A band of thieves armed with AK-47 rifles stormed a pagoda in Kandal province’s Ang Snuol district and stole a 40-kilogram bronze Buddha statue Tuesday night, police said yesterday.
The half dozen thieves arrived in a white pick-up truck just before midnight and headed straight for a house on the grounds of Prey Pouch pagoda that held the 50-cm high tall statue, said Prey Pouch commune police chief Ket Kosal.
“A group of AK bandits shouted threats at the monks who were in their rooms not to come out or they would be shot to death,” he said. “The monks were afraid of the robbers shooting them, so they stayed in their rooms until the statue was robbed.”
The thieves apparently entered the house after dissolving the door locks with acid, he said. The quick and coordinated actions of the thieves left few clues behind, he said, adding the investigation was also hampered because the monks took 30 minutes to call police.
The statue itself has a storied history at the pagoda, Mr Kosal said. A monk found it buried in a rice field during the Khmer Rouge regime and kept it hidden until 1980s, when it was brought to Prey Pouch pagoda, he said, adding that he did not know its age or monetary value.
Touch Phun, the commune chief, expressed shock at the robbery.
“It’s social anarchy that the robbers turned to a pagoda for a robbery,” he said. “I feel worry, fear and insecurity that even a pagoda can be robbed.”
Men Makara, the provincial Adhoc coordinator, the case shows that more security is needed at a pagoda that holds valuable statues.
“Authorities must work hard on this robbery case in the pagoda. It is terrible that a cultural ancient statue was robbed because shows our ancestors’ achievement,” he said.