More than 100 monks marched through the capital yesterday, demanding the government do more to recover Buddha relics stolen last week.
The protesters walked from Freedom Park to the Royal Palace, carrying banners that read: “The government and all the hierarchy of monk clergy have to take responsibility for the loss of the Buddha relics. Corruption breeds theft.”
An unspecified number of statues as well as a golden urn said to contain cremated ashes of Buddha were taken from a stupa at Oudong Mountain sometime on Thursday and have not yet been found.
“I am extremely sad for the loss of Buddha relics, which is a treasure giving prosperity, happiness and power to our beloved Cambodia,” Prince Norodom Ranariddh, president of the Supreme Council of the King, said in a statement issued Monday.
The relics were brought to Cambodia from Sri Lanka in 1957 by the late King Norodom Sihanouk to commemorate the 2,500th anniversary of Buddha’s birth.
“Since the heist of the Buddha relics, there has been no reaction from Cambodian monk officials,” said the Venerable But Buntenh, leader of the Independent Monks Network, as demonstrators gathered outside Chaktomuk Theater yesterday.
Representatives from the Ministry of Religion came to talk with the monks, but the protesting crowd chanted over the negotiations, “You say you are working on it, but you have to show a clear statement or we will not believe you,” demonstrators called out.
“The government has requested the board of monks stay quiet, because the government is working on this,” said Venerable Khim Sorn, the Phnom Penh municipal director of monks. He assuaged the protesters by promising that a letter on behalf of the monks would be sent to the government.Thirteen people were initially detained in connection with the missing Buddha relics, five of them, including four stupa guards, were charged on Sunday.
“We still do not have any evidence about the loss, [but] we are continuing the search,” said Mok Chito, director of the Ministry of Interior’s Department of Central Justice Police.