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USNS Mercy To Deliver Antiquities to Cambodia

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS100420-27

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Joshua Martin, Navy Public Affairs Support Element West

SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- Three Cambodian antiquities were delivered to hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) April 15 in San Diego, after being recovered by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents.

The recovered items, including an intricately carved bas-relief sandstone sculpture and a sandstone bust and torso, were estimated by archaeologists to have been created between 1000-1500 A.D.

"I am happy to be able to facilitate the return of these antiquities to the people of Cambodia," said Matthew Bush, Mercy's chief mate, a civil service mariner. "It's a privilege to be a part of our continuing good relations with the Cambodian people."

The sculptures have both historical and religious significance, and their return to Cambodia is especially noteworthy. The items were smuggled to Thailand and then to India, where they were intercepted by Indian authorities and delivered to the United States. The U.S. Customs Service and Border Protection Agency estimates the total antiquity black market trade to be $10 billion annually.

A cooperative effort between the U.S. Navy, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency made the delivery to Mercy possible.

The items will be returned by Mercy to Cambodia this summer during the ship's involvement in Pacific Partnership 2010.

Looting remains an issue of national concern for Cambodia, but the return of the artifacts will be a highlight of Pacific Partnership 2010.

Mercy's mission in Pacific Partnership 2010 is aimed at strengthening regional relationships with host and partner nations in Southeast Asia and Oceania. It is designed to enhance these relationships through medical, dental, veterinary and engineering outreach projects that reinforce the mutually supporting roles between participants. Pacific Partnership also improves the ability of the U.S. and regional countries to prepare for and better respond to disasters, such as pandemic illness, typhoons, earthquakes and tsunamis.

While Mercy's shipboard hospital is staffed by Navy medical personnel, the ship is maintained by about 70 federally employed civilian mariners like Bush.

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