Vietnamese wants to return relic to Cambodia

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A Vietnamese man has asked his government to help him return a rock statue to Cambodia, where he believes it originated.

Nguyen Thanh Phuc, 52, bought the 160-millimeter tall, 130-millimeter wide, 3.8-kilogram statue in 2011 from a friend in the southern resort town of Vung Tau for a price he did not reveal.

Previously, the friend had been in possession of the statue for nearly 40 years, Phuc told Tuoi Tre newspaper on June 26.

On Lunar New Year in 2012, Phuc displayed the statue in an exhibition held by the Center of Culture and Sports of Long Dien Town in Vung Tau.

"I then learned that the statue is valuable but does not belong to Vietnamese culture so I saw the need to return it to where it came from," Phuc said.

According to an appraisement released in August 2011 by Nguyen Gia Hien, director of the Research Center for Gemstone - Geology under the Vietnam General Association of Geology, the statue is of  "a Cambodian four-headed goddess in the Baphuon style and was created in the eighth century."

The grey rock statue was intricately carved to form the shape of the goddess, whose four heads face four different directions. The four faces of the goddess share a mutual "chignon" on top of the statue. On the chignon sits a six-petal apricot blossom, a Baphuon symbol.

Tran Van Triem, head of the heritage bureau of the Vung Tau Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism, said he had received Phuc's request, but he thought that it was not the department's duty to help him return the statue to Cambodia.

He added that the statue must be studied again if the department wants to help Phuc return it and therefore Phuc's request will likely be rejected.

Meanwhile, Tran Van Thong, director of the department, said he had not been informed of Phuc's request.

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