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Concerns surround hunt for ‘treasure’

Concerns surround hunt for ‘treasure’

OPPOSITION lawmaker Mu Sochua has written to the Ministry of Interior to express concerns about reported plans by police and military personnel to plunder a Pailin province pagoda in search of hidden gold.

Alarm was raised earlier this month when monks from the Ratanak Sophoan pagoda, reportedly backed by thousands of villagers, blocked about 100 police and military personnel from digging at the site.

In a letter sent to the Ministry of Interior last week via National Assembly President Heng Samrin, the Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian accused Pailin provincial governor Y Chhean of ordering police and soldiers to conduct the dig. She also accused them of insulting and threatening the defiant monks.

“I would like the deputy prime minister (Minister of Interior Sar Kheng) to investigate and clarify about the incident related to the digging of buried treasure and prevent provincial authorities from using their power illegally,” the letter stated.

Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak ruled out any investigation yesterday but said he had spoken to Y Chhean and confirmed no further action would be taken by anyone seeking to loot the rumoured gold.

“This will not be allowed because it is a pagoda, and it is a separate place for worship,” he said. “Sometimes it’s just a rumour, and in the process of destroying the place they would get nothing.”

Many locals believe gold was buried beneath the pagoda by the Khmer Rouge shortly before its collapse in 1979.

Y Chhean could not be reached yesterday.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY MEAS SOKCHEA

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