Apsara National Authority (ANA) experts have concluded that 21 broken Buddha statues which were unearthed near Angkor Wat in April were buried by older generations to honour the broken figures, not because of religious conflicts, as researchers have suggested.
The claim was made during a lecture on Buddha statues at Angkor Wat on Monday at the Angkor Conference Hall of the Apsara Authority Centre in Siem Reap province.
At the lecture, experts discussed the 21 broken statues, which were unearthed in front of the Ruot Preah Roi Preah Poan temple courtyard.
Professor Im Sok Rithy, an ANA expert, said researchers had concluded that the Buddha statues were buried because of religious conflicts between Brahmanism and Buddhism supporters.
Sok Rithy said according to the researchers, the conflict prompted those who were discontent with Buddhism to destroy and bury the statues.
However, he said this conclusion was unfair because followers of Brahmanism and Buddhism had experienced good relations with each other since they entered Cambodia.
Those who believed in sacred statues, he said, had always put broken Buddha statues in their proper place, but it didn’t mean that they were left behind.
“At the Banteay Srei Temple, many wise men had striven to modify and change religion. Old Buddha statues might have been destroyed and buried. Many wise men have understood this.
“Other wise men have not understood this because religious disputes didn’t happen in Cambodia. Religious conflicts have happened in other countries, but not in Cambodia,” Sok Rithy said.
In her presentation, Phin Vichea Sachara said the statues which were unearthed had been buried properly.
She said some of the heads, hands, and legs of the Buddha statues had not yet been unearthed, and that some of the statues showed Buddha standing, while others had shown him meditating.
Post-Angkorian Buddha torsos, artistic statues and knives were also unearthed and were concluded to have originated from the Ruot Preah Roi Preah Poan temple. Experts theorised these artefacts might have been buried in the 1980s.
“We want to know if all of these Buddha statues were derived from the south of the temple. I want to put all these Buddha statues in their original place,” she said.
Vong Sotheara, a professor of history at the Royal University of Phnom Penh and a specialist in stone inscriptions, told The Post on Monday that no matter what archaeologists concluded, it is just individual views.