RELIGION

Cambodians ask spirits to help recover statues from river

  • A Cambodian Buddhist follower prays during a Buddhist ceremony before searching for missing Buddha statues in the Tonle Sap river at the Kean Kleang village in Kampong Chhnang province, northwest of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, Aug. 18, 2016. Some five hundred Cambodians lead by several Buddhist monks on Thursday held a rare ceremony to appease the spirits of water and land to help them recover missing Buddha statues that had disappeared from their community and are believed to be hidden under the Tonle Sap River over 500 years ago. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

    A Cambodian Buddhist follower prays during a Buddhist ceremony before searching for missing Buddha statues in the Tonle Sap river at the Kean Kleang village in Kampong Chhnang province, northwest of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, Aug. 18, 2016. Some five hundred Cambodians lead by several Buddhist monks on Thursday held a rare ceremony to appease the spirits of water and land to help them recover missing Buddha statues that had disappeared from their community and are believed to be hidden under the Tonle Sap River over 500 years ago. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)  (The Associated Press)

  • Cambodian dancers perform during a Buddhist ceremony to pray before searching for missing Buddha statues in the Tonle Sap river at the Kean Kleang village in Kampong Chhnang province, northwest of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, Aug. 18, 2016. Some five hundred Cambodians lead by several Buddhist monks on Thursday held a rare ceremony to appease the spirits of water and land to help them recover missing Buddha statues that had disappeared from their community and are believed to be hidden under the Tonle Sap River over 500 years ago. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

    Cambodian dancers perform during a Buddhist ceremony to pray before searching for missing Buddha statues in the Tonle Sap river at the Kean Kleang village in Kampong Chhnang province, northwest of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, Aug. 18, 2016. Some five hundred Cambodians lead by several Buddhist monks on Thursday held a rare ceremony to appease the spirits of water and land to help them recover missing Buddha statues that had disappeared from their community and are believed to be hidden under the Tonle Sap River over 500 years ago. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)  (The Associated Press)

  • Cambodian Buddhist monks and their followers sit during the Buddhist ceremony pray before they search for missing Buddha statues in the Tonle Sap river at the Kean Kleang village in Kampong Chhnang province, northwest of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, Aug. 18, 2016. Some five hundred Cambodians lead by several Buddhist monks on Thursday held a rare ceremony to appease the spirits of water and land to help them recover missing Buddha statues that had disappeared from their community and are believed to be hidden under the Tonle Sap River over 500 years ago. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

    Cambodian Buddhist monks and their followers sit during the Buddhist ceremony pray before they search for missing Buddha statues in the Tonle Sap river at the Kean Kleang village in Kampong Chhnang province, northwest of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, Aug. 18, 2016. Some five hundred Cambodians lead by several Buddhist monks on Thursday held a rare ceremony to appease the spirits of water and land to help them recover missing Buddha statues that had disappeared from their community and are believed to be hidden under the Tonle Sap River over 500 years ago. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)  (The Associated Press)

People in a Cambodian village have held a ceremony asking spirits to help recover Buddhist statues that their ancestral tales say were buried in a nearby river.

Buddhist monks joined some 500 locals at the ceremony Thursday by the Tonle Sap River, where divers recently recovered eight small statues of Buddha and claim to have spotted another that is about 2 meters (yards) tall. They asked the spirits of water and earth to help them raise any statues still buried as much as 20 meters (66 feet) underwater.

Ceremony organizers said stories passed down by villagers' ancestors tell of the statues being buried in the river hundreds of years ago to hide them from marauders from other areas or neighboring Siam, now called Thailand.