SAN FRANCISCO—On Tuesday, May 25, two Thai lintels from the 10th and 11th centuries were turned over to Thai officials after being housed in the San Francisco Asian Art Museum since the 1960s. The religious artifacts were illegally taken from a religious temple in Thailand and exported to the U.S. where they were donated to the art museum.
On October 27, 2020, the United States government filed a complaint against the city of San Francisco and the San Francisco Asian Art Museum to forfeit the two lintels over to the U.S. This resulted after the United States learned that the two 1,500 pound relics were stolen in 2017. One of the lentils is from the Nong Hong Sanctuary and the other from the Khao Loan Sanctuary in Thailand.
“It is believed that both of the sacred lintels were illegally exported from Thailand around 1960’s during Vietnam’s war”, according to the official statement released by Thailand officials. The relics were donated to the SF Asian Art Museum. On February 10, the city of San Francisco & the art museum agreed to turn over the lintels. “The United States is committed to returning stolen relics to nations seeking to preserve their heritage”, said U.S. Attorney General David L. Anderson.
The lintels were given back with a ceremony being held between Thai & U.S. officials. Thai officials also extended gratitude to Homeland Security Investigation and Royal Thai Consulate-General in Los Angeles for making the handover ceremony happen.
“The return of these antiquities holds great importance in terms of history, archeology, and culture to the Thai Government and the Thai people,” stated Thailand officials.