"An object of great cultural and historical significance has been returned to Cambodia by the Zelnik István Southeast Asian Gold Museum, Budapest, The inscribed 12th-century Khmer silver plate was donated to the National Museum of Phnom Penh by Dr István Zelnik. The director of the Cambodian UNESCO heritage site stated that the donation was a major highpoint in international cultural heritage protection.
Considerable international and Cambodian interest was focused on the donation ceremony in Phnom Penh on 15th December, during which Dr Istvan Zelnik of Hungary, founder of the Southeast Asian Gold Museum, Budapest, handed over the silver plate. It is inscribed in old Khmer and was donated in 1199 to the Banteay Chhmar sanctuary founded by the grandmother of Jayavarman VIIth, Cambodia's greatest sovereign.
The priceless artefact is considered unique by art historians, historians and ephigraphists because so few inscribed metal objects from the golden age of the Angkor Empire era have survived.
Dr Istvan Zelnik commented on how difficult it is to estimate the material value of a tarnished silver plate purchased in a flee market twenty years ago in Bangkok, because it is a unique object. Prior to the donation, the silver plate was scientifically analysed and its description published in four languages.
At the donation ceremony, this noble gesture was appreciated and its diplomatic and cultural importance emphasized by Oun Phalline, the director of the Phnom Penh National Museum, Anne Lemaistre, UNESCO’s Cambodian representative, Hab Touch, the Cambodian Government Heritage Minister, and general Lim Sokharaksmey, the leader of the National Heritage Protection Agency of the Cambodian Ministry of Internal Affairs. Hab Touch pointed out that it is rare for a collector to donate an item of such enormous intellectual and material value considering its cultural and historical significance.
This inscribed and gilded silver object is particularly valuable to Cambodia because its existence had been unknown to experts. The Director of UNESCO in Cambodia, Anne Lemaistre, emphasized that the donation is an outstanding event in international cultural heritage protection, to which Hungary's István Zelnik has made a significant contribution.
The Jayavarman VIIth gilded silver plate was exhibited in Budapest at the Zelnik Istvan Southeast Asian Gold Museum from Sept. 22 to Dec. 10. This singular work of art was also exhibited on 13th December at the 18th plenary session of the ICC (The International Coordinating Committee for the Protection and Development of the Historic Site of Angkor) and presented to representatives of the Cambodian government, Sok An Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Culture and Tourism to Cambodia, and other institutional leaders, as well as the ambassadors of 27 countries, including the President of the Guimet Museum in Paris."