Dying in Cambodia Presents Challenges: UK

Dealing with the death of a loved one is never easy, but this is especially true if that person happens to die in Cambodia, the British Embassy explains in a new “information sheet” posted to its website on Monday.

According to an embassy official, at least 23 British citizens died in Cambodia in 2015. By comparison, 31 Chinese nationals, 19 Australians and 13 Germans expired here last year, according to their respective embassies.

The six-page “Information sheet related to death in Cambodia” offers advice to next of kin in the event that a U.K. national dies in the country, highlighting the ways that “Cambodian procedures may differ to those in the United Kingdom.”

The document explains that relatives have three options when it comes to the body: repatriation, cremation in Cambodia followed by the repatriation of the ashes, or cremation with the ashes scattered in Cambodia.

It notes that there is only one “international undertaker” in the country—the John Allison Monkhouse company, operating out of Phnom Penh’s Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital—and warns that next of kin must quickly decide on an option.

“In certain circumstances the Cambodian authorities will go ahead with a local cremation on public health grounds within 24 hours of a death,” the document states. “We would therefore strongly recommend that you make a decision as to your loved one’s funeral arrangements or repatriation…as soon as possible.”

Cremation, described as “the norm” in Cambodia, is also not without its issues.

“Relatives should be aware that the urn containing their loved one’s ashes can also contain fragments of bones—this can be upsetting if they choose to look inside the urn.”

The information sheet highlights, too, the difficulties of obtaining information about a relative’s death.

“You should be aware that the cause of death given on the death certificate is often given in very basic terms, and often does not reveal the underlying cause of why the death occurred,” it states. “Autopsies (Post-Mortems) are not carried out in Cambodia.”

Theepan Selvaratnam, vice consul at the British Embassy, said on Tuesday that the document was posted online along with an updated list of medical and dental services in the country, and was not released in response to any particular concerns.

“We made the decision to upload it now in order to provide clear consular assistance to British nationals,” he said, adding that he did not know how many Britons died in Cambodia in 2014.

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