Police from the Ratanakkiri provincial crime unit and those from Banlung and Veun Sei districts have detained three suspects for their alleged involvement in stealing holy statues and other ancient artefacts from a pagoda.
Ratanakkiri deputy provincial police chief Phen Dina told The Post that about three weeks ago, a collection of holy statues and copper artefacts were stolen from the Hat Pak pagoda, in Veun Sei’s Hat Pak commune.
Included in the list of stolen items were three copper Buddha statues, six copper gongs, a copper buffalo statue, three copper chicken statues, and other similar items as well as a motorbike.
Dina said his team identified a suspect on Tuesday, and along with Ban Lung city police officers arrested Lay Syvantha, 33, who lives in La Banseak commune in Banlung city. A raid of his house turned up all the missing relics.
“Upon questioning, Syvanthat claimed he bought the artefacts from two men who live in his village,” Dina said, adding that he offered $20,000 for the haul but ended up giving them only $2,000.
On Wednesday, Dina ordered Veun Sei police to pick up the other two suspects – Morn Chantha and Khoun Ka, both 18, for questioning.
“During the interrogation, the two confessed that they stole the artefacts after Syvantha promised $20,000. However, he gave them only $2,000 after discovering the items were made of copper,” Dina said.
He said police will send all three suspects to Ratanakkiri provincial court on Thursday morning for further legal action.