PHNOM PENH —
Hundreds of demonstrators and monks gathered near the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh on Tuesday, demanding an investigation into the alleged theft of rare Buddha relics last week.
Authorities say a golden urn containing Buddha’s hair, teeth and bones was taken from the former city of Udong, in Kandal province, on Dec. 9.
Five suspects have so far been arrested in connection to the relics’ disappearance, but the demonstrators said Tuesday authorities have been slow to act in prosecuting the case or finding the missing urn.
The demonstration ended at 11 am, after Buddhist officials promised to push the government to quicken its investigation.
The relics came to Cambodia from Sri Lanka in 1957. Their whereabouts remain unknown.
Demonstrators and monks marched through the rain, carrying banners with messages decrying corruption and the theft of the urn. “The loss of Buddha’s relics are a loss of Khmer national heritage,” read one sign.
Some monks shouted in front of Chaktumok Hall, where Buddhist leaders were meeting with government officials to push for further investigation.
Monk But Buntenh said that Cambodia’s monks were excommunicated or forced out of pagodas for being involved in “sensitive issues of national interest.” “But when the Buddha relics are stolen, why are no directives issued?” he said.
Sin Sopheasit, a demonstrating monk, said concrete action needed to be taken. “We demand that the relics be found and returned for our nation,” he said.
Tep Vong, Cambodia’s chief monk, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.