Hundreds of people have virtually destroyed the ruins of an ancient Khmer temple in Kampot province in a fruitless search for a fabled golden bridge, provincial officials said Sunday.
Locals have swarmed the Kompong Trach district temple, which has laid in ruins since before French colonial rule. They were tricked by “soldiers and businessmen” who were searching for artifacts, Kampot Governor Ly Sou said Sunday. The speculators had circulated a rumor of a “golden bridge” buried under the temple, in an effort to elicit local workers to help dig for artifiacts and to confuse authorities, Ly Sou said.
“They dug at it day and night,” he said. “They got nothing from their dig for five days.”
He said he ordered district officials to stop the digging on May 8, fearing “large-scale disaster” for the temple. Police are now standing guard to prevent people from doing any more damage, he said.
“We [still] have to protect it,” Ly Sou said of the ruins. “Even if it has no more structure, we need to keep the remaining ground and stones” intact.
Police have made one arrest related to the digging, a man identified only as “Dran,” a district police official said.