More than six weeks after AK-47 wielding bandits stole a 40 kg bronze Buddha statue from Prey Pouch pagoda in Kandal province, police revealed yesterday that they had recovered the statue.
Police discovered the statue–taken from province’s Ang Snuol district on July 5–in a remote field on the outskirts of Pursat City just two days after it was stolen, Kandal provincial police chief Iv Chamroeun said.
“We found the statue after two days…but Pursat police did not send it back [immediately] because they were investigating,” he said.
Local police initially left the Buddha where it lay in the hope that the bandits would return to reclaim their loot, Mr Chamroeun said. It was transferred to Ang Snoul district police station on Sunday after no one showed up, he added.
On July 5, a group of thieves armed with AK-47s stormed the pagoda and threatened to shoot any monks who tried to stop them. The band headed straight for the building housing the statue and made off with their prize after dissolving the door locks with acid, police said at the time.
The monks at Prey Pouch will hold a ceremony to welcome the statue home on Friday, according to Prey Pouch commune police chief Ket Kosal.
“After that they have agreed to hand it over to Kandal provincial museum to keep, because they are afraid of losing it again,” he added.
The 50-cm-tall statue first came to the pagoda in the 1980s, according to Mr Kosal. A monk found it buried in a rice field and kept it hidden during the Khmer Rouge era, he said.
Monks have reported a spate of robberies at pagodas across Kandal province recently. Two traditional gongs were stolen from Toan On pagoda in Ang Snoul district on July 19. On June 13 police arrested two men for trying to sell a pair of statues that had been stolen from Sophy Pagoda in Sa’ang district earlier in the month.
An ancient, 100 kg statue of Buddha was stolen from Ang Punareay pagoda in Kandal Stung district on Aug 14. Mr Chamroeun said police were making progress in that investigation and were concentrating their efforts along the Cambodian-Thai border.