The marble statue of a spirit believed to watch over Mondolkiri province was smashed to pieces by a man believed to be mentally unstable, drawing fear among locals that bad luck would descend on the area, according to officials.
Phorn Doeurn, 38, visited the top of Neak Ta Dos Kromam Mountain in Sen Monorom City on Thursday evening and lobbed a large rock at the statue of the mountain’s namesake, breaking the head and hand off its body, city police chief Kan Penh said on Sunday.
Having been spotted by a nun who maintained the statue and leaving behind a sandal that was later confirmed to be his, police tracked the suspect down after receiving a report from the woman the following morning, he said. Mr. Doeurn was detained for a few hours for questioning, but freed in the evening with no punishment.
“The suspect is mentally unstable,” Mr. Penh said. Despite having admitted to the crime, he said, “there is no law for charging mentally ill people.”
Instead, he said, city police have been instructed to keep a close eye on the suspect “so that he doesn’t cause trouble,” and the provincial department of social affairs was considering offering him treatment.
Meanwhile, locals were worried about the consequences of the spirit’s statue having been broken, according to Srang Srey Ngoun, chief of Bunong Dos Kromam village, made up mostly of ethnic Bunong minorities.
“There is fear in the village, as it has never happened before,” she said, adding that many worried that the shattered statue would have a similar impact on the luck of locals.
Sy Touch, head of the provincial department of culture and fine arts, said the statue—having stood atop the mountain since 2004—had already been mended and would be blessed during ceremonies due to take place this Saturday.
“The department will conduct ritual ceremonies to call back that spirit and ask it to bring back happiness and prosperity” to the province, he said.