Thieves allegedly broke into Wat Ounalom in Phnom Penh early Tuesday morning and stole five gold statues valued at more than $20,000, as well as a pair of elephant tusks and an urn, estimated to be more than 100 years old, pagoda secretary Sie Pheara said Wednesday.
Sie Pheara said the thieves gained access to the temple at about 1 a.m. by prying open a locked window, breaking the steel bars and then smashing the glass.
Sie Pheara said there were no guards inside the temple, and two monks who were asleep below the temple heard nothing. “We don’t allow people to stay up there because in there we only allow…special guests to visit,” he said.
The theft comes about three months after the country’s only relics of the Buddha were stolen from a royal stupa on Oudong mountain in Kandal province causing outrage among some in the monkhood who accused the government of incompetence.
Police in February arrested a Takeo province farmer, Keo Reaksmey, and accused him of the theft after recovering some of the items stolen from Oudong.
Phnom Penh Municipal Court Judge Lim Sokuntha said Wednesday that he was not sure when Mr. Reaksmey would be sent to court. “We don’t know when to schedule a hearing in the Oudong case, as we have to investigate this more,” he said.