The Apsara National Authority (ANA) experts began the work of moving a statue of a “guru riding a dragon” from underneath a fallen tree trunk near the Preah Indra Tep Pagoda to the south of Bayon Temple, ANA deputy director-general Kim Sothin said.

Sothin said that the statue was found by villagers under the tree that fell on September 28, and they reported it to the ANA promptly for inspection and removal for preservation. Shortly after receiving the information, the ANA’s experts arrived and put wood supports up to protect the statue from damage while they made plans to move it.

He added that the statue dates back to the Bayon period and is 90 cm wide and more than 1 m tall, with a weight that is presently unknown but it is very heavy and difficult to lift. After towing it away from the tree trunk, the experts can then examine it at the compound of the pagoda.

After the tree fell and the dragon statue appeared, some of the local villagers at the pagoda took this as a spiritual sign and had gone to light incense and candles nearby for worship.

“We towed this statue away from that spot first to take a good look at it and document it. We will ask the local grandmothers if they venerate the statue and want it to remain here and if they do then we will keep it for them here to use in their worship at the Preah Indra Tep pagoda,” he said.

Sothin added that the statue may have come from the Elephant Terrace because the same image is found in front of it. Upon examination, they noticed that the lower legs of the statue were chiselled through in a likely looting or attempted looting, making it difficult to locate the dragon’s body.

“We may not be able to find the dragon’s body because the lower part was chiselled away. It is not a broken stone face, which is easier for us to find because it is always attached to the dragon’s body,” he said.

ANA spokesman Long Kosal said on October 4 that some of the broken pieces of statues in the Angkor area had fallen to the ground or rested under trees, and past pieces of statues found included heads of devas, asuras and other mythical figures.

“This case is the same as at the Takao Gate at Angkor Thom. We can see that the Takao Gate has the statues of cows and Apsara along with devas pulling a rope in a tug-of-war, and we’ve lost a lot of the statues at first glance, but when we do excavations we tend to find all of the statues are hidden under the trees on the grounds,” he added.

The ANA notified the public and all tourists to remain vigilant when they exit and enter the Angkor Archaeological Park as Cambodia has experienced a great deal of rainfall and there is a low pressure system in effect that is likely to cause further storms.

The Angkor Archaeological Park has lately received heavy rainfall that is making the soil soggy. Strong winds have also caused some trees to collapse and affected the temples and potentially threatened the safety of some people and tourists.

“Under these challenging circumstances, we remind the public and tourists to exercise increased caution when visiting Angkor park. In particular, if it rains heavily, they should not take shelter or park under those trees to avoid any possible danger from falling branches,” the ANA said.

Separately, the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology announced on October 4 that rain will continue to fall from October 5-11 as a low pressure system (ITCZ) continued to move over Cambodia with a weak southwest monsoon wind causing it to intersect with the high pressure wings from northern China and the low pressure pushing up from below Cambodia.