PHNOM Penh governor Chea Sophara plans to move all cremations from the city to the
outskirts by the end of the year.
Sophara said he would seek $200,000 from a "generous" individual or group
to build a crematorium on the edge of the city, but he did not want it to be turned
into a business.
"We are now looking for land in a propitious place, but we do not want investment
in this field because it is connected with our Buddhist religion," he said.
Sophara said he decided to relocate the crematoriums because of the traffic problems
caused by funerals and the pollution from the pyres - most of which are fueled by
wood, but occasionally motor vehicle tires are used which generate considerable smoke
"I think that in other developed countries which follow Buddhism like us, they
cremate dead bodies on the outskirts of the city," he said.
Bangkok recently introduced a similar statute to remove crematoriums from the city
However some people have questioned the motivation for the relocation plan.
"I think the request for the removal of crematoriums from the pagoda is the
idea of the rich around here," said an anonymous layman at Wat Ounalom.
The layman said the Sokimex company now owned the land of the former T3 prison and
wanted to build a hotel there. He said the company wanted the crematorium shut down
because it was worried it would affect business.
"I believe there may be a conspiracy between the authorities and Sokimex,"
said the layman.
Sophara denied the allegation.
He is now seeking public reaction to the proposal via commune chiefs.
Nget Chhan Bo, Director of the Department of Public Worship and Religion of Phnom
Penh city, said there were 85 pagodas within the city limits but not all have crematoriums.
The ten pagodas that do will be asked to move their crematoriums to the outskirts.
Chhan Bo has mixed feelings about the decision, saying he agreed with it but was
concerned about implications for Buddhism.
"It will have a bad effect on the Buddhist religion, but it is a principle of
the governor," said Chhan Bo. "I don't think this plan can be implemented
Not everyone is happy with the decision. Um Phum, who is in charge of cremations
at Wat Preah But Meanbon, said moving the crematoriums outside the city will he hard
on poor families who will have to pay the extra transport costs.
"We will follow the authority's decision but the act to remove the crematorium
from the pagoda would be bad for the public and against the Buddhist religion,"
Another crematorium chief and monks in Wat Ounalom who asked not to be named said
if the plan of the governor was put into practice it would be against the will of
Cambodians and the Buddhist religion.
"We think that cremations do not cause impact on the environment because the
crematorium tower is higher than 50 meters so all the smoke is released high into
the air," said one monk.
"I think that what is existing from the old generation should be kept for ever."
The crematorium chiefs said 40 to 50 bodies were cremated each month, including charity
"I cremate at least five to six people who died of AIDS each week," said
However, he said during July 1997 there were about 50 bodies to be cremated each