Bail Granted in Alleged Heritage Violation Case

The Kompong Chhnang Provin­cial Court granted bail last week to five men arrested in March while allegedly erecting a mobile phone tower on the site of a Pre-Ang­korian temple, officials said.

On March 15, police arrested four of the men for allegedly constructing an antenna for Camshin mobile telephone company, which operates the 011 telephone service, directly on the grounds of the Kompong Preah temple in Boribor district.

Kompong Chhnang Provincial Court Prosecutor Penh Vibol said the suspects’ release did not signal the end of the investigation into the alleged violation of Cambodia’s heritage protection law.

“Our court is seeking the arrest of some others involved with this case,” he said by telephone Monday.

Thai engineer Vuthy Van, 31, and interpreter Yeng Vanmorm, 40, were released ahead of trial May 28. The following day, the court released bulldozer drivers Tit Hoklim, 24, and Sin Bonat, 30, as well as Pen Pith, 72, a layman from a pagoda adjacent to the temple who allegedly gave the Camshin employees permission to build on the site, Penh Vibol said.

Camshin officials could not be reached for comment Monday evening.

Still scarring the temple site are four 2.5-square-meter, 3-meter-deep holes, one of which sliced directly into the temple foundation, said Penh Vibol. Historians consider the 9th-century temple to be one of the most important and best-preserved Pre-Angkorian temples in the country.

Penh Vibol declined to say who paid the suspects’ bail or how much was paid.

The Ministry of Culture has asked Camshin to cover the costs of restoring the temple and asked the court to fine the mobile phone operator, said Chuch Phoeurn, secretary of state in charge of heritage.

The men could face up to eight years in jail under the heritage protection law, which forbids building within 300 meters of a protected site, Chuch Phoeurn said.

In March, Camshin claimed they had permission to build from local and national officials.

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