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7 ancient treasures returned to Cambodia

APTOPIX Cambodia Thailand
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, second right, and Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, left, stand by a piece from Cambodian artifacts of the Angkorian era during a ceremony in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Heng Sinith / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Thailand returned seven treasures from Cambodia's Golden Age to its neighbor Friday as the countries pledged to prevent further smuggling of antiquities.

The statues from the 12th century Angkorian era, including six heads of the Hindu god Shiva, were handed to Cambodian officials during an official one-day visit by Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva. Thai authorities seized them from smugglers in 1999.

Widespread looting of Cambodia's ancient temples has occurred in recent decades, with many items smuggled into Thailand for sale on the international antiques markets or to private collectors.

"The return of these artifacts shows that Cambodia and Thailand enjoy good cooperation and respect each other's laws," said Cambodia Foreign Minister Hor Namhong.

Eang Sophalleth, spokesman for Prime Minister Hun Sen, said the two sides agreed to cooperate in stamping out smuggling of national antiquities, and that the prime minister urged Thailand to return 36 other artifacts that belonged to Cambodia.

Both countries also agreed to speedily resolve a dispute over the 11th century Preah Vihear temple.

Tensions flared in July last year when UNESCO, the U.N. cultural agency, approved Cambodia's bid to have Preah Vihear named a World Heritage Site, leading some Thais to believe their claims to the surrounding land would be undermined.

Since then, several soldiers on both sides have been killed in gunbattles in the area, but neither side will back down.

The World Court awarded the temple to Cambodia in 1962, but sovereignty of the surrounding land has never been clearly resolved.