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Stolen antiques go back to museum

Stolen antiques go back to museum

A

CACHE of ancient Buddhist artifacts, dating back to Angkor period, was

returned to the National Museum on May 13 after being seized by police from a

government army smuggling gang.

The 15 antiques, crafted in the 13th

Century included four stone lions, six stone and bronze statues and four giant

stone heads.

Police seized the artifacts after stopping an armored

personnel carrier (APC) heading towards the Thai border on July 25, said Ouk

Chan, vice-chief of the Department of Cultural Inheritance at the Ministry of

Culture and Arts.

"Police stopped the APC and after examination found the

statues' heads," one police official said.

He said 11 army personnel

were detained.

"They [army] smuggle goods without paying tax because they

have the guns and have protection from three star generals," said one former

Cambodian border trader.

Low wages, often not paid for several months

have led many in the armed forces and security police to be involved in

lucrative smuggling activities, one UN official said, asking not to be

named.

Police General Ma Chhoeun said antique sites had been destroyed in

the country's long war and this had led to opportunities to smuggle

antiquities.

He said the worst affected provinces were northwest Siem

Reap and Banteay Meanchey, northern Preah Vihear and central Kom-pong

Thom.

General Chhoeun said he wanted the government to enact laws to

deter cultural traffickers.-Reuters

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