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Officials drive to register pagodas

Officials drive to register pagodas


Children play at Wat Tuol Tumpong, in the capital’s Chamkarmon district, earlier this year.

The Ministry of Cults and Religions has started officially registering the Kingdom’s pagodas and archiving their historical records in a bid to create a unified historical database, officials said yesterday.

Dork Narin, secretary of state for the ministry, said officials were “registering and recording” general information for each of Cambodia’s estimated 4,392 pagodas, including their builders, land titles and historical background.

“It is very useful to get more information on pagodas’ backgrounds for a new generation to learn,” he said yesterday.

The project came as a response to a request by Hun Sen earlier this year, when he emphasised the need for more accurate national data collection, said Srey Sy Lim, director of the ministry’s Department of Cults. She said four provinces, comprising around 400 pagodas, have completed the registrations so far.

However, Dork Narin said researchers had been facing challenges in completing their task because of the loss or destruction of many historical records during the Khmer Rouge regime.

“All the documents about pagodas located at pagodas and libraries in Phnom Penh were destroyed by the Khmer Rouge, and the old people have died,” he said.

A 1983 government report stated that 1,968 pagodas were destroyed by the Khmer Rouge between 1975 and 1979, with 25,168 monks perishing under the regime, said Youk Chhang, director of the Document Centre of Cambodia.

He said the knowledge of the older generation was essential to pagoda research because it maintained a “strong oral
history”.
“The pagoda is like their soul, and they have remembered it well,” Youk Chhang said.

Khmer Rouge damage, coupled with the fact that many pagodas were constructed prior to 1975, has made researching pagoda-based traditions “very difficult”, Srey Sy Lim added.

Despite the difficulties, Dork Narin said the government plans to register at least 70 percent of the country’s pagodas in the next few years.

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