Five men who have been imprisoned without trial since December over the theft of purported relics of the Buddha from Odong Mountain will be either indicted or released by the end of the month, a court official said.
The five men—including four security guards hired to protect the relics—were thrown in Kandal Provincial Prison shortly after the relics were stolen from inside a $4.5 million stupa at the top of Odong. They have repeatedly professed their innocence.
Lim Sokuntha, investigating judge at the Kandal Provincial Court, declined Tuesday to give details of his investigation but said that he would make a decision on whether to send the men to trial by the end of August.
“I am very busy with other cases, this is not my only case,” the judge said. “We will know more about this case by the end of the month and whether to send them to trial or be released.”
Pressed for more details, he said, “It would not be professional to speak about whether they will be tried or released.”
A number of dates named by Judge Sokuntha in similar fashion have come and gone since the men were arrested and charged with the theft in mid-December. They have now been in provisional detention for nearly eight months.
The five detained men are security guards Chorm Thai, 57; Sieng Sarin, 58; and Ka Sak, 46; chief of security Pha Sokhem, 59, and mototaxi driver Kann Sopheak, 39.
The relics were found in the home of Takeo farmer Keo Reaksmey in February and are now being kept at the Royal Palace. Mr. Reaksmey, who police officials have said was the sole culprit behind the theft, remains in prison.
Tim Ton, the chief security guard at the Buddhist stupa at the top of Odong Mountain, said Tuesday that the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts had begun maintenance on the mountaintop stupa that was damaged in the heist.
“Maybe when they finish the repairs, they will bring the Buddha relics back to be held in the stupa.”