Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Buddha relic at palace: gov’t

Buddha relic at palace: gov’t

Buddha relic at palace: gov’t

A golden urn police maintain was the one stolen from Oudong mountain in December – sparking a furore and police investigation – was taken to the Royal Palace on Friday, police have said.

Deputy Prime Minister Kong Sam Ol on Friday transported the relics – said to contain remains of the Buddha – from Kandal province’s Mony Sovann pagoda to the palace, where officials yesterday said it would remain until being returned to Oudong “at an appropriate time according to the Buddha”, the national police said in an online statement.

The golden urn sits on a table in front of a monk at a police station in Kandal province last week
The golden urn sits on a table in front of a monk at a police station in Kandal province last week. Photo Supplied

Two suspects arrested late last week were sent to Kandal provincial jail to await trial over the weekend.

Keo Reaksmey, 24, suspected of stealing the urn and a number of gold-plated Buddha statues, was apprehended with Siek Sareth, 39, a gold buyer in Takeo province’s Traing district, on Thursday.

Reaksmey was sent to prison on Friday on theft charges and Sareth on Saturday on charges of receiving stolen goods, Lim Sokuntha, Takeo provincial judge, told the Post yesterday.

“We have decided to send them to the provincial prison pending further investigation. There are seven people in jail related to stealing the relics,” he said.

Reaksmey’s arrest late last week uncovered a number of golden Buddha artefacts as well as the urn, according to police.

He melted down the gold from some 10 Buddha statues, to sell to Sareth at the local market, alleged Eav Chamroeun, Kandal provincial police chief.

Police yesterday continued to paint a picture of Reaksmey as a criminal who dreamed of the luxuries in life.

Chamroeun said Reaksmey was a beggar who was well-known in the community before the relics were stolen on December 10. But after the relics went missing, he bought a brand-new Korean car and built a new house.

“He did not allow his grandma to beg for money [since the theft] and bought a Korean car series 2014, built a house and he became rich so fast,” he said yesterday, adding that Reaksmey had been jailed twice before, once for stealing cattle and a second time for dangerous driving leading to a fatality.

Four security guards and a villager were arrested following the robbery in December. The five men were later sent to prison to await trial on charges of theft. When police searched chief security guard Pha Sokhem’s house, they found a number of Buddhist artefacts thought to have been taken from the mountain in 2010.

The five additional suspects “remain the targets for future investigation”, Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng said on Friday.

Ven Om Lim Heng, a senior monk, had identified the urn as authentic, police said, but the authentication was not enough to satisfy But Buntenh, president of the Independent Monks Network for Social Justice, who said the urn produced by police was different to the one he saw transported by the late King Norodom Sihanouk to Oudong mountain in 2002.

Police announced yesterday they will hold a press conference this morning to explain how the urn was verified as the one stolen in December.

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