Antiques shop raid nets loot stolen from Siem Reap pagoda

Undercover Heritage Protection officers detained two men

Published on 13 February 2013

Author(s): Phnom Penh Post/Kim Sarom and Danson Cheong

Type:  News Originally published 24 Jan 2013

A raid on a Phnom Penh antiquities shop yesterday uncovered artefacts stolen just weeks earlier from a Siem Reap pagoda.

Undercover Heritage Protection officers detained two men during the raid of a Toul Tom­pong commune souvenir shop, a joint operation by Siem Reap police and Heritage Protection police in Phnom Penh.

Brigadier Chey Rithy, deputy chief of the Heritage Protection police, said that the shop owner was not arrested, though his son was brought in for questioning at the Ministry of Interior along with another man, whom police declined to name. The pair was later released.

“The artefacts stolen included two bells, four wristlets, two rings, a Kav [ceremonial earrings] and two necklaces. All items were made from bronze,” said Doung Sokha, chief of the Siem Reap criminal police.

Two weeks ago, thieves absconded with $5,000 worth of antique ornaments from Siem Reap’s Wat Reach Bor in Sotr Nikum district.

Sokha said yesterday that only two wristlets, two rings, a necklace – a fraction of the 12 items stolen – were recovered in the raid.

The rest are still missing and police are actively searching for them, he said.

Police officers photograph artefacts that were seized yesterday at a shop in Phnom Penh. Photograph Vireak Mai-Phnom Penh Post.jpg
Police officers photograph artefacts that were seized yesterday at a shop in Phnom Penh. Photograph: Vireak Mai/Phnom Penh Post

The items were allegedly stolen by Rithy Sen, 20, who had asked to stay at the pagoda in December last year because he wanted to pursue the Dharma – the Buddhist path of righteousness – and become a monk. He has since been arrested.

Now with the National Museum, the recovered items will be inventoried, restored and en­tered into a national database, said Kong Vireak, the museum’s director. Following that, the items will be kept at the museum, he added.

Vireak said that local authorities in Siem Reap will soon meet with the venerable Chum Kemleng, chief of the Reach Bor pagoda, to find out if adequate protection can be provided for the remaining artefacts. If not, they will be brought to the Angkor Conservation Office for safe-keeping.

“We want those objects to be kept in the Angkor Conservation Office or transferred to the National Museum. Then they will be able to provide us with more information when they are studied,” he said.

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