CACHE of ancient Buddhist artifacts, dating back to Angkor period, was
returned to the National Museum on May 13 after being seized by police from a
government army smuggling gang.
The 15 antiques, crafted in the 13th
Century included four stone lions, six stone and bronze statues and four giant
Police seized the artifacts after stopping an armored
personnel carrier (APC) heading towards the Thai border on July 25, said Ouk
Chan, vice-chief of the Department of Cultural Inheritance at the Ministry of
Culture and Arts.
"Police stopped the APC and after examination found the
statues' heads," one police official said.
He said 11 army personnel
"They [army] smuggle goods without paying tax because they
have the guns and have protection from three star generals," said one former
Cambodian border trader.
Low wages, often not paid for several months
have led many in the armed forces and security police to be involved in
lucrative smuggling activities, one UN official said, asking not to be
Police General Ma Chhoeun said antique sites had been destroyed in
the country's long war and this had led to opportunities to smuggle
He said the worst affected provinces were northwest Siem
Reap and Banteay Meanchey, northern Preah Vihear and central Kom-pong
General Chhoeun said he wanted the government to enact laws to
deter cultural traffickers.-Reuters