Cambodian police recover stolen Buddha relics

PHNOM PENH - Cambodian police on Friday said they had recovered a golden urn said to contain relics of Buddha after it was snatched from a mountain shrine, sparking a nationwide manhunt.

The disappearance of the urn - believed to contain hair, teeth and bones of Buddha - and several small statues came to light in December and prompted an outcry in the Buddhist-majority country.

Authorities said they found the relics during a raid on Thursday at a house in the southern province of Takeo, about 130 kilometres (80 miles) away from the shrine in the former royal city of Udong.

"Everything is still in the urn," national police spokesman Kirt Chantharith told AFP.

A suspect was arrested following the raid, according to the website of the Cambodian National Police, which said authorities were still hunting for the "mastermind" of the theft.

Five guards at the shrine were also arrested in December.

The relics are believed to have been brought from Sri Lanka to Cambodia in the 1950s to celebrate 2500 years since Buddha's birth.

In 2002, then King Norodom Sihanouk moved the relics from the capital Phnom Penh to Udong, some 45 kilometre (30 miles) from Phnom Penh - in a ceremony attended by tens of thousands of people.