Search

Search form

Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Between a stone and a hard place

Between a stone and a hard place

Between a stone and a hard place

Nearly 200 families in Preah Vihear didn’t realise that by settling for a buyout from an extractive industry firm, they may have also discarded their religious site.

The Rovieng district families, many of whom are Kuoy indigenous minorities, are demanding mining company TPB-TV Development return the village’s worshipping stone, a giant boulder they call Nakta Leurng (yellow statue) that disappeared two weeks ago.

“Since we were born, we saw the statue there, and we always worshipped and set up the ritual ceremony there every year. But the company stole it,” said Pen Sokngim, 55.

The metre-high sandstone boulder contained in its centre a carving of a man’s head and torso, community members said. Local officials said they were unable to date the sculpture or verify its authenticity without seeing the relic.

Over the past few years, the villagers accepted compensation of between $1,500 and $3,500 per hectare to relocate from a 5,000-hectare spread that included the worshipping area, Sokngim said. TPB-TV was granted a licence to drill for marble last year.

“The company cleared everything, even our sacred place, and they took the statue. Now we have no place for setting up our ceremony,” said villager Sreng Simthorn, 60.

The villagers said they hadn’t dared relocate the stone after selling the land due to an incident 10 years ago when they had tried to build a shelter for it. According to village lore, the stone’s spirit possessed the builder and told him to abandon the project.

While land laws protect monasteries and other Buddhist sites, they are vaguer about non-Buddhist religious areas. But rights group Adhoc insisted yesterday that the company return the holy stone.

“The company has only the right to explore and mine, but it has no right to remove a valuable thing like this,” Adhoc coordinator Lor Chann said.

Kim Sophin, director of TPB-TV Development, denied the statue’s existence and said there was no temple in that area.

RECOMMENDED STORIES

  • Breaking: PM says prominent human rights NGO ‘must close’

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has instructed the Interior Ministry to investigate the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) and potentially close it “because they follow foreigners”, appearing to link the rights group to the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party's purported “revolution”. The CNRP - the

  • Rainsy and Sokha ‘would already be dead’: PM

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Sunday appeared to suggest he would have assassinated opposition leaders Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha had he known they were promising to “organise a new government” in the aftermath of the disputed 2013 national elections. In a clip from his speech

  • Massive ceremony at Angkor Wat will show ‘Cambodia not in anarchy’: PM

    Government officials, thousands of monks and Prime Minister Hun Sen himself will hold a massive prayer ceremony at Angkor Wat in early December to highlight the Kingdom’s continuing “peace, independence and political stability”, a spectacle observers said was designed to disguise the deterioration of

  • PM tells workers CNRP is to blame for any sanctions

    In a speech to workers yesterday, Prime Minister Hun Sen pinned the blame for any damage inflicted on Cambodia’s garment industry by potential economic sanctions squarely on the opposition party. “You must remember clearly that if the purchase orders are reduced, it is all