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Slain monk set to be cremated, 13 years on

Slain monk set to be cremated, 13 years on

The embalmed body of slain activist monk Venerable Sam Bunthoeun, who was gunned down 13 years ago, will be cremated at Phnom Oudong at the beginning of next month, Kandal provincial chief monk Chea Sam Arng said yesterday.

Bunthoeun, a critic of rampant corruption who encouraged Buddhists to vote, was shot twice in the chest by two unknown assailants on February 6, 2003, at the capital’s Wat Lanka pagoda. He died two days later, but more than a decade after his death, no arrests have been made.

His sister, Sam Kong, said Bunthoeun’s body had initially been kept on display as a reminder that justice had not been done for him, but after 13 years, it was time to allow his soul to move on.

She added that this was aligned with Bunthoeun’s wishes – when he was alive he said he did not want his body stored – and that the cost of injections to the body and refrigeration for the corpse amounted to a staggering $100,000 per year.

A week before his death, Kong recalled, Bunthoeun commissioned a construction manager to build a stupa to hold his remains. With an apparent premonition of his fate, he said: “You will not be able to finish it in time, but I just want to prepare the place for me beforehand”.

Sam Arng, the Kandal chief monk, said the funeral will last from December 1 to 4, and two chief monks from different sects will light the funeral pyre. Bunthoeun’s ashes will reside in a stupa to the west of Phnom Oudong near the Vipassana Dhura Meditation Centre, where Buntheoun served as president.

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