Honorifics Requested for Recovery of Buddha Relics

The Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts has asked Prime Minister Hun Sen to bestow honorary titles on 14 police officers involved in recovering an urn full of ancient Buddhist relics stolen from Odong mountain in December.

In a letter dated October 24, Culture and Fine Arts Minister Phoeung Sakona asks that the police officers be rewarded for investigating the heist.

“I have the high honor to inform Samdech Akka Moha Sena Pakdei Techo [Mr. Hun Sen] that because of their work in finding the golden urn that contained Buddhist relics at Preah Reach Trap Mountain that went missing on December 10, 2013…please give honorary titles to 14 leaders and police officers,” the letter reads.

Among the 14 officers are National Police commissioner Neth Savoeun. The group were recommended for the honorific “Ekareach Cheat,” which translates to national independence.

The relics had been gifted to Cambodia by Sri Lanka in 2002. Their theft provoked widespread anger, especially among some Buddhist monks, who lambasted the government for failing to protect the sacred artifacts.

Police later arrested and charged three security guards, along with the chief of security of Odong mountain and a moto-taxi driver.

But in February, Keo Reaksmey, 24, was arrested and charged with the theft after the relics and urn were discovered in the kitchen of his home in Takeo province. He later confessed to the crime.

Kandal Provincial Court Investigating Judge Lim Sokuntha said Tuesday that a decision on whether to free the five or send the case to trial would be made Friday.

Mok Chito, director of the Interior Ministry’s Central Judicial Department, who was among those recommended for an honorific for his role in recovering the artifacts, was critical of the suspects.

“I think the court could release them, but based on the evidence some guards were careless in their duties and some took Buddha statues to put in their houses,” he said.

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