Court Releases Men in Fake Statues Case

Kompong Thom provincial court officials released three men on Wednesday who were arrested on Monday with seven statues that were thought to be stolen ancient relics, but turned out to be fakes, officials said.

“We only educated them and freed them today, as they are not involved in something illegal,” said Say Nora, a deputy provincial prosecutor.

Mr. Nora added that all seven statues, which were confiscated for inspection, belonged to the group’s friend, who lived in Preah Vihear province.

“We confiscated them to study how people make fake [ancient] statues, as we continue to fight against the looting of our ancient statues,” Mr. Nora said.

Deputy provincial police chief Keo Phanara identified the released men as Mao Narith, 36; Nhien Nel, 47; and Chor Hiet, 46, and said they were all known to trade in ancient artifacts.

But he said they were released in the latest case after specialists at the Ministry of Culture in Phnom Penh analyzed the statues in question and determined they were merely replicas.

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