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Graveyard moves upscale

Graveyard moves upscale

Children pray in one of Cambodia’s decaying cemeteries.
Children pray in one of the country’s decaying cemeteries. A new project aims to tap into the high-end market. TRACEY SHELTON

A LOCAL entrepreneur is planning to build Cambodia's first boutique graveyard in Kampong Speu province.

Lu Laysreng, 73, a former Funcipec lawmaker, says his project will be the country's first modern graveyard and burial business.

"Vimean Sour Graveyard is Cambodia's largest graveyard investment," said the former rural development minister.

"Within five years, I will develop the graveyard to be more beautiful than Singapore's graveyard or cemeteries of other countries.

"It will be like a park with a crematorium, a morgue, a ceremony hall, space for gardens and walking areas," he said.

"The graveyard will be capable of housing around 30,000 corpses."

He said he invested in the site because he is very old and wants to distance himself from politics.

He said that the lack of modern grounds in the country has created a market for high-end burial spaces.

"Phnom Penh is very crowded. There is no place left for a graveyard," Lu Laysreng told the Post on Thursday.

Lu Laysreng said the business will target the Cambodian middle class in Phnom Penh.

"Pagodas are places where Buddhists pray and celebrate religious ceremonies, but now pagodas are also crowded with stupas, so the pagoda campuses are narrower - there is no space for people to celebrate rituals, so my graveyard will help to ease that."

He said that the 60-hectare graveyard is located at the foot of Srang Mountain in Srang commune, Kong Pisey district of Kampong Speu province - 54 kilometres from Phnom Penh.

He said the infrastructure at the ground has been built, and the site is ready for its first corpses.

Prices range from $300 for a small space to $6,000 for a four-meter-by-four-meter plot.

He said part of the revenues from sales of burial plots will be contributed to social development, especially to improve health care for the poor.

Pennies from heaven

"If they have no money to pay instantly, they can pay in instalments," he said.

"I want to contribute to society. I am too old to be rich, the money will go mainly towards improving health care for the poor," said Lu Lay Sreng.

He said that the development of the graveyard will benefit the approximately 4,000 locals through jobs and micro-businesses such as selling flowers and amulets.

But Chum Vong, governor of Kong Pisey district, said he was not interested in the project and that Srang Mountain is believed to be a holy place.

"I think the place should be developed as an ecotourism attraction, rather than a graveyard.

"We are not really interested in this development and we don't expect local people will benefit from it," Chum Vong told the Post on Thursday.

"Only the rich or city dwellers will be able to afford plots, not the locals."

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