Cambodia

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I.  Cultural Property Agreement with the U.S.

On December 2, 1999, the U.S. imposed an emergency import restriction (PDF) on Khmer stone sculpture and architectural elements from Cambodia, unless such objects were accompanied by export permits issued by the Government of the Kingdom of Cambodia, or by documentation demonstrating that they were out of the country before December 2, 1999. At the time, the request for similar protection of Khmer archaeological material in other media (ceramic, metal, etc.) remained pending.

On September 19, 2003, the U.S. and Cambodia entered into a bilateral agreement (PDF), or Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), to impose import restrictions on certain Khmer archaeological materials in stone, metal, and ceramic.  The materials previously protected under the emergency import restriction are subsumed under this agreement, as reflected in the revised Designated List (PDF) published in the Federal Register on September 22, 2003.

Effective September 19, 2008, the two countries extended the agreement (PDF) for an additional five years, and amended it to apply U.S. import restrictions to archaeological material dating from the Bronze Age to the end of the Khmer Empire. The Designated List (PDF) was revised again to reflect this amendment, and published on September 22, 2008. The agreement was again amended and extended for an additional five years, effective September 19, 2013.

II.  Summary of the Basis for the Agreement

The agreement is in response to a request from the Government of the Kingdom of Cambodia seeking protection of its cultural heritage made under Article 9 of the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property (PDF). The import restrictions are intended to reduce the incentive for pillage and illicit trafficking of cultural objects.

With respect to the emergency restriction of 1999,  the stone monuments and sculpture produced during the Angkor Empire illustrate a high degree of artistic, social, and economic achievement; and that such works express the profound religious and social beliefs of the Khmer culture. It was clear that this material was being looted at a prodigious rate.  The emergency import restriction was an interim action, pending the two countries’ entering into an Agreement.

When the two countries entered into the Agreement in 2003, the U.S. Government extended the emergency restriction to include categories of Khmer archaeological material made of ceramic and metal, in addition to stone.  Through the agreement, both governments also sought to encourage academic institutions, non-governmental institutions, and other private organizations to cooperate in the ex change of knowledge and information about the cultural patrimony of the Kingdom of Cambodia, and to collaborate in the preservation and protection of such cultural patrimony through appropriate technical assistance, training and resources. These areas of cooperation remain in the 2008 and 2013 extensions/amendments of the agreement, along with an expanded protection of the Bronze and Iron Age heritage of Cambodia, which continues to fall victim to pillage.

III.  Categories of Objects Subject to Import Restriction

Restricted archaeological items dating from the Bronze and Iron Ages (1500 B.C. - 550 A.D.) through the Khmer Era (16th c. A.D.) include categories of artifacts made from stone, metal, ceramic, glass, and bone.  The Designated List (PDF), as published by the Department of Homeland Security in the Federal Register on September 19, 2008, is the authoritative description of these categories. Images to illustrate the list will be made available in the near future.

IV. Import Restrictions

Objects from the categories described in the Federal Register notice may enter the U.S. only if they have an export permit issued by Cambodian authorities or documentation that they left Cambodia prior to the effective date of the restriction: December 2, 1999, for Khmer archaeological materials of stone (6th - 16th c. A.D.); September 22, 2003 for Khmer archaeological materials of ceramic and metal (6th - 16th c. A.D.), and September 19, 2008 for Bronze and Iron Age archaeological materials of stone, metal, ceramic, glass and bone.

V.  For More Information

United States: Cultural Heritage Center  (culprop@state.gov)

Cambodia: Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts
227 Preah Norodom Blvd.
Sangkat Phsar Kandal
Phnom Penh, 12205, Cambodia
Tel: (855) 12-872-703
Email: info@mcfa.gov.kh

The APSARA Authority
Phnom Penh:
#187, Pasteur St, Chaktomuk, Daun Penh
Tel: +855-23-720-315
Fax: +855-23-990-185
Email: apsara-admin@camnet.com.kh

Siem Reap
Apsara Road,
Bœung Don Pa Village, Slakram Commune, Siem Reap District,
Siem Reap Province, CAMBODIA
Tel : +855 63 63 000 12

Bilateral Agreements

Learn more about the agreements countries have signed with the U.S. to protect cultural artifacts.