More than one year after the funeral of King Father Norodom Sihanouk, workers are finally removing the dilapidated funeral pavilions from Veal Mean, the once grassy plaza in central Phnom Penh.
Located next to the Royal Palace, Veal Mean had deteriorated from a million-dollar homage to the widely beloved former king into a crumbling eyesore.
“At the present, I just know that the [pavilions] are being removed to reorganize the garden,” said Om Daravuth, a member of the Royal Cabinet, referring to the royal crematorium that was built for the February 2013 funeral. He referred further questions to Royal Palace Minister Kong Sam Ol, who could not be reached.
In January, Prince Sisowath Thomico, who served for years as adviser to King Sihanouk, said that the state of Veal Mean “brought shame to Cambodia.”
As of Tuesday, the first of eight pavilions inside Veal Mean were reduced to steel framework and rubble. Six laborers smashed away at concrete pillars with sledgehammers and piled waste into dumpsters while a man who claimed to be a Royal Palace security guard watched from his hammock.
“We will take everything, even the stones in the ground, to return the place to its previous state as a garden,” said the security guard, who declined to be named because he had been chastised by his superiors for talking to reporters.
The cleanup would be finished in 20 days, the security guard said. He said it was being carried out by the construction company Vispan, which was also contracted to construct the funeral site. It is listed as being owned by Kong Panya, the daughter of Kong Sam Ol.
“When Vispan is finished, the park will once again be ready to host the Royal Plowing Ceremony,” the security guard said.
The Royal Plowing Ceremony, usually held at Veal Mean in May, was moved last year to Kompong Cham City due to the presence of the cremation pavilions.
Information Minister Khieu Kanharith announced last month that this year’s ceremony would be held in Takhmao City. Mr. Daravuth said Tuesday that the ceremony will likely return to Phnom Penh next year.