Tourist Admits Breaking Bayon Buddha, Blames Voice in Her Head

A tourist wanted by Cambodian authorities for breaking a statue of the Buddha inside Bayon temple at the Angkor Archaeological Park last week has admitted to the crime, telling New Zealand media that she destroyed the effigy because it “didn’t belong” in the temple complex.

Willemijn Vermaat, 40, a Dutch national who is a permanent resident of New Zealand, said she broke the statue when she heard a voice telling her that the temple dedicated to Buddha in fact belonged to a goddess named Inana.

“When I got in there I got a very strange feeling that something was talking to me, but it was like it was my own thoughts,” she told Stuff.co.nz after returning to Wellington on Monday. “It was telling me I had to clean up the temple because there was too much rubbish, from the monks and other people.”

Ms. Vermaat, who reportedly has a doctorate in linguistics, told the news website that she hid in the jungle while Apsara Authority officials searched for her in the temple after visiting hours ended.

The Dutchwoman said she later returned to the temple’s inner sanctuary to meditate and decided to move the Buddha statue after a voice instructed her to do so, unintentionally breaking it in the process.

“I decided to talk to the media as I think that is what [Inana] wants, because she indicated it was her temple and not Buddha’s, because over time someone had changed it to be a Buddhist temple,” she added.

Ms. Vermaat—who was found by restoration workers early Friday morning after going missing the previous evening—was briefly detained for questioning by local police, then released.

The Apsara Authority and police began searching for her again after finding the broken statue—which dates back to the reign of Jayavarman VII in the late 12th century and was restored in 1988 —but she had already left the country.

Apsara Authority spokesman Lim Sru said the authority’s director general, Bun Narith, met Tuesday with deputy provincial Governor Bun Tharith to discuss the case, declining to give further details.

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