The National Museum on Friday took possession of a seventh century stone tablet after a pagoda in Kampong Speu finally agreed to let go of it after a year of negotiations.
The stone with the inscription “Suvarnabhumi” was discovered by monks in Baset district last year and was taken for safekeeping in the Kiri Sdachkong pagoda in Svay Chacheb commune.
Sar Soputra, a provincial deputy governor, said yesterday that after finding the artefact the pagoda monks refused to hand it over to the local authorities but instead hid it underground.
He said that the authorities advised them that it is a treasure that should be preserved as a national heritage by the National Museum where everyone could view it.
“The local authority kept asking the pagoda for the tablet several times but the monks did not hand it over to us, saying that people in the province wanted it kept safe in the pagoda where they could pray to it,” Mr Soputra said. “We explained to them that we would hand it over to the National Museum where it will be better preserved.”
“I finally convinced the monks and villagers to hand it over after assuring them that the tablet will be kept safely in the museum,” he added.
Chuch Phoeurn, secretary of state at the Culture Ministry, on Friday thanked the local authority and pagoda monks for handing the artefact over and promised that it will be preserved very well.
“The inscription was made in 633 AD by King Isanavarman I, a seventh century Chenla king and the name Suvarnabhumi means Land of Gold,” he said. “It showed that our Khmer territory is Suvarnabhumi and it is a wonderful inscription.”
Sim Chanty, a villager, on Friday said that the villagers and pagoda monks did not want to hand the tablet over to the authorities because they wanted to keep it the pagoda for praying and did not want it moved elsewhere.
“Now we understand that by putting the tablet in the national museum more people can view it and it will be kept safe,” she said.