As Buddhist monks condemned a plan to move crematoriums to the city’s outskirts, Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema put forth his argument on Monday for removing them from the center of the city.
For health reasons, “the city should not have crematorium smoke. We will discuss and serve the city people’s ideas,” the governor said by telephone, adding that many residents near Wat Langka had recently complained about the smoke.
Municipal authorities last week announced their intention to shutter old crematoriums in the city and move cremations outside the city to “international standard” crematoriums. Kep Chuktema and several city officials say the smoke from pagodas is contributing to cancer and other heath problems among the populace.
Kep Chuktema said Monday that the city was gauging public opinion and compared the proposal to “floating a balloon to see if it crashes.” But, he added, “Our plan to move the crematoriums out of the city is our goal.”
The idea is already meeting resistance from Phnom Penh monks and nuns, and those interviewed Monday unanimously opposed the idea and threatened demonstrations.
“If we have no crematoriums, where will we cremate the dead?” asked Nun Nget, the chief of monks in Phnom Penh. “We do not have the land to bury them, because almost all the land has been sold.
“If the governor bans [cremations in the city], we, the monks, will demonstrate,” Nun Nget said.
Soun Samat, an 80-year-old nun believed to be the oldest at Wat Langka, urged city officials to reassess their priorities for planning. “If funeral processions are causing traffic jams, then please, governor, pave some more streets in the city,” she said.
A Wat Botum monk, Sem Saren said monks there are waiting to see if Kep Chuktema is serious about the plan. “So now we are calm,” Sem Saren said.