Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Looting of Cambodia Under Japanese Occupation

Julie Masis ('Japan's Angkor art: Booty or fair exchange?', Asia Times Online, 22nd Dec 2013) discusses objects officially granted to Japan by the French colonial powers during the Second World War, but also raises the question of unofficial movement of Cambodian cultural property at the same time:
Artifacts may have been taken by Japanese soldiers from Cambodia during the occupation, admits [David] Miller. These items may have ended up in other Japanese museums or in private collections. The Kamratan Collection, a collection owned Hiroshi Fujiwara that includes 138 pieces of Khmer ceramics spanning the 9th to 13th centuries, is considered one of the finest collections of ancient Cambodian ceramics in the world, according to a book on the topic. "Such objects probably were taken to Japan by people returning to Japan, but there are no official records of these activities. It is therefore very difficult to say what objects were taken, when they were taken, and whether they were taken directly from Cambodia or from other places within Asia," Miller wrote in an email. Whether the Japanese looted during the occupation of Indochina is unclear, according to [Ricardo] Elia. "Everyone tends to assume that they looted as much as the Nazis. But there is a lot of documentation for the Nazis - and there isn't for the Japanese," he said.


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