Villagers in Kandal province’s Ang Snuol district are refusing to hand over a cache of recently unearthed Buddha statues and other artefacts to the Ministry of Culture, which wants to keep the items at a museum.
Residents of Preah Neak village, in Ang Snuol’s Chhak Chhoeu Neang commune, found the relics while digging near a pagoda last week.
Heng Kamsan, head of archaeology at the Ministry of Culture, said yesterday that the Buddha statues were about 200 years old, while some of the other objects – including pottery shards and what appeared to be stone tools – could date back to prehistory.
“They are valuable. We [want] to keep them at the museum for study purposes and for the next generation to learn,” he said. “We are afraid of losing them or someone stealing them one day.”
Nim Nyradeth, Ang Snuol district governor, said that local authorities had reported the discovery to provincial culture department officials who twice tried to convince villagers to hand over the items, but the villagers refused.
“The expert officials do not want to take these ancient items without the villagers agreeing . . . But the villagers do not understand the value of ancient things. They will come to negotiate with the villagers again.”
Villager Lok Ta Bros, 61, meanwhile, said the villagers wanted to keep them at the local pagoda for ceremonies. “They believe that keeping the Buddha statues and some ancient items at the pagoda will bring them luck and happiness.”