The Preah Sihanouk provincial department of culture and fine arts is investigating the origin and nature of a statue reportedly found on the premises of the Keo Oudom pagoda in Prey Nop district on Thursday, fearing that the story of the statue’s discovery may have been fabricated to bring fame to the pagoda.
Venerable Un Bun Vannak, the chief monk at Keo Oudom pagoda, said yesterday that the statue seemed to spiritually inform the monks of its existence to avoid being broken.
“Initially, we were planning to build a pond, so we hired an excavator to dig out the soil. But before excavating, the statue popped up with the pointed summit of its head sticking out,” he said.
“So we excavated to take it out. It seems like the spirit of the statue let us know in advance. If we did not know, it would have been broken by the arm of the excavator.”
Venerable Bun Vannak, who has been residing at the pagoda for nearly two years, said the pond was originally small and they were expanding it.
“Ox and buffalo carts are driven across the area every day, but no one saw it. However, when we intended to dig up the pond, we saw it. It is kind of magical,” he said.
The chief monk added that the statue dated back over 200 years and was made from the heartwood of timber, which resists mud and water. He claimed to keep the statute inside the pagoda for worshipping.
“I would like to guarantee that I will request to keep it in the pagoda and the Buddhist followers also want it that way for worshipping. The statue dates back more than 200 years to the Longvek period and was likely buried underground since the Pol Pot regime,” he said.
Deth No, head of the provincial cultural and fine arts department, said the origin and nature of the statue was still under investigation as he suspected that the story of its discovery might be fabricated to attract more followers to the pagoda.
“I assigned my officials to investigate and found that the design of the statue is new, but it is carved on very old wood. It cannot date back 200 years like the villagers said,” Mr No said.
“The villagers said the statue was found in a pond, but we don’t believe there was a statute there. We are afraid that the story might be made up to make the statue and pagoda famous.”
“We are not sure, but according to my knowledge and skill, everything about the statue is new. Even the paint is not that old,” he added. “It seems that the statue is now strictly protected. We are still investigating. We cannot put it in a museum if it’s not a relic.”