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Protecting Cambodia's Treasures


The United States government and the government of Cambodia have agreed to extend their Memorandum of Understanding "Concerning the Imposition of Import Restrictions on Archaeological Material from Cambodia from the Bronze Age through the Khmer Era."

This extension, consistent with a recommendation made by the Cultural Property Advisory Committee, represents a continuation of cooperation that began in 1999. Emergency U.S. import restrictions were then implemented to help reduce the pillage of Cambodia's archaeological heritage and the illicit trafficking in such material.

This U.S. action is in response to a request made by the government of Cambodia under Article 9 of the 1970 United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. Cambodia is the first country in East Asia to receive the cooperation of the United States in protecting its cultural property in this manner.

The extended Memorandum of Understanding expands the scope of the original to include archaeological objects from the Bronze and Iron Ages. It specifically restricts the import into the United States of ancient Cambodian stone, metal, and ceramic archaeological material unless an export permit is issued by Cambodia or there is verifiable documentation that the objects left Cambodia prior to the effective date of the restriction.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has published a list of restricted categories of objects, amending it to include material representing the Bronze and Iron Ages. The restricted objects may enter the United States only if accompanied by an export permit issued by Cambodia or documentation verifying its provenance prior to 1999 and if no other applicable U.S. laws are violated.

The United States is also helping Cambodia protect its cultural treasures through financial grants provided by the U.S. Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation. The U.S. State Department's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs Cultural Heritage Center has recommended an award in excess of $957,000 to the World Monuments Fund for the conservation of the 10th century Phnom Bakheng Temple in Cambodia.

The United States is committed to working with Cambodia to preserve its rich and ancient cultural heritage.
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