The Ministry of Cults and Religion called on local authorities in Siem Reap province last week to suspend the construction of Vietnamese religious statues being built in Svay Leu district and move them to “legal temples”, officials said yesterday.
Ministry spokesman Seng Someny said that, upon receiving information about the “illegal” construction of the statues, Cults and Religion Minister Min Khin called on provincial officials to halt proceedings.
“They are sculptures, so His Excellency asked the provincial government to instruct [those building them] not to do this outside of pagodas or the legal religious areas, because where there is a god, there will be a pagoda,” he said.
“We would like them to bring the statues to the legal areas; we have agreed,” he added.
Svay Leu district police chief Sun Eng, who acted on the ministry’s orders on Thursday, said that a number of statues were found in a remote area in Kantuot commune, including one, at 1.2 metres tall, depicting goddess Preah Neang Kung Siim.
The religious statues, which locals attribute to a group of ethnic Vietnamese, were constructed and placed in a wooden house in the area without the knowledge of local authorities.
“It is in a far-flung area in a village that has just been created in the forest, so they built the statues secretly, but we have already cracked down and suspended [construction],” Eng said.
Khim Bunsong, Siem Reap’s provincial governor, could not be reached for comment yesterday.
In recent months, the ministry has also launched an investigation into the alleged unlawful construction of Vietnamese shrines on Kampot province’s Bokor Mountain.