6 June 2024

The 900-year-old bronze statue of a Hindu god, named “Golden Boy”, will go on public display at the National Museum from Thursday.

The Golden Boy, and another statue, the Kneeling Lady, were returned to Thailand on Monday from the United States, after being kept at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (The MET) in New York since 1988. A ceremony was held at the National Museum yesterday to welcome the return of the two artefacts.

The 43.2cm Kneeling Lady statue, also believed to be about 900 years old, is thought to represent a high-class lady of the court. From her hair style, thin waistline, perfect shape and clothing, it is assumed that the statue is a type of the bronze sculpture popular in the north-eastern region of Thailand about 1,000 years ago.

The Golden Boy was discovered about 50 years ago, while a woman was digging for sweet potatoes in the north-eastern province of Buri Ram. She reportedly took the statue to a local police officer. It was later sold to a foreigner in Bangkok for 1.2 million baht.

Last December, The Met agreed to return the Golden Boy and the Kneeling Lady to Thailand, as well as 14 artefacts to Cambodia. Experts from the Fine Arts Department went to the US in January to examine the two pieces.

They were associated with the late art dealer Douglas Latchford, who was indicted in 2019 for trafficking in and selling looted Cambodian antiquities to auction houses and museums around the world since the 1970s.

Until his death in 2020, Latchford had denied his involvement in smuggling, though his daughter agreed last year to forfeit US$12 million from his estate to settle a civil lawsuit, accusing him of profiting off stolen Cambodian artefacts.