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Angkor tomb raider nabbed by police

A MAN suspected of illegally gathering ancient artefacts from a compound at Angkor Wat was sent to Siem Reap provincial court on Wednesday, Heritage Police officials said.

"We sent him to the provincial court already, but we don't know how long it will be until the court charges him," said Li Hok Seng, a deputy director of the Heritage Police.

Chea Sophart, also a deputy director of the Heritage Police, said Sunday the 34-year-old Banteay Meanchey man identified only as Ryn was arrested while using an electric-powered machine to collect artefacts about 400 metres northeast of Takeo temple on Sunday.

Police quoted Ryn as saying that on 10 previous occasions he had collected statues and other artefacts from the Banteay Chhmar temple compound in Banteay Meanchey province, which he sold to Thai clients.  

"We always allow our Heritage Police to check the forest every two days because we are afraid that we'll have people gathering ancient artefacts," said Li Hok Seng.

Pheoung Chindareth, head of Penal Police in Siem Reap, said an investigation into a suspected gang of artefact thieves was now under way and that it wasn't the first case of thievery at the temple.

"At present, we still have people who are illegally trafficking ancient artefacts, but we haven't found them yet," he added.  

According to Chea Sophart, Ryn could face a prison term of between one and three years if convicted.

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