A freshwater mangrove tree, considered sacred by Buddhists, was taken from the pagoda where it had been rooted for years in Kratie province and moved to adorn the lobby of a hotel, officials said Sunday.
The Barringtonia acutangula tree, with its rough fissured bark and pendulous strings of red flowers, holds special significance for Buddhists who believe that Buddha was born and died beneath such a tree.
A committee of monks at Prek Braing pagoda, located in Prek Prasap commune in the district of the same name, recently sold the tree for $1,000 to a businessman from Kompong Cham province, Kratie provincial police chief Choung Seang Hak said.
“It was sold by the pagoda’s committee to businessmen and it was dug up and its roots taken to replant at a hotel for its beauty,” he said, adding that forestry officials tried to stop the tree from being taken from the pagoda.
“It is the function of forestry officials. I do not know why they allowed it,” he said.
Samrith Vanna, a staffer with local rights group Adhoc in Kratie, said that it has traditionally been against tradition to uproot such trees given their association with the Buddha.
Chuch Phoeurn, Ministry of Culture secretary of state, said Sunday that the trees are the property of the pagoda.
“It is up to the pagoda to decide,” he said, adding that the sacred tree has long been used for medicinal purposes.
Freshwater mangroves can be found in tropical Asia and Madagascar, among other locations, and usually grow on the banks of freshwater rivers, the edges of freshwater swamps and lagoons and on seasonally flooded lowland plains.