Kandal provincial court will this week summons five suspects held in detention since December 10 last year for a fresh round of questioning over relics stolen from Oudong Mountain last month, even as police said the investigation is now “quiet”.
Judge Lim Sokuntha said yesterday that he had no choice but to question them again after the investigation failed to determine the whereabouts of the missing artefacts.
Additionally, Sokuntha said, the court has issued a warrant allowing police to increase inspections at checkpoints and in known points in the movement of goods.
“[Since the discovery] the police have not found anything suspicious, because the relics are small and are hard to find,” he said.
In December, four security guards protecting the Royal Treasury on Oudong Mountain and one villager were arrested and charged with stealing an unknown number of relics – including an urn said to contain the ashes of the Buddha.
The theft led to allegations of corruption and several protests by monks and civilians who say the government and religious leaders should have taken more care to protect the sacred relics.
Provincial police chief Eav Chamroeun said that the investigation had not progressed, and was up to the judge at this point. “For police, we have followed the judge’s order, but it’s still quiet.”
The president of the Independent Monks Network for Social Justice, But Buntenh, said that he had planned to gather monks to march from Phnom Penh to Oudong Mountain in protest, but had to delay the march after the January 2 arrest of rights activists Vorn Pov and Theng Savoeun.
“We are a bit busy with that, but we still plan to march to Oudong with thousands of monks, because it’s the nation’s soul,” he said. “I think police and court are not working, they are busy arresting our rights activists, not finding the relics.”