A Kep provincial official has denied losing an engraving that was found by a fisherman and turned over to the government, as has been alleged in a rumour that has been spread on social media.
The provincial Department of Culture and Fine Arts has said they are preparing documentation to accompany the engraving, which will be sent to culture minister Phoeurng Sackona for practical evaluation.
Tong Pho, the head of the provincial culture department, said at a press conference on May 12 that the provincial administration had received the engraving from a fisherman on April 19 in Kampot province near the border with Kep.
The fishermen had recovered the engraving from the sea floor in neighbouring Preah Sihanouk province.
He said the fisherman told officials in Kep about the engraving and that later those officials had reported it to Kep provincial governor Som Piseth in order to take custody of it for preservation as state property.
“To be frank, the fisherman was willing to hand the object over to the state without wanting payment or anything else,” he said, adding that it was to be preserved for the future.
When the province has its own museum, he said, it might end up being put on public display there.
However, experts have not yet evaluated or concluded whether the engraving was actually an ancient object, so now it will be sent to the culture ministry so that specialists can examine it and date its origins.
Oeung Vuthy, the Kep Provincial Hall’s head of administration, also denied the online rumours that anyone was selling the engraving. The press conference was held to clarify the matter to the public and confirm that it was not missing.
“I would like to inform everyone that the provincial governor has preserved this object as state property. The object has not been taken anywhere. It is stored in a safe place,” he said.
Cheav Da, the deputy head of the heritage office of the Kep provincial culture department, concluded preliminarily that the engraving depicted Lord Vishnu standing on a garuda, a scene from a mythical tale.
“This is my primary conclusion: This is not an ancient object because the picture and the style are not correct and the engraving is made of copper,” he said.
Nak Un, a resident of Kampong Konsat commune’s Tnaot village in Kampot province’s Teuk Chhou district, said he had heard from a fisherman named Kan Tha, 37, and his wife, Seng Sitha, 27, both living in Kampong Tnaot village, who said they had handed the engraving over to the Kep provincial governor.
Un added that the couple had been fishing from the beach in Preah Sihanouk province and had dragged the engraving out of the water and then returned home with it.