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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Plan to expel crematoriums draws fire

Plan to expel crematoriums draws fire

PHNOM Penh governor Chea Sophara plans to move all cremations from the city to the

outskirts by the end of the year.

Sophara said he would seek $200,000 from a "generous" individual or group

to build a crematorium on the edge of the city, but he did not want it to be turned

into a business.

"We are now looking for land in a propitious place, but we do not want investment

in this field because it is connected with our Buddhist religion," he said.

Sophara said he decided to relocate the crematoriums because of the traffic problems

caused by funerals and the pollution from the pyres - most of which are fueled by

wood, but occasionally motor vehicle tires are used which generate considerable smoke

and fumes.

"I think that in other developed countries which follow Buddhism like us, they

cremate dead bodies on the outskirts of the city," he said.

Bangkok recently introduced a similar statute to remove crematoriums from the city


However some people have questioned the motivation for the relocation plan.

"I think the request for the removal of crematoriums from the pagoda is the

idea of the rich around here," said an anonymous layman at Wat Ounalom.

The layman said the Sokimex company now owned the land of the former T3 prison and

wanted to build a hotel there. He said the company wanted the crematorium shut down

because it was worried it would affect business.

"I believe there may be a conspiracy between the authorities and Sokimex,"

said the layman.

Sophara denied the allegation.

He is now seeking public reaction to the proposal via commune chiefs.

Nget Chhan Bo, Director of the Department of Public Worship and Religion of Phnom

Penh city, said there were 85 pagodas within the city limits but not all have crematoriums.

The ten pagodas that do will be asked to move their crematoriums to the outskirts.

Chhan Bo has mixed feelings about the decision, saying he agreed with it but was

concerned about implications for Buddhism.

"It will have a bad effect on the Buddhist religion, but it is a principle of

the governor," said Chhan Bo. "I don't think this plan can be implemented


Not everyone is happy with the decision. Um Phum, who is in charge of cremations

at Wat Preah But Meanbon, said moving the crematoriums outside the city will he hard

on poor families who will have to pay the extra transport costs.

"We will follow the authority's decision but the act to remove the crematorium

from the pagoda would be bad for the public and against the Buddhist religion,"

he said.

Another crematorium chief and monks in Wat Ounalom who asked not to be named said

if the plan of the governor was put into practice it would be against the will of

Cambodians and the Buddhist religion.

"We think that cremations do not cause impact on the environment because the

crematorium tower is higher than 50 meters so all the smoke is released high into

the air," said one monk.

"I think that what is existing from the old generation should be kept for ever."

The crematorium chiefs said 40 to 50 bodies were cremated each month, including charity


"I cremate at least five to six people who died of AIDS each week," said


However, he said during July 1997 there were about 50 bodies to be cremated each




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