College of Humanities & School of Arts

Restitution of looted Cambodian antiquities

Restitution is one of the pressing issues of our times, impacting museums, collectors, dealers, diplomacy and communities worldwide. 

Having been the victim of massive looting over some six decades of war, genocide and their long aftermath into the 21st century, Cambodia is today one of the most effective players in the complex international restitution arena. This project expands Professor Ashley Thompson’s ongoing contribution to restitution work and aims to ensure its positive long-term impact in and beyond Cambodia.

Group of people viewing a statue in a sanctuary at Sambor Prei Kuk
Viewing replica statue installed in a sanctuary at Sambor Prei Kuk

By strengthening an existing relationship with the Cambodian Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts Restitution Team, building new relationships with international and Cambodian public and private sector actors supporting the work, and bringing three SOAS alumni emerging scholars on board, Professor Thompson aims to maximise the impact of this research. The project involves the beginning and end of the restitution chain: identifying/provenancing looted objects, and promoting care and interactive interpretation of restituted objects in museums, temples and villages.

The project is supported by SOAS Impact and Knowledge Exchange with funding from Research England for promoting the economic development and welfare of developing countries on the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee list.