Cambodia Artifact Highlights Issue of American Greed [Sotheby’s] vs. Khmer Heritage and American Values.
In this blog, I have taken the liberty to address an issue that is not very salient to most Americans and probably will have little import to anyone but me.
The issue is very simple.
In an inconspicuous article written by NY Times correspondent, Tom Mashberg [Saturday, February 16, 2103], in an article entitled, “Cambodia Sees Ethical Conflict In Import Panel” highlights an issue that involves the integrity of the US State Department. (posted earlier today)
In particular, the case at hand involves a simple point of law of who really owns a 10th Century Khmer Statue worth $3million.
Does the home country Cambodia own it because it’s part and parcel of the Khmer heritage?
Or does a non-Cambodian Belgian consignor’s wife who claims she bought in good faith from a London Antiquities dealer in 1975 own it?
The US State Department has warned Sotheby’s [The Famous Premiere Auction House which garners handsome remuneration for selling it even without a legitimate provenance] that in fact that 10th Century Hindu warrior statue was stolen from the crumbling temple in the ancient complex of called Koh Ker and rightfully belongs to Cambodia, not to the Sotheby’s or it’s ‘alleged owners’.
Why is this of particular interest to me at this moment in time when so much else is going on around the world?
The answer lies within the US State Department.
In the late 1980’s, at the behest of the one of the more judicious and foresighted Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and the Pacific, Dr Richard Solomon, former ex-aide to Dr Henry Kissinger and Director of the RAND Corporation as well as being a China, SE Asia expert, had requested my assistance in his strategy to disarm the Khmer Rouge and create the Paris Peace Conference on Cambodia in 1991.
At his direction and supervision, I went out as a Deputy Assistant Secretary of State [DAS] and worked along with him, Charles Twining [Cambodia Desk Officer] and other CIA/MI SE Asia experts and implemented a strategy that Solomon had envisioned which was blessed by the Sec State James Baker [one of our finest Sec States ever].
In a coalition of Perm Five countries –China, England, France, American, Russia—working in concert with the US State Department, Dr Solomon and Sec State Baker successfully terminated the thirty year slaughter of Cambodia initiated by the brutal regime of Pol Pot, aided by Mao and his Gang.
No American soldiers had to be utilized, although in their extremely useful analytical way, the Pentagon costed out for me the price of a war in Cambodia and the US Casualty tolls and assured me and others at the State Department that the military option was not on the table.
This was an example when a ‘no’ from the Pentagon is far more useful to the national security community than a ‘yes’ for war. I would hope that more Sec States, Sec Defs and WH personnel learn the beneficent lessons of Foreign Service Diplomacy rather than war and pre-emptive actions.
In short, a former Khmer Rouge Leader turned Anti-KR by the name of Hun Sen became the new leader of Cambodia. And for over thirty years, thanks to his leadership and the foresight of Dr Solomon and Sec State James Baker and in turn, POTUS, Bush SR- peace, stability and ‘democracy’ came to Cambodia.
Now, Cambodia is rightfully requesting to all the dealers and countries around the world to please remit any factotums of antiquities that have been part of their exceedingly rich Khmer Heritage.
From my perspective, this issue for Sotheby’s is not a conundrum. Sotheby’s and their client should be given a ‘reasonable finder’s fee’ and a ‘free trip to Cambodia’ and fetted by Hun Sen as a “FRIEND OF CAMBODIA”.
Maybe a plaque or some recognition should be given to the present holder of the Hindu Statue.
As for our State Department, they should honor the request of Cambodia ASAP.
It’s morally right to allow a formerly ‘raped and ravaged’ country, like Cambodia, to attain some historical/psychological closure. If any country could have been categorized as having PTSD, it would have been Cambodia which had entered the reign of terror resulting in no small part because of American “saturation bombing” initiated by Dr Kissinger---illegally.
Now, Cambodia must assume it’s rightful place in South East Asia and to do so, those honorable FSO’s at the State Department should acquiesce to Hun Sen’s requests because now, paradoxically, he is no longer the ex-terrorist Khmer Rouge leader, but the legitimate ruler of Cambodia.
In this seemingly sidebar article about an insignificant Hindu Warrior statue lies a clue to all the miscreant deeds of past American administrations during the Vietnam Wars and the restorative actions of one Senior Diplomat, Dr Richard Solomon, who risked his political career to initiate a Peace Treaty that no one thought possible.
Even yours truly left the State Department after the 1991 Peace Conference to return to a moment of FANTASY REALISM, back to HOLLYWOOD for a taste of reality.
As I told my William Morris Agent in Hollywood, the studios and the talent agencies made the Khmer Rouge look like ‘pussy cats’.
But who knew then that in Hollywood everything was a mirror image of reality. “Yes” meant, “no!”
“I read the script meant I did not read the script!”
So thank you, Dr Solomon for allowing me to spend time in the jungles of Thailand and Cambodia in order to realize that life sometimes can be a ‘bitch!’ And if you work hard enough and can be tough enough, someone like me can even get two TV Miniseries completed and shown on TV.
It took, Pol Pot, his horrendous legacy, Hun Sen, and working with the incredible Perm Five to realize my Hollywood dreams. Btw, it was the anti-UN , Ambassador John Bolton who gave Dick and me the necessary money to initiate the Peace Conference.
Life is funny, and of course, the good guys aren’t as good as they seem and the bad guys aren’t as bad as they are portrayed.
Hun Sen take back your 10th century statue. Let the world understand how great your Khmer culture was and is.
ET BONNE CHANCE!!!