Grave Looters Still Supplying Steady Demand

The looting of ancient graves in Banteay Meanchey and Oddar Meanchey provinces is continuing un­abated, several police and government officials said Sunday.

Yorth Ray, deputy police chief of Banteay Meanchey’s Thma Pouk district, said people from neighboring Svay Chek district have been discreetly looting graves in his district for at least three years.

“We have measures to stop them,” he said. “We will go and in­vestigate this case and crack down on them early this week.”

Yorth Ray said some of the looters had been detained and “educated” but they simply continue looting in other communes or districts.

“They don’t profit much. Some don’t make any money at all,” Yorth Ray said. “But some are lucky and find the graves of rich people.”

Ministry of Culture Secretary of State Chuch Phoeurn said much of the looting has moved from Ban­te­ay Meanchey to Oddar Meanchey. He said he and other ministry officials tried to stop looting in Banteay Meanchey’s Phum Snay several years ago but that their efforts may have been in vain.

“We went to Phum Snay during the day to stop the digging, but they continued digging at night,” he said. “Everything was destroyed in the end, and now they are digging in Oddar Meanchey.”

But he stressed that it was weal­thy buyers—not poor villagers—who were the root of the problem.

“Rich people buy antiques and ask people to dig up ancient graves for them,” he said. “If there is no buyer, there are no diggers.”

He said his ministry had repeat­ed­ly asked local officials to take ac­tion to stop looting but that so far little has been done. The ministry, he added, might file a complaint against the local authorities themselves.

“Provincial authorities are re­spon­sible for enforcing the laws,” he said.

Banteay Meanchey province de­pu­ty police chief Sam Chit insisted that looting was on the wane.

“We have very few places where people are digging graves,” he said.

Yoem Thin, deputy governor of Od­dar Meanchey province, also claimed that there is no more digging in his province since police crack­ed down on looters in Ban­teay Am­pil district last month.

He said more than 30 people in the district were arrested, detained for two days and educated about why looting is wrong.

 

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