Gold-Digging Villagers Search KR Gravesite

Hundreds of Kampot province villagers have been digging for jewelry and other valuables for four days at a gravesite in Chhuk district where many bodies were buried during the Khmer Rouge regime, police said Monday.

Villagers flocked to the 1-hectare plot of land after a group of Vietnamese officials seeking soldiers missing in action un­earth­ed three bodies from the site four days ago, said Nak Dy, police chief for Trapaing commune.

“Several hundred villagers are digging up all over the gravesite for gold left over from the de­ceased people. They found so little,” he said, adding that a gold ring was the only valuable discovered at the site.

Nak Dy said local authorities tried to prevent the villagers from digging, but the masses of people could not be controlled.

“We tried to stop the people, but they are still digging. Now, we have collected the bones for use in a Buddhist ceremony,” he said.

The Vietnamese officials also did not find the bodies of Vietnamese soldiers that they had been hoping for, he said.

“They found only Cambodian bodies scattered at the gravesite,” he said.

Several hundred villagers were buried at the site in Sre Leav village, where they had been digging a dam during the Khmer Rouge time, he said, adding that those buried had either been killed or died of starvation and exhaustion.

Trinh Ba Cam, spokesman for the Vietnamese Embassy, said Vietnamese officials had been looking for the remains of soldiers in recent years and usually contacted local authorities di­rectly in planning their search missions.

But he added that he had no information about Vietnamese officials digging in Chhuk.

Local farmer Srey Boy, who owns the land in question, said he also tried unsuccessfully to stop the villagers from digging but ultimately didn’t have too many objections because the land was not being used.


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