Gov’t to Examine Vietnamese Grave Site on Bokor Mountain

In the coming weeks, a task force composed of officials from the ministries of tourism, religion, culture and education will lead an expedition to a remote patch of forest on Kampot province’s Bokor Mountain where Vietnamese tourists pray, the education minister said Monday.

Opposition lawmaker Yem Ponhearith, who chairs the National Assembly’s commission on religious affairs, culture and tourism, last month led his own expedition to the site, where Vietnamese are said to pray to the spirits of ancestors buried in large stone graves.

From left: The ministers of education, religion, culture and tourism are questioned by lawmakers at the National Assembly in Phnom Penh on Monday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)
From left: The ministers of education, religion, culture and tourism are questioned by lawmakers at the National Assembly in Phnom Penh on Monday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

No tourists were seen during the February 12 trip, but NGO workers showed photos of tourists praying among framed photographs of Vietnamese Communist leader Ho Chi Minh, and Mr. Ponhearith pledged to convert the site for Cambodians to pray.

On Monday, he called the ministers of tourism, religion, culture and education to the National Assembly for questioning, telling reporters after the closed-door meeting that they would soon go to inspect the site.

“It might be next week because we want to conduct the research soon,” said Education Minister Hang Chuon Naron.

The CNRP has long used anti-Vietnamese rhetoric to build political capital against Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government, which has its roots in the Vietnamese-installed communist regime that Mr. Hun Sen led in the 1980s.

Yet Mr. Chuon Naron said the government understood why Mr. Ponhearith is concerned about Vietnamese tourists sleeping and praying deep in Bokor’s forest.

“There is no difference in ideas between the commission and the government. We want good management, especially that those who go to pray do not stay in the forest. They must go stay in a hotel,” Mr. Chuon Naron said.

Tourism Minister Thong Khon told reporters that rules would be introduced for those Vietnamese tourists who go to Bokor Mountain to pray to the graves, such as: “Do not…take cement to install things at the historical place.”

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