More Artifacts Found at Site

Precious ancient objects continue to be found at the site of an ancient temple in Kompong Thom province, unearthed by stubborn pagoda-builders digging against cultural officials’ orders.

On Monday, two stone nagas were found on the Baray district site, as well as a large stone whose decoration indicates that it was used as an ancient king’s throne foot-rest, said Nong Sa­vath, chief monk of the new pagoda being built on the site.

Recently 32 gold, silver and copper Buddha statues were found among the ruins of the centuries-old Vihear Bak temple, destroyed during decades of war.

All of the artifacts have been found as the Por Pech pagoda committee, headed by Nong Sa­vath, digs foundation holes for the pagoda it is building on the site.

Although officials from the Ministry of Culture and the pro­vincial Department of Religion have ordered the committee to stop, the digging continues.

The committee has dug 60 holes, at least four of which have re­­vealed troves of historic objects, Nong Savath said.

Under a recently passed subdecree, digging without a scientific permit on archaeological sites—thereby disrupting valuable clues to Cambodia’s little-known an­cient history—is illegal. So is buying and selling cultural objects.

Leam Saran, deputy director of the provincial Religion Depart­ment, said he will meet with the Por Pech monks next week.

“Some of the monks might not understand how important these ancient things are. I will educate them and ask them to stop construction,” he said. “I ordered [Nong Savath] to stop construction and he refused. He should be fired for his mistakes…I can’t fire him right now be­cause he has high-ranking supporters in the government, but I will ask the villagers to support me.”

Teruo Jinnai, cultural program specialist for the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organ­iza­tion, said protecting cultural ob­jects such as these falls under the Ministry of Culture’s jurisdiction. “They have the power to ap­ply the subdecree.

“They should work closely with local and pro­vincial authorities,” Jin­nai said.

(Ad­ditional reporting by Molly Ball)


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