Police and villagers interrupted suspected artifact hunters who were discovered digging at an ancient hill Saturday night in Svay Rieng province, officials said Tuesday.
The diggers scattered when the police arrived and no arrests were made, said Romeas Heak district police chief Chum Rey, adding that the looters appeared not to have found anything at the site before they fled.
Villagers tipped off police when strangers were spotted digging into the Tropeang Ang hill in Prey Tamou village, said Chum Rey, adding that police found that a hole had been dug measuring about 2 square meters wide and 1 meter deep.
According to Chum Rey, military police, district police and villagers then decided to widen the hole to see if it contained ancient artifacts.
It was the second time that looters have tried to unearth valuables at the hill, he said.
“The ancient hill was dug one time already in 1988, but we don’t know whether they found statues. This time, we arrived in time, and we did not see any statues,” he said.
The Tropeang Ang mound is believed to be about 1,200 years old and used to cover 100 square meters, but is now only 30 square meters in size, he added.
Thy Ry, heritage chief at Svay Rieng’s provincial department of culture and fine arts, said the province has 763 ancient hills, which date from pre-Angkorian times.
The provincial culture department will investigate the incident at Tropeang Ang, Thy Ry said, adding that local authorities have been asked to protect the hills from artifact looters.
Svay Rieng Provincial Governor Mao Phirun said he knew of the case but was letting the provincial heritage department deal with it.
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