PHNOM PENH — Cambodian authorities say they are hunting a New Zealand tourist who allegedly destroyed a statue while illegally staying overnight at the country’s famed Angkor Wat temple complex.
Restoration workers found the woman, who has not been named, at the 12th-century Bayon temple on Friday morning — one of the most recognizable temples at the sprawling heritage site.
She was questioned by police but it was not until after her release that a one-meter tall Buddha statue was found shattered inside the Bayon temple, according to the government agency managing the Angkor complex.
The complex is closed to visitors at dusk and re-opens at dawn, when tourist throngs return to watch the sunrise over the iconic Angkor Wat temple.
In a statement released on Sunday, Apsara Authorities said they were looking for “evidence to prosecute the criminal who destroyed the national heritage (statue).”
The woman visited the stunning Khmer Empire-era site on Thursday but as night fell her driver reported her disappearance, the statement added.
She was found early the next day by workers at the Bayon temple, which is instantly recognizable for the huge stone faces that adorn its main towers.
The broken statue, restored in 1988 using ancient sandstone but with a replica head made from cement, was discovered later.
Part of the temple has now been closed to visitors to allow restoration work on the broken statue.
Heritage police and Apsara Authority officials could not be reached for comment on Monday, but local media reported that the tourist suspect had travelled on to Thailand.
The Angkor Archaeological Park contains the remains of the different capitals of the Khmer Empire, dating from the 9th to the 15th century.
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