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Building a US-ASEAN Partnership to Protect Cultural Heritage

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For nearly 25 years, since taking emergency measures to protect Cambodia’s cultural heritage from looting in 1999, the United States has worked with countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to protect and return cultural heritage. . Through this cooperation, the United States has returned more than 100 of her objects to Cambodia since 2003, and has returned more looted or stolen cultural property to Laos, Thailand and Vietnam this year.

From September 4th to 8th, 2022, ECA’s Center for Cultural Heritage (CHC) participated in an international conference organized by the Royal Government of Cambodia and the US-based NGO Antiquities Coalition. ASEAN Perspective. The conference, held in Siem Reap, Cambodia, brought together 200 senior officials, including government officials from ASEAN member states, representatives of international organizations and NGOs, to discuss trends and best practices in cultural heritage protection.

Speaking at the international plenary of the conference, CHC Director Eric Catalfamo underscored the urgent need for international cooperation to protect heritage threatened by political and economic crises and climate change. . Today, the economic turmoil caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has led to increased trafficking in cultural and cultural heritage, threatened by political upheaval in places like Afghanistan, and a unilateral Russian war in Ukraine. directly targeted. “

Mr. Catalfamo elaborated on the advantages of entering into bilateral cultural property agreements with the United States. This allows us to establish US import restrictions to prevent loot from entering the US. The Cultural Property Agreement prevents criminals from profiting from the sale of trafficked cultural property, facilitates the return of looted or stolen cultural property from the United States to its country of origin, and strengthens the framework for international cooperation. provide.

In his opening remarks, Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Prak Sokhon emphasized the role of the US-Cambodia Cultural Properties Agreement in returning historical treasures to Cambodia, including Skanda riding a The 100th-century sandstone statue of the Hindu war god Skanda is considered a masterpiece and a valuable part of Cambodia’s cultural heritage. “I would like to thank our international partners, especially the United States, for helping us recover these stolen antiquities, stop smuggling and return the cultural heritage to Cambodia,” Sokhon said.

About the U.S. Bilateral Cultural Properties Agreement

The United States uses cultural property agreements with 25 countries to promote a clean U.S. art market and help other countries protect their cultural heritage. The agreement creates import restrictions that prevent stolen cultural property from being brought into the United States, while encouraging the legal sharing of cultural property for scientific, cultural, and educational purposes, Expanded opportunities for the public, museums and researchers to understand the history and culture of partner countries. culture.