As a result of the attention generated by the Koh Ker statues’ return, “Cambodia is learning more about the plunder of its past, and doing more to protect it in the future,” said Tess Davis, a lawyer who focuses on the illicit trade of Cambodian antiquities.
Meanwhile, representatives from the Norton Simon Museum will visit Cambodia at the end of January or early February, said Chan Tani, a senior government official. Leslie Denk, the museum’s director of public affairs, confirmed the visit.
Interest in the statues has also prompted more archeological research of Koh Ker, which was briefly the center of the great Khmer Empire after King Jayavarman IV moved the capital from Angkor in 928 until 944. Until now it’s received far less attention than Angkor’s better-preserved temples 110 kilometers southwest.
Coming after largely static scenes in bas-relief at Angkor, the Prasat Chen statues are key examples of the Koh Ker style’s new dynamism — rare freestanding statues, with Duryodhana and Bhima portrayed as they prepare to leap into combat.
These unique aspects of Koh Ker art are something the new museum hopes to highlight in the future, said Long Kosal, the tourism director for Preah Vihear province. Although officials say they need more time to make sure the site is secure, their ultimate plan is to place the tableau’s statues together in a hall that mirrors the size and shape of their original tower.