Plan to shut the capital's crematoria for air quality and traffic
control reasons will be implemented on a voluntary basis, official
The soon-to-be-defunct crematorium at Wat Preah Puth was still operating on Wednesday.
THE Phnom Penh Municipality has decided to shut the capital's crematoria and move cremations outside the city, citing air quality and traffic-control reasons. Mann Chhoeun, the city's deputy governor, said the plan had been in the making for several years, but the authorities had decided to implement it step by step and on a voluntary basis.
"Now our plans are in place, but we aren't yet forcing people to comply. We would rather wait until they understand the effect cremations have on their environment," he said. "So in the longer term, they will understand the effects and move their cremations outside the city."
He added: "When they cremate a body at Tuol Tumpong pagoda, for example, black smoke drifts into the classrooms and market."
The authorities originally announced in 2004 that they had decided to close the city's cremation facilities. They have since installed four 28-tonne electric cremation ovens costing more than US$100,000 each at Wat Russei Saagn in Dangkor district. The ovens will be operational in the next few months.
Phou Chhiv Neath, the secretary for Non Nget, supreme patriarch of the Mohanikaya Buddhist order, said monks understood the environmental reasons and supported the move.
"In the past we were able to cremate in the city because there weren't many people and we didn't have high-rise buildings as we do today," Phou Chhiv Neath explained. "But now there are many more people and much taller buildings, and some of the crematoria are not modern, so it does have an effect on the environment."
Plan long in the making
Deab Sinoeun, an elder at Wat Ounalom, said he had heard of the Municipality's plan some years ago but was not aware that a deadline had been set.
"So we are still cremating people at our pagoda, but we will respect the authorities if we receive an order to close," he said. "Having cremation facilities in the city makes it easier and quicker for people to take part in the ceremony."
"People trying to attend cremations outside the city will have to endure traffic jams, and it will cost them more, too, since the site will be far from where people live," Deab Sinoeun said.