Twenty statues of the Buddha were stolen Tuesday night from Odomraram pagoda in Ratanakkiri province’s Veun Sai district, according to monks and local police.
“Nineteen copper statues, along with one marble statue, were stolen from the pagoda and are missing at the moment,” said Teu Nou Thang, Neun Sai district police chief, adding that altogether the statues weighed 8 kg to 9 kg.
In all, the pagoda housed 53 statues of the Buddha, 39 of which were made of copper, Mr. Nou Thang said, adding that he did not know how old the stolen statues were or how much they were worth.
Mr. Nou Thang said that a monk who had been keeping watch at the temple where the Buddha statues were being stored left his post at about 9 p.m., but failed to lock the door, and the statues were stolen later that night.
“After questioning [people living in] the pagoda, we have concluded that the statues were stolen by unknown suspects between midnight Tuesday and 1 a.m. Wednesday,” he said.
Police are conducting an investigation to locate two suspects who appeared to be familiar with the pagoda, and likely planning to smuggle the statues into neighboring Laos, Mr. Nou Thang said.
“We are giving special attention to the Lao border because the temple is near there,” he added.
Nheng Nou Fang, head monk at Odomraram pagoda, said that monks at the pagoda “were shocked when we found out that the statues were stolen.”
On December 10, the country’s only relics of the Buddha were stolen from an ornate pagoda atop Odong Mountain.
Officials said Thursday that although five men remain in pretrial detention over the theft of the relics, which were brought to Cambodia from Sri Lanka in the 1950s, authorities have uncovered no leads on their whereabouts.
“There is no news and no one else has been arrested or sent to court,” said Lim Sokuntha, the Kandal provincial court judge investigating the case.
The five suspects include three security guards at the stupa, the chief of security there, and a motorcycle-taxi driver who was seen drinking with one of the security guards on the night of the theft.
“Police are working hard to find it and a nationwide police investigation is underway,” said Kandal provincial police chief Eav Chamroeun.