Kandal Court May Release Men Charged With Odong Relic Theft

The Kandal Provincial Court will question five prisoners next month over the theft of 2,500-year-old relics of the Buddha from the top of Odong mountain in December to ascertain if they were actually involved, a court official said Monday.

Lim Sokuntha, an investigating judge at the court, said that there is no new additional evidence to take the men to trial, even though they have been held in pretrial detention since their arrests in December.

He said the detainees—three of whom were security guards on the mountain—would be questioned at the beginning of next month, but did not have an exact date.

“If we question them and they say they are not involved with the crime, they will be released soon, and the suspects who were involved with this crime will be sent to a hearing,” he said.

“Until now, we do not have any new additional evidence to inculpate the five suspects, but a new suspect confessed that he committed the crime himself,” said Judge Sokunth.

Keo Reaksmey, 24, a small-scale farmer from Takeo province’s Traing district, was arrested in February and charged with the theft of the relics, which were found in his kitchen.

The relics were installed in a $4.5-million mountaintop stupa by the late King Norodom Sihanouk in 2002, but were stolen, along with several ornate statues, on a December night.

The five to be questioned include three guards who were on duty—Chorm Thai, 57; Sieng Sarin, 58; and Ka Sak, 46—who are charged with aggravated theft. Pha Sokhem, 59, the chief of security for the stupa, and Kann Sopheak, 39, a motorcycle taxi driver, were also charged.

All five have insisted they are innocent, and police have yet to provide any inculpatory evidence against them.

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