Nine villagers were arrested yesterday for attempting to harvest and sell soil from a nationally protected site near Phnom Dei, a sacred pond in Oddar Meanchey province.
Local residents tipped off the director of the provincial Department of Culture and Fine Arts, Hong Yeoun, who accompanied Heritage Police to the site located in Samrong district.
A crackdown was necessary to deter any future digging at the site, provincial police officer Ham Phirum said.
“They can’t dig in a heritage area; it’s illegal,” he said.
During questioning by police, the suspects said they had no idea the site was protected and only intended to sell the soil.
“The ancient hill is priceless. The villagers don’t understand the land’s value. You can’t sell it for 5,000 riel per truck,” Yeoun said, calling this the first reported digging incident at the site.
According to the police, the suspects were taken to the provincial police station for questioning, and experts have begun educating the community on the site’s historical value.