Residents in Takeo province’s Angkor village have flocked to look for gold in a rice field behind the village after a villager tending cows found a gold bead, though authorities have cautioned against the gold rush, saying the area has archaeological significance.
Nob Dol, chief of Prek Phtorl commune, said a mass of villagers rushed to search for gold after the villager found the bead near a dike on his way home on Thursday.
“As I’ve heard, about seven people were lucky to find small beads of gold; some small, some big,” he said. “Some said they found up to [150 grams] of gold. There was also news that some found gold worth $1,000 to $2,000, but I did not see that.”
Officials from the provincial department of culture and fine arts went to the site and asked people to stop digging the field, Dol said. The owner of the rice field also sought help from authorities to halt the digging.
Phan Kheang, chief of administration for Angkor Borei district’s cultural office, said provincial officials already explained the Law on the Protection of National Heritage to the villagers, and they stopped digging.
“When the information spread, people went to dig the field,” he said. “But after the explanation from officials today, they stopped and the rice field owner pumped water” into the field.
The site is about 100 metres away from the gate of an ancient Angkorian site, Angkor Borei, and is about 2 kilometres away from Phnom Da mountain, where an ancient temple is located, according to local officials.
Meng Saktheara, spokesman for the Ministry of Mines and Engergy, said he wasn’t surprised to hear that villagers were rushing to find gold in that area. He said there was a similar story 10 to 15 years ago, when people found artefacts and confused them for gold.
He said the area is a historical archeological site.On the mountain, there are prospects for a mineral that has similar characteristics to gold, he added, but is not in fact the precious metal.
If people were digging in the village, it’s more likely to be an artefact, Saktheara said. Still, he added, the ministry needs to go inspect.
“Sometimes it’s just speculation,” he added.
Additional reporting by Yesenia Amaro