Forestry officials in Siem Reap province seized two 10th century sandstone sculptures after chasing a car for several kilometers over unpaved back roads, suspicious that it was carrying illegal timber, officials said.
Mom Bun Lim, chief of the Forestry Administration’s Banteay Srei division, said he attempted to pull over the 1993 Toyota Camry with Phnom Penh plates at about 8 p.m. because the vehicle looked heavy with wood.
Police officers pose with two 10th century sandstone statues seized in Siem Reap province on Tuesday night. (Yim Sivorn ) When the driver sped up, Mr. Bun Lim said, he gave chase for several hours on narrow, pocked rural roads.
“I chased the suspect’s vehicle for as far as 10 km,” he said, adding that when he neared Banteay Srei district’s Tbeng commune at about 1 a.m., he called for reinforcements to cut the car off.
Turning away from the reinforcements, “the car stopped in front of a resident’s home,” Mr. Bun Lim said.
After two male suspects exited the dark green car and fled on foot, Forestry Administration officials discovered two heavy stone artifacts inside and brought them to the district police station, he said.
Chau Sun Kerya, a spokeswoman for the Apsara Authority, the government body that oversees the Angkor Archaeological Park, said authorities did not yet know where the sculptures originated.
“The sculptures may have been taken from the Koh Ker temple, in Preah Vihear province, as there are many small temples there,” she said. Both sculptures are about 1 meter tall and half a meter in diameter, she said.
Ms. Sun Kerya said there had been no cases of artifact smuggling at the Angkor park in the past five years.
Ang Choulean, an anthropologist at the Royal University of Fine Arts, said the park was “the region where antiquities are the best-guarded,” with the rest of the country being significantly more vulnerable.
Antiquity thefts were “a pretty frequent occurrence in the 1990s,” he said. “But it’s been years since we’ve heard talk of thieves.”
(Additional reporting by Aisha Down)
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