08-09-2007 11:19

The U.S. government has returned a stolen sculpted head that belongs to Cambodia's cultural heritage. The Angkor-era sculpture, is one of many artifacts that is stolen and smuggled out of the country every year.

The 2-kilogram artifact, is the sandstone head of an apsara, or a celestial dancer from the 12th century. It was smuggled out of Cambodia in violation of a 2003 bilateral agreement to protect Cambodia's cultural heritage. The artifact was seized by U.S. law enforcement agents earlier this year.

Joseph A. Mussomeli, U.S. ambassador to Cambodia, said, "People talk a lot about the need for Khmer culture to be preserved but not enough is done so we're very grateful and happy that our police and other law-enforcement agencies are focussed on this issue. We cannot really expect Cambodia to move ahead into the future if it doesn't have enough understanding of its past."