Irrigation rehab said more important than fine
Culture Minister Nouth Narang
has launched a $12 million appeal to rebuild the Bassac Theater which was gutted
by fire last month.
But His Majesty King Norodom Sihanouk says that if
the money is collected, it should go to irrigation projects to help re-develop
the Kingdom's agriculturally-based economy which sustains the bulk of the
Narang and Pich Tum Kravel, director of the resident
National Theatre Company, hope that international aid, especially from France
and Japan, might be donated.
King Sihanouk expressed his sympathy over
the "misfortune" in a letter to the co-premiers, HRH Prince Norodom Ranariddh
and HE Samdech Hun Sen. However, he suggested reconstruction be delayed.
"It is true that our arts and classical dance are part of the grandeur
of Kampuchea," he said. "But if noble Japan and other wealthy powers, friends of
the Cambodian people, would like to help our people, of whom 90% are poverty
stricken peasants, dramatically short of rice to feed themselves, these friends
from wealthy countries could give absolute priority to the rehabilitation of our
Irrigation, water reservoirs and bulldozers would be
more useful, he believes, than the prestigious National Theatre, built during
the 1960s, when Cambodia "could pay for luxuries".
Since 1970, he
continues, Cambodia has become an "international beggar in matters of rice". The
King went on to suggest that plans for embellishing the city's gardens and
sculptures are less important than cleanliness and hygiene.
are found, the future of the Bassac Theater is uncertain. Pich Tum Kravel says
that $12 million is only an estimate. "We do not know exactly how much the work
will cost, or who will pay for it," he admitted.
Narang said he hoped
France and Japan would help, but added: "We are studying various possibilities,
but it is too early to say what will happen. Different estimates for repairs are
being examined, some more greedy than others."
The Japanese government
was poised to donate new sound and lighting equipment to the theatre in March,
valued at $400,000. However, in view of the tragedy, they have cancelled their
project. "We are not sure what we will do with regards to reconstruction," said
Masaki Kawaguchi, attache and secretary to the ambassador.
Kravel said that some crates of costumes, musical instruments and shadow puppets
had been destroyed by the fire, and that replacing them would cost about
$800,000. "That is the price of materials, but does not include the labour
involved," Kravel said.
In the meanwhile, actors, musicians and dancers
attended a meeting outside the charred theatre. Ieng Si Tol, head of the
folk-dancing troupe, told them about plans to start rehearsing in the Chatomukh
Theatre the next day. Kravel said that the classical dancers have been offered
use of the Chanchaya pavillion and the Phochani hall inside the Royal Palace for
rehearsals. Actors will be using the Cinelux cinema on Norodom boulevard, which
has a stage.
One of the classical dancers, Thong Kim Ieng, commented on
the disaster: "We are all very sad."