Bangkok: People look at a 900-year-old statue of Shiva, dubbed “Golden Boy”, on display at a repatriation ceremony after it arrived from the United States.—AFP
Bangkok: People look at a 900-year-old statue of Shiva, dubbed “Golden Boy”, on display at a repatriation ceremony after it arrived from the United States.—AFP

BANGKOK: Two statues smuggled out of Thailand, including a 900-year-old sculpture that spent three decades at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, were welcomed back to the kingdom in an official repatriation ceremony in Bangkok on Tuesday.

A 129-centimetre statue of Shiva, dubbed “Golden Boy”, was repatriated after being linked to British-Thai art dealer Douglas Latchford, who was charged with trafficking looted relics from Cambodia and Thailand shortly before he died in 2020.

The statue, displayed in the Met from 1988 to 2023, was discovered near the Cambodian border during an archaeological dig at Prasat Ban Yang ruins more than 50 years ago. It is believed to have been smuggled out of Thailand by Latchford in 1975.

A second bronze sculpture, a 43-centimetre kneeling female figure with her hands above her head in a Thai greeting posture dubbed “Kneeling Woman”, was also returned after it was linked to Latchford.

The return of the items comes as a growing number of museums worldwide discuss steps to repatriate looted artworks.

“We are honoured to get these artefacts back, they shall be located in their motherland permanently,” the director-general of Thailand’s Fine Arts Department Phnombootra Chandrachoti said at the repatriation ceremony at the National Museum in Bangkok.

Published in Dawn, May 22nd, 2024

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