Extension of US-Cambodia MoU regarding Restrictions on the Import of Illicit Antiquities

Skip to first unread message

Alison Carter

Jan 5, 2023, 12:49:08 AMJan 5
Hi All
I forward on information from Piphal Heng about the extension of US-Cambodia MOU regarding restrictions on the import of illicit antiquities. If you feel inclined, I  encourage you to participate as Piphal has outlined below. 



From: Piphal Heng <hengp...@gmail.com>
Date: Tuesday, January 3, 2023 at 11:25 AM
Subject: Seeking support for the Extension of US-Cambodia MoU regarding Restrictions on the Import of Illicit Antiquities (January 23, 2023, at 11:59 p.m. EST)


Dear Colleagues,


Happy New Year! I hope you had or are having a good break! 


I write this email to you because you are either a US citizen who has involved with Cambodia’s culture and archaeology in some capacity or you are interested in protecting Cambodia's archaeological heritage. 


I know that this is a very busy time of year, but we need everyone’s help in asking the United States to EXTEND its Memorandum of Understanding with Cambodia regarding restrictions on the import of illicit antiquities. This is a five-year bilateral agreement between the two countries that was first enacted pursuant to the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act (CPIA) in September 2003 following emergency import restrictions adopted in 1999. The 2003 bilateral agreement was extended by the nations in September 2008, in 2013, and then again in 2018. It is now up for extension/renewal once again. Based on previous experience, we need A LOT OF COMMENTS FROM A LOT OF STAKEHOLDERS to make a persuasive case against what has previously been an impassioned opposition to the MoU by collectors.


Over the past several years, we have seen a tremendous positive outcome of this MoU that oversaw multiple repatriations of looted Cambodian statuary. These achievements are the results of this US-Cambodia MoU and the coordinating efforts between both governments, the Antiquity Coalition, the media, and most importantly, the stakeholders including yourselves. Previously, Miriam Stark was the primary solicitor for this testimony; however, since she is currently a member the US Cultural Property Advisory Committee, I am continuing this effort to seek your help in supporting this MoU extension.


We need Southeast Asian archaeologists, art historians, historians, and other relevant disciplines (wherever you work) to: (1) write to support the MoU; and (2) press the US government to continue supporting heritage protection in Cambodia. Archaeologists and academics support all manner of MoU’s designed to limit trafficking in illicit antiquities, but art collectors frequently do not. In their previous testimonies, they contend that the US should not support the MoU because Cambodia is doing a poor job enforcing its heritage protection laws or that Cambodia is incapable of protecting their heritage. You can see where this leads – to better access for collectors to illicit antiquities. The collectors may be in full force this time as they have in the past to argue that we should not extend the MoU. The Cultural Property Advisory Committee has invited us all to participate in the process (see email below).


You can help in one of two ways: participate in the virtual meeting, or submit written comments. To attend the meeting via video conference on January 30, 2023, at 4:00 p.m. (EST), you must request to be scheduled by January 23 via email (cul...@state.gov). You can make an oral comment, which is limited to five (5) minutes. If you cannot participate in the open session, you can submit your written comments via regulations.gov NO LATER THAN January 23, 2023, at 11:59 p.m. EST. I will send you another update once the docket for this MoU is available. You can also monitor this website.


Here are some bullet points, which you are welcome to use in your comments. 

  • Looting continues to be a major problem in Cambodia today and has been exacerbated by the rapid pace of economic development. 
  • The US remains a major market for Khmer antiquities, and wealthy Americans and museums are among the avid collectors whose desire for antiquities damages Cambodia’s heritage.
  • These import restrictions do not obstruct access to collections in Cambodia for archaeologists and art historians. 
  • The repatriation efforts from the US fosters positive relationship with Cambodia

Such protection could and should include:


§  Country-wide inventories (GIS integrated) of archaeological and ethnographic sites

§  GIS and database training to use these integrated databases

§  Country-museum collections inventories

§  Short-term, targeted field- and lab-training programs to build capacity

§  Fulbright support for Cambodians to seek US-based graduate training in archaeology and historic preservation (so far only Heng Piphal has been given a Fulbright for his MA degree).


I know it takes time and efforts to write such testimony but I know that you care to help protect cultural heritage including Cambodia’s. Thank you in advance.






Piphal Heng, PhD
Postdoctoral Scholar

American Council of Learned Society Fellow
Cotsen Institute of Archaeology
University of California, Los Angeles

Affiliate Faculty

Department of Anthropology

University of Hawaii at Manoa








---------- Forwarded message ---------
From: Cultural Property <CUL...@state.gov>
Date: Fri, Dec 9, 2022 at 5:02 AM
Subject: Save the Date: January 2023 Cultural Property Advisory Meeting
To: Cultural Property <CUL...@state.gov>




The Cultural Property Advisory Committee intends to meet January 30 to February 2, 2023 (pending Federal Register announcement confirmation) to review: (1) extending and amending the cultural property agreement with the Government of Cambodia, (2) a new request from the Government of North Macedonia for cultural property import restrictions, and (3) a new request from the Government of Uzbekistan for cultural property import restrictions.   


Agreements create import restrictions that stop trafficked cultural property from entering the United States while encouraging the legal exchange of cultural property for scientific, cultural, and educational purposes. 


The Committee invites public comment on these agenda items.  Please follow these instructions to comment or participate. 


Thank you, 

Cultural Heritage Center

Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs | U.S. Department of State



Reply all
Reply to author
0 new messages