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Home of ‘pagoda boy’ reborn

OFFICIALS have begun rebuilding a dormitory at Tuol Kork district’s Neak Von pagoda, where Prime Minister Hun Sen lived as a young “pagoda boy”, after a March 8 blaze left hundreds of monks, students and residents homeless.

“A new dormitory will soon replace the old one where the premier lived when he was young,” Seng Ratanak, Tuol Kork’s district governor, said at a groundbreaking ceremony Thursday.

He estimated that the 17-by-12-metre wooden dormitory would be completed by late July, and said construction would be funded by a US$27,000 donation from Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema.

The fire, which district officials blamed on an electrical short circuit in a resident’s home, destroyed 178 houses, as well as 31 dormitory rooms in the pagoda, leaving 257 families, 181 students and 90 monks homeless.

In March, upon hearing that his former home had burned down, Prime Minister Hun Sen waxed nostalgic, saying, “Please consider rebuilding the house where I used to live. The fire did not know it was the house of a pagoda boy who became the prime minister.”

Gnith Khim, the pagoda’s abbot, said monks were still trying to collect enough donations to rebuild several other brick dormitories and student buildings, where, he said, as many as 579 monks and students previously resided.

“A committee of laymen at Neak Von pagoda has collected about $50,000, but we need $150,000 total to rebuild the monks’ dormitories and student buildings,” he said.

Two months after the fire, most of the 178 families whose homes were destroyed are still living in makeshift shelters of bamboo, despite the fact that most have agreed to relocate to a site in Dangkor district.

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