Monks engage in standoff with soldiers over hidden gold

By Robert Carmichael

Phnom Penh (dpa) – A reputed hoard of Khmer Rouge-era gold saw

monks and villagers engaged in a weekend standoff with soldiers at a

temple in western Cambodia, national media reported Monday.

   The provincial governor of Pailin, Y Chhien, said the supposed 

owner of the gold, whom he did not name, had tipped off the

authorities to its existence.

   “Someone reported that a ton of gold belonging to the Khmer Rouge

regime was buried at the pagoda, but we are not sure yet because we

can’t dig it up because the monks rallied against our military police

and police,” he said.

   Y Chhien told the Cambodia Daily newspaper he was mystified at

the resistance shown by the community at Korng Kang pagoda.

   “It’s not a secret operation because if we find anything, all the

gold will become state property,” he said.

   The temple’s deputy chief monk, Nhim Sothon, confirmed that

several troops had descended on the temple Saturday and Sunday in

pursuit of the gold.

   “But our monks protected it, and did not allow it,” he said.

   Nhim Sothon said the pagoda last year refused to allow a former

Khmer Rouge cadre to dig at the pagoda after he sought permission to

unearth 50 kilograms of gold he hid there during the 1975-79 regime.

   The Khmer Rouge banned organized religion during its disastrous

rule of the country, and many temples became prisons and execution