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Vandalism Suspected at Famed Bayon Temple of Angkor Wat

A tourist poses for photographs in the Bayon Temple in the northern province of Siem Reap, about 320 km (199 miles) from Phnom Penh August 31, 2010. Tourist arrivals to Cambodia increased by 14 percent to 1.42 million people, during the first seven months this year as compared to the same period in 2009, said Kong Sophearak, Director of Statistics at the Tourism Ministry. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

Police say they believe a 12th century statue of the Buddha inside Angkot Wat was destroyed by a vandal.

The statue, in Bayon Temple, was found tipped over, while a Dutch woman who sneaked into the temples one night last week is suspected, police say.

Authorities say the statue, which broke into pieces, appeared to have been willfully toppled.

“The statue could not have fallen by itself,” said Bun Narith, director-general of the Apsara Authority. He said the act showed a “willingness to destroy Cambodian heritage.”

Last Thursday night, a Dutch tourist was reported missing in the temples by her tuk-tuk driver. She was apprehended at dawn Friday, questioned and released, before the statue was discovered.

When police went looking for her again, she had left her guesthouse in the town of Siem Reap. Police say they are investigating further and continuing to search for the woman.