In separate incidents this month, two bronze, century-old Buddhas were stolen from pagodas under the cover of darkness. The weighty statues were removed from two different pagodas in neighboring Takeo and Kandal provinces.
In an early morning heist on Tuesday, a bronze Buddha—which villagers said weighed 200 kg and police said weighed only 60 kg—was removed from Kork Kak pagoda in Kandal Stung district, Kandal province around 2 am.
“The thief must have had heavy equipment…to destroy the temple’s steel door,” said Saing Saren, district religion department chief.
Bun Theng, Kandal Stung district governor, criticized the pagoda’s monks for their lax protection of the Buddha and for neglecting to report the theft immediately.
Meanwhile, police suggested that the statue may have already left the country.
“It is hopeless to find the statue now, he’s gone…. It is very hard to investigate because the pagoda committee and chief monk filed late reports,” said Tam Vay, deputy Kandal provincial police chief.
The statue’s disappearance was the second such theft this month, following the removal on May 3 of a 60-kg Buddha from a pagoda in Bati district, Takeo province.
Ang Soeung pagoda’s chief monk, 67-year-old Huon Man, said the bronze statue, which had sat in the pagoda his entire life, was stolen on the night of Visaka Bochea, or Buddha’s birthday.
Huon Man said that until this week the pagoda had not received any reports from police.
Nou Sangwa, Takeo provincial police chief, said his department only just became aware of the theft. “I did not believe that Buddhist statues made of bronze were still in pagodas,” he said. “In Pol Pot’s time they were all destroyed.”