Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Stolen items unclear

Stolen items unclear

A monk prays outside a stupa at Oudong Mountain in December
A monk prays outside a stupa at Oudong Mountain in December. Authorities are investigating the theft of artefacts from the site. Heng Chivoan

Stolen items unclear

More than a week after thieves robbed a stupa at Oudong Mountain containing relics believed to contain the remains of Buddha himself, Kandal Provincial Court said yesterday that it still had yet to receive a full accounting from the Ministry of Culture of precisely what was stolen.

Judge Lim Sokuntha said yesterday that his lack of certainty over exactly what objects were missing was hindering his ability to search for the appropriate charges to be assigned to the stupa robbery.

“Tomorrow [Friday], I will send another letter to the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts to write down the history of the mountain, and tell me what has really been lost. All I know is that some relics are lost,” Sokuntha said.

“I want to know whether the lost things are sacred to the nation, or if they have other meanings, because that will help me to look at the laws and decide if we keep the same charge of theft, or change [the charges].”

Five people are now in detention over their alleged involvement: Pha Sokhem, the head of the stupa’s security guards, whose house was found to contain some ancient artefacts when it was searched; security guards Ka Sat, Seang Sarin and Chom Thai; and villager Kann Sopheak, who drank with the guards on the night in question.

The five are now facing charges of aggravated theft, and are due to be questioned further today, Sokuntha said.

He also added yesterday that he had also issued a warrant to “all national police throughout the country” on Wednesday, asking them to aid in the recovery of the artefacts, rather than leaving the matter to
judicial investigators, as would usually be the case.

“I issued a warrant for police to help the court to prevent the export of suspicious artefacts at some borders,” he said. “They can confiscate things if there is any doubt about them. We need police to cooperate, because it’s a national issue.”

MOST VIEWED

  • Stock photo agencies cash in on Khmer Rouge tragedy
    Stock-photo companies selling images from S-21 raises ethics concerns

    A woman with short-cropped hair stares directly into the camera, her head cocked slightly to the side. On her lap is a sleeping infant just barely in the frame. The woman was the wife of a Khmer Rouge officer who fell out of favour, and

  • US think tank warns of China's 'ulterior motives'

    A US think tank on Tuesday warned that spreading Chinese investment in the Indo-Pacific follows a pattern of leveraging geopolitical influence at the expense of the nations receiving investment, including Cambodia. The report looks at a sample of 15 Chinese port development projects, noting that the

  • Defence Ministry denies weapons in smuggling case came from Cambodia

    After a Thai national was arrested last week for allegedly smuggling guns from Cambodia to Thailand, Cambodia's Defence Ministry has claimed the weapons seized during the arrest are not used in Cambodia, despite the fact that both types of rifle seized are commonly found in

  • More than three tonnes of ivory reportedly bound for Cambodia seized in Mozambique

    A total of 3.5 tonnes of ivory reportedly bound for Cambodia was seized by authorities in Mozambique late last week, according to the NGO Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). CITES' information was based on a report from the