Cultural Site’s Upgrade Aims for Celebration

In expectation of King Noro­dom Siha­nouk’s 81st birthday, the Phnom Penh Munici­pality is hurrying to finish im­provements to a site in the heart of the city used for Cambo­dian festivals and public events, municipal officials said Sunday.

The municipality is funding a full renovation of Veal Meru, an area in front of the National Mus­eum that may be best known as the site of the annual plowing festival. Cabinet Chief Mann Chhoeun said that almost 60 percent of the renovation is complete.

“We have done road construction and other sectors, so now we need to renovate this area for upcoming Khmer festivals,” Mann Chhoeun said.

Yos Chhormnarady, deputy director of municipal land management, urban planning and construction, said that im­provements will include a new brick floor, decorative gardens, a lamp post to light the compound, and additional public toilets.

“We will rebuild the Veal Meru area into a good environment be­cause it is a historic site and was poisoned by the smell of human waste,” he explained.

Perhaps the most integral as­pect of the odor-eliminating pro­cess is a new drainage system, which Yos Chhormnarady said he hopes will be finished on time.

But Municipal Public Works and Transport Director Nhem Saran, who is responsible for the drainage system and new garden, expressed some concern.

“The drainage system and garden is only 15 percent complete,” he said. “However, we will hurry to finish before the King’s birthday at the end of this month.”

Soon after the King’s birthday on Oct 31, the Water Festival will draw throngs of visitors to Phnom Penh. Officials hope that the im­provements will be completed in time to accommodate the crowds.

Municipal officials said they didn’t know the cost of the renovations, but Mann Chhoeun strongly supported the work. “I am optimistic for many of the infrastructure renovations in the capital, despite the criticism from all those who always close their eyes and criticize the government’s acts. Since the Pol Pot reg­ime collapsed, the government has tried its best to restore the city.”


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