Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Oudong relics guards hit with fresh charges




Oudong relics guards hit with fresh charges

Four security guards believed to be involved in the theft of relics from Oudong Mountain
Four security guards believed to be involved in the theft of relics from Oudong Mountain sit at the Appeal Court in Phnom Penh yesterday morning before their hearing. Hong Menea

Oudong relics guards hit with fresh charges

Five people held in pre-trial detention for more than a year over stolen Buddhist relics from Oudong Mountain have been charged with theft by the Court of Appeal.

Yesterday’s ruling came despite charges against the group having been dropped by Kandal Provincial Court in October.

The five were arrested after a golden urn, said to contain remains of the Buddha, was among items stolen from Oudong Mountain on December 9, 2013. The men were charged after other statues stolen from Oudong were allegedly found in the home of Pha Sokhem, the chief security guard.

“We have recharged them with theft, because there is evidence, and we will transfer the case to the provincial court pending a trial,” presiding judge Seng Sivutha said yesterday.

Sivutha added that the five would have “no right to an appeal” to the Supreme Court, which legal expert Sok Sam Oeun said was not unheard of when a judge had ordered a case sent back to a lower court.

Police found the relics on February 6 at the home of 24-year-old Keo Reaksmey in Takeo province’s Traing district. Reaksmey was arrested along with gold seller Siek Sareth, 39, who was convicted of handling stolen property and sentenced to two and a half years on December 11.

Following the theft, Reaksmey had bought an expensive motorbike and car and begun handing out wads of cash to local children while dressed in white robes, locals said in February.

The five defendants – Sokhem, 60; Sieng Sarin, 60; Chom Phay, 58; Ka Sat, 46; and Kan Sopheak, 39 – were brought to court but arrived too late to hear the verdict, before being remanded into the custody of Kandal prison.

“I heard they transferred the case to the provincial court, and if we will have justice, I will be released, because I am innocent,” Sarin said.

Sopheak’s mother, Sey Ket, was upset by the decision after borrowing $5 to travel to the court from her Kandal province home yesterday. Her son allegedly brought wine for the guards to drink on the night of the theft, but she claimed he did not walk up the mountain.

“One cup of wine got him jailed for a year,” she said. “I’m damn miserable without my son’s income to support me. It’s very unfair.”

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY DANIEL PYE

MOST VIEWED

  • All inbound flights set to face added scrutiny

    Ministry of Health spokesperson Or Vandine said on Monday that the ministry is monitoring all inbound flights, after it was announced that only those from Malaysia and Indonesia will be temporarily cancelled from August 1. Vandine said on Monday that the two countries were identified as

  • Flights from Indonesia, Malaysia cancelled

    A Ministry of Health official has warned of the possibility of Covid-19 spreading through community transmission after the total infected cases in the Kingdom rose to 225. Ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine told reporters on Saturday that the possibility of community transmission cannot be overlooked and that

  • Man in quarantine dies of ‘overdose’

    The Ministry of Health on Thursday said a Cambodian migrant worker who died while being isolated at a quarantine centre in Tbong Khmum province’s Kroch Chhmar district may have died from syncope or overdose of tablets. In a statement, the ministry said the 21-year-old

  • Ministry set to reopen 20 schools in August

    The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport will allow 20 high-safety-standards schools to reopen next month despite new cases of Covid-19 in the country. Ministry spokesperson Ros Soveacha wrote in a Telegram message on Wednesday that the schools are in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Battambang.