Thailand held a welcoming ceremony on Monday to celebrate the return of two ancient hand-carved artifacts that were stolen and smuggled out of the country into the United States decades ago.
The two 680 kg (1,500 lb) Khmer-style stone carvings were exhibited at the Asian Arts Museum in San Francisco, which fell into disrepair when the US government and the San Francisco authorities reached an agreement in February.
Thailand had informed the US in 2017 that the falls, which date from the 10th and 11th centuries, had been stolen.
“Today is the day when they will finally be brought back to their home country and exhibited here,” said Thai culture minister Itthiphol Kunplome at the ceremony in Bangkok.
The sandstone falls were once part of the structure of two religious sanctuaries in northeast Thailand. The government will examine whether they can be returned to their original locations.
“This is a legal battle that is a great example of the museums still illegally owning Thai artifacts because they know they will lose the case,” said Tanongsak Hanwong, who located the artifacts and urged them to be returned.
“Many museums have chosen to begin the return process instead of going through the legal process.”