Skip to main content

The relics were officially given to Cambodia by Sri Lanka in 1957 to commemorate the Buddha’s 2,500th birthday.Getty Images/iStockphoto

Police in Cambodia claim that they have found the holy remains of the Buddha that went missing a couple of months ago.

The relics – which are believed to consist of the Buddha's ashes, teeth or bones – were found last week on Feb. 6, and are now being kept at the Royal Palace of Cambodia, according to information on the website of General Commissariat of National Police of Cambodia.

"It happened as if by miracle," said Oum Darawuth, the spokesman for Cambodia's Queen Mother, Norodom Monineath.

The relics were officially given to Cambodia by Sri Lanka in 1957 to commemorate the Buddha's 2,500th birthday. They were stolen at the beginning of December, when a watchman who was supposed to be guarding them fell asleep on the job. At that time, Cambodian officials arrested all the guards who were on duty on the night of the disappearance – but questions abounded about who took the relics and why. While some believed that the thief was mostly interested in the golden urn, others suspected that whoever took Cambodia's holiest Buddhist treasure had a political goal.

The spokesman for Cambodia's National Police Kirth Chantharith could not be reached for comment on Wednesday, however, Cambodia's English-language daily newspaper, The Phnom Penh Post, reported that two suspects have been arrested, including one who raised suspicions after he inexplicably became rich and purchased a new car.

Despite the happy ending to the mysterious disappearance of the relics, the founder of Cambodia's Independent Monk Network for Social Justice Venerable But Buntenh remains skeptical.

"I strongly do not trust the government officials and think that what they found is not real," he said. "The box to enshrine the Buddha relics is newly made. The style of the box is totally different, and also the size is slightly smaller. It's not comparable to the old one."

Mr. Buntenh said he saw the original golden urn, which he referred to as a "box," in 2002.

"The regime of [Prime Minister] Hun Sen, they can make everything happen the way they want," he said.

When asked whether she believes that the golden urn that Cambodian officials found is real, Tess Davis, a researcher at the University of Glasgow who specializes in the illicit trade of Cambodian antiquities, replied that she isn't sure one way or the other.

"Let's hope we have some confirmation soon!" she wrote in an e-mail.