Authorities in Kampong Chhnang took down two Vietnamese religious statues on Tuesday that had appeared overnight, after it was discovered their base was made of bricks allegedly stolen from two ancient temples.
The statues appeared on a small hill in front of a Vietnamese monastery in Boribor district’s Chhnok Trou commune, close to Bros Temple and Srey Temple.
Chhnok Trou commune chief Somrith Pheng yesterday called the unlicensed building and use of the bricks a serious crime and demanded justice.
“It is an act that looks down on the national culture and religion of Cambodian people; they had to be pulled down and the culprits must be arrested and punished,” he said.
Authorities charged with removing the statues, however, took less aggressive action, and simply placed the figures in the monastery so that people from the local Vietnamese community could continue to worship them.
Members of that community reportedly told authorities they suspect a Vietnamese monk known as “Thanh” was responsible for the construction.
They said Thanh had lived in the area since mid-2013, but had vanished since the statues appeared.
Authorities said they had noticed bricks gradually going missing from the temples since 2013.
“After we pulled it down we found 96 bricks [from the temples],” said Thorng Channa, who works in conserving the ancient structures.
The treatment of the statues marks a departure from more aggressive acts carried out against constructions considered to be Vietnamese elsewhere in the country this year.
Last month, an unlicensed religious statue was demolished in Siem Riep province, while in April locals in Siem Riep burned down an archway built for Khmer New Year.
Both were said to have Vietnamese designs.