11 July 2024

Two ancient Khmer sculptured stone lintels, believed have been stolen from Thailand about 60 years ago, are due back in Thailand from the United States this Friday, according to sources at the Thai Fine Arts Department.

The two ancient artifacts, one taken from Prasat Nong Hong ruins in Thailand’s northeastern province of Buriram and the other from the Prasat Khao Lon historical sanctuary in the eastern province of Sa Kaeo, both bordering Cambodia, are scheduled to arrive at Suvarnabhumi Airport from Los Angeles at about 10pm Friday night, where they will be received by officials from the Fine Arts Department. After examination they will then be put on public display at the National Museum until July.

Photo from Royal Thai Consulate-General, Los Angeles

The two lintels, each weighing about 680kgs, were carved in ancient Khmer designs.
Mr. Prateep Poengtako, director-general of the Fine Arts Department, told Thai PBS in March that the ancient lintels were sold to an unnamed antique trader for about US$15,000 each and, subsequently, ended up being displayed at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco.

According to the Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California, however, the lintels had actually been stolen and later sold to European antique merchants in the late 1960s. The Prasat Nong Hong lintel was given to the San Francesco Museum in 1966 and the museum bought the second lintel two years later.

Photo from Royal Thai Consulate-General, Los Angeles

Mr. Prateep also attributed the success in retrieving the two artifacts to a small group of Thai people, among them Mr. Thanongsak Hanwong, who stumbled on their whereabouts as they were tracing and trying to secure the return to Thailand of about 300 bronze artifacts, allegedly stolen from Prasat Khao Praipat 2 in Buriram province.

According to the Thai Foreign Ministry, the US Department of Homeland Security played an important role in recovering the lintels from the San Francisco Museum, with the enforcement of the National Property Act, and in sending them back to Thailand.