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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.”

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