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Chedei still in doubt despite King's pledge

Chedei still in doubt despite King's pledge

T HE construction of the new Preah Sakyamoni Chedei (Buddha's stupa) to house what is believed to be a bone of the Buddha himself, is expected to receive a boost with a fresh royal contribution of $900,000 from King Norodom Sihanouk.

But the generous donation from the King - who asked for the chedei to be built - is unlikely to be enough to allow construction work to be completed.

Sar Eun, in charge of hiring workers at the construction site, said the temple could be finished by March 1995 if there was enough money. But he estimated that $3 million is required for the temple.

Construction of the new temple, which will be 50 meters high, 42 meters long and 30 meters wide, was started on July 14,1992 and was supposed to be completed in 18 months but to date not even the framework has been completed.

Kong Sam Ol, Minister of Agriculture and chief of the building committee, said that private donations up to Aug 31 this year had totaled $371,062 of which $362,365 had been spent.

Put Samon, who is in charge of receiving money for the temple contributed at Wat Phnom, said he receives on average between 2,000 and 5,000 riel in individual donations per day.

In a fax dated Oct 5 announcing His Majesty's contribution, the King also requested that a new committee, headed by Prime Ministers Ranariddh and Hun Sen and Acting Head of State Chea Sim be set up to supervise construction.

Currently the bone is kept at a small Sakyamoni Chedei in Phnom Penh, which was built during the Sihanouk regime. It is located in front of the city's railway station, which is crowded with people selling goods around it. At night it becomes a shelter for homeless.

The King requested the government to build a new Chedei to house the bone, and chose Wat Phnom as the site. Wat Phnom, situated on a hill in central Phnom Penh, is peaceful and full of trees. In His Majesty's fax, King Sihanouk said the country would not see peace, national unity and territorial integrity if the building of the temple was left unfinished.

"As there is no question of asking to our very poor people for more financial contributions for this great construction, I have decided to give $900,000 from the budget provided by the National Assembly as the Royal budget," the King said.

Um Kong Chamreun, who works in the Ministry of Religious Affairs and is one of those collecting money for the project said the temple is to be built for storing the Buddha's bone (called Preah Sareyraka Teat). "When the Buddha died, pieces of his bone were sent to countries with Buddhist populations, and Cambodia has one of them," he explained.

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