Work Starts on Crematorium on City’s Outskirts

Construction of a large crematorium facility is under way on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, which will soon supplant pagoda cremations in the city, officials said Thursday.

Construction workers broke ground on the site in Dangkao district’s Prey Sar commune earlier this month, said Municipal Gov­ernor Kep Chuktema, adding that City Hall is financing the project.

Once open for business, the new facility will eliminate the use of traditional cremation facilities at pagodas in urban Phnom Penh.

“We used four hectares of land to construct a modern electric crematorium that can burn four bodies at the same time,” Kep Chuktema said.

The $50,000 facility is about 10 km from the city center, said Ket Sokhay, Prey Sar commune chief. It will be complete by the end of the year, he added.

The decision to close crematoriums at urban pagodas came after residents who live near the sites complained in 2004 about air pollution and traffic congestion caused by funeral services. In December 2006, Prime Minister Hun Sen signed off on an initiative to move all cremation activity to the city’s outskirts, receiving support from Great Supreme Buddhist Patriarch Tep Vong for the initiative.

It will be a welcome move, said Prak Maly, Boeng Keng Kang I commune chief, whose jurisdiction includes Wat Lanka.

“The Wat Lanka crematoriums have made the people around there unhappy for a long time,” she said. “We will be happy if the crematoriums are moved to the outskirts, and we will not get the bad smell from the smoke.”

There are five active wood-burning crematoriums at pagodas in the city, said Strey Yeng, 73, a Wat Lanka clergyman responsible for cremations. They are Wat Lanka, Wat Ounalom, Wat Koh, Wat Pre­ah­puth and Wat Tuol Tompoung.

It generally costs about $20 to have a body cremated, Strey Yeng said, though exceptions are made for poor people.

“We have concerns when our crematorium is moved to the outskirts,” he said. “When [the crematorium] is moved far from here, they will have to pay more than $20.”

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