What we would consider the middle classes of the USA probably consists of about 173 million people (maybe 55% of the population). While rednecks, hillbillies and hobos are not very likely to be concerned about doing right by the cultural heritage, one would expect there to be a goodly few million US citizens who give such issues at least a passing thought. To judge from the present showing on the Regulations.gov website concerning the upcoming Cambodia MOU Extension, you'd be wrong. There are a stunning seven public responses there this morning. Seven. Seven people in the whole world care enough to pen a comment - and they include people writing from Australia and London, and another is attacking the Cambodians and Heritage Watch.
Docket ID: DOS-2012-0063
Miriam Stark, University of Hawai'i-Manoa
Joyce White, UPenn
Lia Genovese, SOAS University of London.
Dougald O'Reilly, Heritage Watch
Helen Jessup, Friends of Khmer Culture
Peter Tompa lobbyist on behalf of importing dealers in dugups
So, where are the rest of the decent folk of America? What about all those collectors passionately interested in preserving the past and opposed to looting? Are they advocates of trying to curb illegal exports too? The AIA and SAFE and other preservationist groups over there (there ARE some, aren't there?), do their members need a vigorous push each time to get their typing digits on keyboards? People of Cambodian descent now living in the USA?
To look at this you might well wonder why the structure of the CPAC includes representatives of "the public" when a showup like this suggests that (unless ancient coins are involved), the US public in general in fact has not the slightest interest in what its government is up to on the cultural property front. A lot of money could be saved by writing a could-not-care-less "the public" out of the CCPIA and just leaving the two groups represented here, academics and dealers, to slog it out in the CPAC.
Closing date for comments just a few days away (Feb 6th 2013, 11:59 ET). Comments ought to refer to 19USC 2602.
UPDATE 5/2/13 A mind-boggling TWELVE public comments, almost all from the universities (unrepresented as such on CPAC). The "Southeast Asian Archaeology Newsblog" is (rather belatedly I would have thought) running a story: "Urgent Appeal: Support the safeguarding of Cambodia's heritage" posted only today.
Vignette: The two statues knocked-off from this monumental group are currently in the US, one of the pair arrived only recently and still the CPAC are debating whether or not import controls will help curb the movement of illicit artefacts (Chasing Aphrodite)