Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Oudong relics guards hit with fresh charges

Oudong relics guards hit with fresh charges

Four security guards believed to be involved in the theft of relics from Oudong Mountain
Four security guards believed to be involved in the theft of relics from Oudong Mountain sit at the Appeal Court in Phnom Penh yesterday morning before their hearing. Hong Menea

Oudong relics guards hit with fresh charges

Five people held in pre-trial detention for more than a year over stolen Buddhist relics from Oudong Mountain have been charged with theft by the Court of Appeal.

Yesterday’s ruling came despite charges against the group having been dropped by Kandal Provincial Court in October.

The five were arrested after a golden urn, said to contain remains of the Buddha, was among items stolen from Oudong Mountain on December 9, 2013. The men were charged after other statues stolen from Oudong were allegedly found in the home of Pha Sokhem, the chief security guard.

“We have recharged them with theft, because there is evidence, and we will transfer the case to the provincial court pending a trial,” presiding judge Seng Sivutha said yesterday.

Sivutha added that the five would have “no right to an appeal” to the Supreme Court, which legal expert Sok Sam Oeun said was not unheard of when a judge had ordered a case sent back to a lower court.

Police found the relics on February 6 at the home of 24-year-old Keo Reaksmey in Takeo province’s Traing district. Reaksmey was arrested along with gold seller Siek Sareth, 39, who was convicted of handling stolen property and sentenced to two and a half years on December 11.

Following the theft, Reaksmey had bought an expensive motorbike and car and begun handing out wads of cash to local children while dressed in white robes, locals said in February.

The five defendants – Sokhem, 60; Sieng Sarin, 60; Chom Phay, 58; Ka Sat, 46; and Kan Sopheak, 39 – were brought to court but arrived too late to hear the verdict, before being remanded into the custody of Kandal prison.

“I heard they transferred the case to the provincial court, and if we will have justice, I will be released, because I am innocent,” Sarin said.

Sopheak’s mother, Sey Ket, was upset by the decision after borrowing $5 to travel to the court from her Kandal province home yesterday. Her son allegedly brought wine for the guards to drink on the night of the theft, but she claimed he did not walk up the mountain.

“One cup of wine got him jailed for a year,” she said. “I’m damn miserable without my son’s income to support me. It’s very unfair.”

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY DANIEL PYE

MOST VIEWED

  • Omicron patients can stay home: PM

    The Ministry of Health has issued a directive on the treatment of people who have tested positive for the highly transmissible Omicron coronavirus variant, following a suggestion from Prime Minister Hun Sen on the night of January 21. The directive permits home quarantine for those who

  • The effects of the USD interest rate hike on Cambodian economy

    Experts weigh in on the effect of a potential interest rate expansion by the US Federal Reserve on a highly dollarised Cambodia Anticipation of the US Federal Reserve’s interest rate hike in March is putting developing economies on edge, a recent blog post by

  • Cambodia’s first ever anime festival kicks off Jan 22 at capital’s F3 centre

    Phnom Penh's first ever Anime Festival will bring together fans, artists, shops and other local businesses with ties to the Japanese animation style for cosplay competitions, online games, pop-up shops and more on January 22, with Friends Futures Factory (F3) hosting. F3 is a project that

  • Hun Sen gets 4th Covid shot, urges compatriots to follow

    Prime Minister Hun Sen and his wife Bun Rany on January 14 received their fourth dose of Covid-19 vaccine and called on compatriots to follow suit as the Omicron coronavirus variant continues to spread in the community. This marks the launch of Cambodia's fourth-dose vaccination campaign,

  • Fourth dose Covid booster drive jabs 43K in two days

    In the first two days of the fourth-dose Covid-19 vaccination campaign, more than 43,000 people volunteered to get the jabs, while over 4.6 million people have received a third shot. Health ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine said that fourth-dose vaccinations, which began on January 14 exclusively with the Pfizer

  • Singapore backs Cambodia's efforts on Myanmar

    Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong supports Cambodia in its efforts to seek a solution to the ongoing Myanmar crisis as the chair of ASEAN. Lee expressed his support during a meeting with Prime Minister Hun Sen via videoconference on January 14, with the talks focused