Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - The pagoda built on gemstones

The pagoda built on gemstones

The pagoda built on gemstones

Construction work at Phnom Yat, in Pailin province, is geared to preserving the pagoda for future generations. Photo by: Hector Bermejo

PHNOM Yat dominates the road that leads to the city of Pailin. At its summit a pagoda, built in 1922, is dedicated to Grandmother Yat, a Burmese nun who was the first to meditate on this now-holy mount.

One of her disciples, Meach Pan, 61, has been coming to the pagoda for 14 years.

“This place is very special because grandmothers Yat and Pep, and Grandfather Lock Sen, established this place to meditate,” she says.

As we speak, Meach Pan places incense sticks in holders beside a small shrine.

She says the site gets crowded on public holidays and during religious ceremonies, although during our visit Meach Pan was alone apart from construction workers.

“The people who come here are not just from Pailin, but from everywhere,” she says.

“They come and register their name in the book and donate some money.”

When Meach Pan first came to the pagoda, it was in a bad state. A short distance down the hill, work is going on to restore the old stupa.

“They are making it safe and stronger,” Meach Pan says.

“In the past, the roots of trees used to grow around the temples, but now they have been cut away.

“After the work is finished, people will not be allowed to climb on the structure.”

Ith Kong, 35, has  been working at Phnom Yat for only 20 days. Today, he is plastering cement into the cracks.

“I work on all types of struct-ures – stupas, villas, buildings,” he says. “It’s my skill.

“I never learned from other people. I just went to see people and copied them.”

Ith Kong believes the work will last about five months, although he cannot be certain about this.

He earns only 25,000 riel a day, but enjoys his job.

“When I come here, I feel better than when I was working in Battambang,” he says.

“It’s a nice view from the mountain, and working on a home is more tiring.”

Meach Pan says there is a practical reason, beyond the spiritual,  for preserving the Phnom Yat pagoda.

“This hill is very important for the people of Pailin, because it’s the mountain of gemstones,”  she says.

“We built the pagoda here to prevent the mountain being destroyed.”

Despite a prohibition on digging for gemstones, Grandmother Yat’s mountain is still under threat.

“People still come here from other regions to find valuable stones,” Meach says.

“We have security officials on duty here every day to guard the pagoda.”



  • Angkor Wat named as the top landmark for the second year

    Travel website TripAdvisor has named Cambodia’s ancient wonder Angkor Wat as the top landmark in the world for the second year running in their Travelers’ Choice Award 2018, an achievement Cambodian tourism operators expect will attract more tourists to the Kingdom. The website uses traveller

  • Hun Sen detractors ‘will die’

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday said those who curse or insult him would eventually die without a plot of land to bury their bodies after being killed by lightning, suffering the same fate as those who recently died in Thmar Baing district in Koh

  • Monks given ‘Samdech’ title for contributions

    Three senior monks on Thursday were given the highest-ranking title “samdech”, with Prime Minister Hun Sen saying that the promotions were due to their contributions to Buddhism. The three distinguished monks were promoted on Thursday morning at Botum Vatey pagoda in Phnom Penh, at a

  • Facing possible sanctions, PM criticises Washington’s rights record

    While United States congressmen are discussing the Cambodia Democracy Act and an amendment that could impose more sanctions against Cambodia’s government, Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday counterattacked by questioning the respect of human rights and democracy under the US-backed Lon Nol regime, and