The Authority for the Protection and Management of Angkor and the Region of Siem Reap (APSARA) is cooperating with the police in their efforts to arrest a New Zealand national who allegedly knocked over a 26-year-old Buddha statue at Bayon temple in Siem Reap province, according to an official statement from the organisation.
Apsara, which manages Angkor Wat and the surrounding ruins, said in the statement that a tuk-tuk driver filed a complaint with heritage police on Thursday after his customer, the suspect, did not return to the vehicle to pay him.
Heritage police tracked down the woman inside the complex, asked her for her nationality and age, and told her to leave. The next day, restoration workers found the 1-metre sandstone statue, created as a replica in 1988, broken into four pieces, and sent it to be repaired.
Police concluded that since the woman was, to their knowledge, the only person who stayed past the 5:30pm closing, and since she can no longer be found, she must be the culprit.
“Apsara and heritage police will look to arrest the suspect who destroyed the heritage statue for praying and put [her] in jail according to the law,” the statement said.
Im Sokrithy, a communications officer for Apsara, said that after further investigations, the group determined that the woman left Cambodia via the Poipet border on her way to Thailand.
“We are sorry that our statue is damaged. Now we are studying to repair it,” he said.
This is the second time in recent months that authorities have had to confront damage at the ancient temples, which draw millions of tourists from around the world every year.
In August, a South Korean student travelling with a tour group posed for a photo with a statue near the Bayon temple, knocking the statue’s replica head to the ground. No one was seriously injured.
Due to widespread looting in the area during the colonial period and over decades of modern warfare, the Angkorian temples are filled with replicas.