Sunday, December 29, 2013

Cambodia's Moral Case for Returns Falters

Just as pressure is mounting for the repatriation of Khmer artifacts long gone from the modern nation state of Cambodia, serious questions are being raised about the present-day Cambodian Government's own ability to protect artifacts in its care as well as the depth of its own committment to justice for sins of the past. First, it has been revealed that relics of the Buddha have been stolen under the nose of and perhaps with the connivance of government guards.  Second, even though the U.S. State Department sheepishly certified in the Federal Register released on Christmas Day that Cambodia is belatedly doing something to clean up the corruption that has hampered the tribunal that is supposed to be bringing Khmer Rouge war criminals to justice, little has been accomplished to date.

If Cambodia has such unclean hands, why is the U.S. Government spending considerable tax payer dollars on its behalf to force American institutions and collectors to repatriate artifacts long in this country?  Shouldn't we at least demand better site security and the prompt prosecution of war criminals before our State and Justice Departments sacrifice American interests at the behest of Cambodian nationalists and American archaeologists?

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