Two suspects held over the theft of an urn thought to contain remains of the Buddha will be called for further questioning next week, the investigating judge in the case has said.
Lim Sokuntha, Kandal provincial court judge, indicated yesterday that Keo Reaksmey, 24, the prime suspect in the theft, would be called in for questioning after originally claiming that he acted alone.
“I will call the suspects to be questioned in the case again sometime next week. According to Reaksmey’s initial answers, he alone stole the urn,” Sokun said.
Reaksmey was arrested on Thursday along with Seak Saret, 39, a market gold trader in Takeo province’s Khvav commune, who is accused of receiving stolen property.
Sokuntha, responding to suggestions that the urn was a fake, yesterday said it was the original, but added that he was only taking the word of the deputy of the Buddhist sangha, Om Lim Heng, and had not had its authenticity verified independently.
Mok Chito, director of the Interior Ministry’s Central Justice Department, said on Monday that Reaksmey was obsessed by religious artefacts and had a history of theft, claims supported by testimony given to Post reporters in his home village of Kokoh on the same day.
The suspect also professed to be the brother of the sun, took to dressing in white robes and was viewed – albeit warily – as a friendly eccentric by locals.
Police also said on Monday that Reaksmey had driven to Oudong mountain on December 9 and used a hammer and screwdriver to break into the stupa where the artefacts were housed.
Judge Sokuntha said Reaksmey had tried to melt down the urn as well as 10 statues, but had cracked the urn in the process as it is made of platinum.
Traing district police are also hunting for a second suspect who fled the village after Reaksmey’s arrest, Traing district police chief Teang Maly said yesterday.
Sok Sam Oeun, director of the Cambodian Defenders Project, said: “I still wonder about this case . . . But I think that they don’t care [about the suspect’s mental health and access to counsel].”