Soon all of Phnom Penh’s pagodas will cease to carry out traditional wood-fired cremations, as City Hall has ordered the last four traditional temple crematoriums in the capital to be closed down and replaced by a new electric crematorium outside the city, an official said yesterday.
A layman at one of the city’s pagodas said efforts were now underway to preserve at least one historical crematorium building.
Phan Davy, municipal director for cults and religions, said four pagodas in the city’s outer neighborhoods had been ordered to stop cremating bodies in order to improve air quality and reduce traffic congestion. He added the order pertained to Wat Tuol Sangke in Russei Keo district, Wat Toek Thla in Sen Sok district and Wat San Samkosal and Wat Sambor Meas, both in Meanchey district.
“It’s the second step of our City Hall’s policy to improve the city’s environment and traffic control because surrounding those pagoda’s there are many houses,” he said.
In September, five pagodas in central Phnom Penh had been ordered to close their crematoriums after two massive electric cremation machines opened in Wat Russei Sanh in Dangkao district, just outside the capital.
Mr Davy said City Hall had also ordered that the capital’s crematoriums needed to be knocked down. He did not however, explain why the municipality required the destruction of the tall, historic buildings after they were no longer in use.
So far, four crematoriums in Phnom Penh have been destroyed, he said, adding the crematorium at Wat Preah Puth Mean Bon in Prampi Makara district, still remained standing after it was closed, because the pagoda wanted to preserve it.
In Sreng, 42, a layman at Wat Preah Puth Mean Bon, said the pagoda’s chief monk had sent a request to the governor two weeks ago to allow the monks to preserve the historical crematorium, adding municipal governor Kep Chuktema had so far not responded.
“Our Preah Puth Mean Bon crematorium is over 50 years old. So we want keep it for preservation for the next generation to understand our Khmer religion tradition of cremating the body at the pagoda,” Mr Sreng said.
Non Nget, Supreme Patriarch of the Mohanikaya order, said he supported the preservation of the crematorium at Wat Preah Puth Mean Bon.
“It would be good for our Buddhist religion,” he said, “We can’t go against the municipality’s policy but if they agree to keep it in the pagoda compound, it’s good for our people’s children to know and keep for conservation.”