26 May 2021
On 25 May 2021, Homeland Security Investigation (HSI) together with the Royal Thai Consulate-General in Los Angeles held a handover ceremony to return two sacred Thai lintels, one from Nong Hong Sanctuary and the other from Khao Loan Sanctuary, to the Thai Government. The ceremony was celebrated and attended by many distinguished guests including Special Agent in Charge David A. Prince, HSI Los Angeles, Special Agent in Charge Tatum King, HSI San Francisco, Ms. Stephanie Hinds, Acting US Attorney Northern District of California, H.E. Mr. Manasvi Srisodapol, Thai Ambassador to the US, Mr. Mungkorn Pratoomkaew, Consul-General in Los Angeles, Mr. Pisanu Sophon, Consul-General in Chicago, and Mr. Fabio Chinda, Consul-General in New York.
Ambassador Manasvi gave a remarks on behalf of the Thai Government to emphasize the importance of the lintels in terms of history, archeology, and culture and expressed appreciation to the relevant US agencies especially HSI and the Department of Justice in responding quickly to the request from Thai side for the repatriation of the Thai antiquities. Ambassador Manasvi also wished that the successful path to return home of the lintels would pave the way for other Thai antiquities in the US to be repatriated back to Thailand in the future. After the ceremony, the Royal Thai Consulate-General in Los Angeles will look after the handling, packaging, and transporting the lintels closely to make sure that the sacred antiquities be able to arrive Thailand on 28 May 2021 safely and gracefully.
Special Agent in Charge David Prince congratulated Thailand for this occasion and thanked both Thai and US relevant agencies for their dedication and efforts to make the lintel case successful. He also emphasized that investigation on cultural property art and antiquities is one of the important mission of HSI. In these several years, HSI had investigated and repatriated more than 13,000 artefacts and antiquities to the rightful foreign governments, museums and art institutes. The repatriation of Thai lintels today ensured the commitment and cooperation of HSI to international communities.
The lintel from Nong Hong Sancutuary is hand carved with picture of Yama Deity, while the one from Khao Loan Sanctuary depicts Indra Deity on Kirtimukha or the glorious face. Both lintels are made from sandstone and are from Lopburi period (ancient Khmer arts period found in Thailand) dated back in 11th century. There are evident photos showing the lintels were previously installed as a part of architecture of the Nong Hong Sanctuary in Buriram Province and Khao Loan Sanctuary in Sa Kaew Province, respectively. It is believed that both of the sacred lintels were illegally exported from Thailand around 1960’s during Vietnam’s war.
The return of these antiquities holds great importance in terms of history, archeology, and culture to the Thai Government and the Thai people. The Royal Thai Consulate-General would like to express our gratitude and admiration to the work of relevant US agencies especially Homeland Security Investigation and Department of Justice for spending more than 3 years investigating and collecting relevant evidences, as well as coordinating closely with the Thai agencies and archeologists until the case were successfully closed. The close cooperation and partnership between the Thai and US agencies does reflect and ensure the cordial and longstanding relationships between the two countries.