Veal Mean Being Tidied, but Future of Royal Site Unclear

A cleanup operation has began at Veal Mean, the now-dilapidated cremation site of the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk, with a government official saying Wednesday that the funereal pavilions at the site could soon be dismantled.

Ramshackle shanties erected to house security officials had been removed Wednesday from the royal site, and rubble had been cleared from the spot where the King Father’s pyre once stood.

“I have heard from the Deputy Prime Minister Nhiek Bun Chhay that the buildings could be removed in late April or early May, meaning that the royal plowing ceremony could take place there,” said Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Ministers.

The Royal Plowing Ceremony was held annually at Veal Mean field next to the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh, but was last year moved to Kompong Cham City after the park was transformed for the King Father’s farewell, but officials did not say when the national ceremony would be returned to its traditional home.

“The buildings in Veal Mean are not built to withstand the rainy season and have only been left so that people can come and pay their final respects to the King Father,” Mr. Siphan claimed.

“Maybe [the pavilions] will be removed and the plowing festival will not be moved into the provinces this year,” he continued.

Prince Sisowath Thomico, a former adviser to the late King Father and a member of the opposition CNRP, said Wednesday that the pavilions, which are fading, cracking and crumbling, should be removed swiftly from Veal Mean.

“The place, Veal Mean, in the Khmer language means the site where Kings are cremated—those other structures were only for audiences and they should be taken down,” he said.

“After the cremation of King [Norodom] Suramarit [in 1960], the extra structures were removed quickly. I don’t understand why it is not the same,” he said, referring to the dilapidated structures now inside the barred entrance to Veal Mean, which was once a public garden.

Last week, Prince Thomico said that the neglected state of Veal Mean brought shame to Cambodia and could be seen as a lack of respect for King Norodom Sihamoni.

The next day after publication of his comments, a team of a dozen Royal Palace staff was seen inside collecting trash from the site, while a water tanker was brought in to feed graying grass and sections of the park overgrown with weeds were burned off.

Security guards who have made the pavilions their homes remain but the tattered plastic sheeting they had hung up to enclose three separate sections has been removed.

“That is good news,” Prince Thomico said Wednesday. “It is the property of the Royal Palace and the property of the Royal Palace should always remain in good condition.”

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