Phnom Penh-A golden urn believed to contain the remnant of Budda’s body has been stolen from its shrine in Cambodia. Officials in the south East Asian country said the relics, which have enormous religion and cultural significance for Cambodians, were taken from the mountain shrine close to the capital Phnom Penh.

A government spokesman called for those responsible to be brought to justice. He said: ‘This relic has been respected by Buddhist followers for thousands of years. ‘This theft cannot be accepted. The perpetrator and any associates who connived to commit such a crime must be prosecuted according to the law of Cambodia.’ Police said a guard was woken by a barking dog on Tuesday. It was then the guard discovered the lock to the shrine’s door had been damaged and the urn had disappeared.

Officers quizzed 13 of the shrine’s guards and detained six as suspects, but said the authorities had no information about the relics’ location. The relics were moved by the late King Norodom Sihanouk in 2002 from Phnom Penh to the mountain shrine in the former royal city of Udong in a ceremony attended by tens of thousands of people.

Several countries in Asia possess relics believed to come from the body of Buddha. The urn was housed inside one of four stupas - a mound-like or semi-hemispherical structure containing Buddhist relics - in the city of Udong, the former capital of Cambodia. Perched in the hills around 22 miles from Phnom Penh, the city was the home of the royal family between 1618 and 1866. At the northwestern corner of the hill four stupas can be seen piercing the skyline. The first is the tomb of King Monivong (r.1927 to 1941). The second is said to be the tomb of King Ang Duog (r. 1845-59) and the third is the tomb of King Sorivopor. The fourth stupa is where the urn, which is said to contain Buddha’s remains, was stored.

Siddhartha Gautama Buddha, known simply as Buddha, was a sage or wise person, on whose teachings the religion of Buddhism was founded. Buddha means the ‘awakened one’ or the ‘enlightened one’. Buddhism is the story of one man’s spiritual journey to enlightenment, and the teachings that derived from it.