think it is a ancient piece while the patina coloring is still wet on it. Unless the article stated that she and her husband knew personally that these relics were not of recent creation but found out much later and returned them I say no harm no foul.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

"While this story is trying to make what this woman do as being commendable the fact remains that they purchased them illegally, "

Where in the story does it say that you bought them illegally? The article states:

"that she and her husband had bought the items in Japan and liked to collect and display them in their home. But she knew they were originally from Cambodia and that is why she returned them."

It does not say that her husband bought them illegally. Moreover, she is an individual she does not have the resources to check about items that are usually sold at art houses.

Can the New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art say the same thing?

8 ( +12 / -4 )

As long as the items are preserved for future generations then where is the harm?

Post WW II, large numbers of Japanese prints made their way to the US and having been faithfully preserved, are now able to be found on display in Japan.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Collector Takakuwa must have felt guilty about these ancient artifacts. These were stolen and bought among collectors before Takakuwa.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

"If they have the money to buy them, they have the money to pay the fine!"

How about the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art ?

3 ( +7 / -4 )

I, too, hope that the people and government of Japan will return the property they stole, individually or by agent from me.

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

True, I agree it's a sticky situation, and yet I am have a hard time accepting that people with the money to actually purchase these items can do so without any repercussions. 

It’s not a sticky situation. It’s common sense. As above posters have said, if you start trying to punish people, they will not expose themselves.

look, they have to get “caught in the act” or have reliable witnesses for the police to enter someone’s home for a search.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Point one: Screw the law. If that is your go to answer to calibrate your moral compass, then something is wrong with you. The law is full of moral short comings and is often just garbage made up by rich and powerful people to protect their riches and station...or gain them beyond all fairness or justice.

Point two: The analogy of a country as an individual is very problematic. The people who actually made these artifacts are all dead. To say they belong to people they never even knew is just one of those crazy contrived rules of ownership people refuse to analyze for some reason. The artifacts surely belonged to some people or groups in the country, who were given or inherited them, but I doubt most can even be clearly identified as belonging to them. Which means the Cambodian government is going to keep them and they STILL won't go back to the real owners or even their descendants. So the Cambodian government is just going to be the next keeper of stolen property.

Put the two together and I find it hard to label that man and wife as thieves or keepers of stolen property. Its just nice they go back to Cambodia and I don't see it as some moral requirement at all. A moral requirement would be knowing the individuals or groups that actually owned them, and giving them back to those people...even if they now live in Timbuktu.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Old diddy should be arrested. Does she want a medal for doing the right thing?

-5 ( +2 / -7 )

I am talking about this woman here. However, if there are others who are just as guilty, then by all means, prosecute them if they have broken the law.

The article is lacking in information (rolling eyes here) as to when these items were initially purchased, other than being bought in Japan! Ignorance of a law is no defense.

A 1993 Cambodian law prohibited the removal of cultural artifacts without government permission. The law strongly compels owners of items taken abroad after that date to return them. But there is also general agreement in the art world that pieces were acquired illegitimately if they were exported without clear and valid documentation after 1970 — the year of a United Nations cultural agreement targeting trafficking in antiquities.

Want others to come forward, fine, then let's let all thieves return the goods they stole or procured and praise them for their goodwill!

Which is in effect what people are advocating!

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

Yubaru It is morbidly amusing that you state that ignorance of the law is no defense and then go on to cite a Cambodian law from 1993....as if you know all the world's laws by heart and could never find yourself violating one out of ignorance. May as well just jail half the planet right now.

And yeah, the government is demanding permission regarding the transfer of property that does not belong to it. Rich. This is how even WE become property of the state. At the end of the day its just a piece of bronze or whatever with monetary value. We need to stop selling our rights for other people's profit and pleasure.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

As others have already said, there is no evidence that these artefacts were purchased illegally, or with the knowledge that they were important cultural artefacts. It is much more likely that Takakuwa and her husband bought these from some form of antique goods store or something similar, not knowing what exactly they were buying. Then, at some point, it would seem that her husband became aware of the truth and said that they needed to be returned. The delay in the returning would have been the fear of possible harsh consequences. Over time though, her conscience weighed on her more than the fear of punishment, and so chose to return these artefacts.

That, really, is understandable. Praiseworthy... perhaps not, but the right thing was done in the end, and that's what truly matters. It is certainly more commendable than a museum that holds onto such artefacts knowing their true nature and value, and deciding to hold onto those anyway for decades all the same.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

@JJ Jetplane

2 statues and 1 museum doesn’t constitute America, Europe, and Canada.

Well, it constitutes "America," since it was repatriated from New York. But that is only one of quite a few cases. Here's more from several years ago.

-Norwegian businessman and collector Morten Bosterud handed over two Angkorian statues, 11 undated artworks, a 9th-century Preah Ko-style head of the Hindu god Shiva, and a late 12th-century Bayon-style male divinity.

-A head of Hindu god Harihara was reattached its body—after over 130 years of separation—thanks to Paris’s Guimet Museum.

-the Denver Art Museum in the U.S. returned the 10th century Torso of Rama.

-The U.S. government returned the sandstone head of a celestial dancer to Cambodia, saying the object had been smuggled out of the country.

-Cultural officials, diplomats and dignitaries gathered at Phnom Penh's National Museum on Friday to mark the restitution of two classical Cambodian sculptures that had been on display in the Honolulu Academy of Arts.

And why do you single out "the West"? The biggest destinations of Cambodian artifacts after they've been looted are reportedly Singapore and Thailand.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Very complex issue. Just go to the British Museum and see all of the items that were originally stolen from their respective countries. The Elgin Marbles, Rosetta Stone, mummies etc etc.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

@JeffLee

Why do I single out the west?

Because during the huge summit last year when many African countries tried to make a case for having their artifacts and art returned. Every country from the West stood out against it saying they were better qualified to take care of these things than the African countries are. They also said that the only reason there is any value in those artifacts is because they made it so.

That is why I singled out the west.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

@JeffLee

I am sorry. Everyone didn’t say no. Some of the countries and their museums said they would “loan” stolen artwork and artifacts back to African countries for a price.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Just go to the British Museum and see all of the items that were originally stolen from their respective countries. 

In some cases stolen, in other cases saved - particularly the Elgin Marbles, which were left to decay by Greece, and might well not even exist now if not preserved by England.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

She did the right thing, despite considerable personal expense. Thanks to this couple, a large collection has gone back to Cambodia, many to their original spot on an altar in a temple from where they were once looted. Bravo. Now she can sleep well.

This publicity might also encourage other collectors who may be bothered by the possible provenance of what they have. Win win.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

@ Yubaru

I am talking about this woman here. However, if there are others who are just as guilty, then by all means, prosecute them if they have broken the law.

In respect to Japan? That'll be a lot of people, most of whom are dead but the spoils from WW2 are somewhere within. Last December 17th there was an article about some Buddha (30-40 PCs) statues which were going to be painted gold color. I highly suspected them to have been a heist. Not to mention ones from Korea, China, Philippines, Indonesia , India etc. Wars are also, in many cases about stealing.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

British hasn't yet returned the thousands of ancient treasures of many countries around the world.

If they do, their musuem would be almost empty.

Asian (esp. Developing countries) visitors see their own ancient artifacts in Europe than in their own country.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

She did the right thing, despite considerable personal expense. Thanks to this couple, a large collection has gone back to Cambodia, many to their original spot on an altar in a temple from where they were once looted. Bravo. Now she can sleep well.

This publicity might also encourage other collectors who may be bothered by the possible provenance of what they have. Win win.

So you like others commend her actions, after the fact that her husband purchased the items KNOWING they were Cambodian, kept them for his own pleasure, and then after he died, she decides to come across as being magnanimous and return the items?

What a crock of bull! This is not going to encourage others who illegally obtain cultural artifacts do do anything.

This is just a case of a guilty conscience FINALLY doing the right thing, and with NO consequences! Which is BS to me!

(FYI, I do not give a damn about anyone liking or disliking ANYTHING I write here, this is my opinion, agree or not, I dont care a whit. I do not agree with commending someone for eventually doing the right thing, only after their spouse DIED for cripes sake! If they really cared, they would have returned the items as soon as they knew, but they didnt,)

1 ( +3 / -2 )

If it's meant to be, it will be. You could say the collector was caring for the artefacts until it was time for them to return home.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

@Yubaru, I agree 100% with EVERYTHING you wrote.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Yubaru: "KNOWING they were Cambodian"...

It is surely not illegal to own Cambodian artifacts?

The article does not explicitly say that they were illegally purchased. Reading between the lines, we can guess that maybe the husband knew something(?). Perhaps you are right, and in that case naturally I agree with you.

As I say, she has done the right thing (if they were illegally sourced) and I hope others will follow from her example.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@Yubaru... you might like North Korea. Trying to remove so much as a wall poster from that place could mean a death sentence. They really protect their stuff.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

It is surely not illegal to own Cambodian artifacts?

Did you happen to read the article?

A 1993 Cambodian law prohibited the removal of cultural artifacts without government permission. The law strongly compels owners of items taken abroad after that date to return them. But there is also general agreement in the art world that pieces were acquired illegitimately if they were exported without clear and valid documentation after 1970 — the year of a United Nations cultural agreement targeting trafficking in antiquities.

So if they purchased them prior to 1970 it's one thing, however my point is that they knew, she and her husband, and if they were that into the artifacts that they purchased as many as they did, 85 of them, they knew about the laws.

Also why wait until AFTER he died? It's called a guilty conscience to me!

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Its nice that she is returning them to there rightful owners, as for being arrested and charged, in this case I would not agree with that, remember she bought them (illegally or not), so she and her husband will loose that money/value when this happens. so you could say that is the equivalent of a fine.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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