Palace Minister Concerned Over Cremation Site Financing

The government minister in charge of constructing the cremation site for late King Father Norodom Sihanouk said on Monday that he is concerned that the government has yet to disburse any funding for the project.

In a meeting on Monday with members of the organizing committee for the King Father’s funeral, Royal Palace Minister Kong Sam Ol urged the Finance Ministry to begin paying the estimated $1.2 million for the cremation site, which the Royal Palace Ministry is in charge of constructing.

“Please be quick with the budget—whichever subcommittee is in charge of the budget. Because until now there has been no disbursement,” said Mr. Sam Ol.

“It is already 80 percent completed and I expect it to be completely finished within two weeks,” Mr. Sam Ol said of the construction of the cremation site in Veal Mean, the park in front of the National Museum.

Finance Minister Keat Chhon responded by saying that his ministry is working to disburse the funds as quickly as possible.

“As long as there is an order, as the Khmer saying goes, ‘you run with three or four legs because [we] know that [this is] urgent,’” Mr. Chhon said.

In a speech at the cremation site in December, Prime Minister Hun Sen defended the government’s decision to award the contract for construction of the site to Vispan, a company owned by Kong Panya, the daughter of Mr. Sam Ol. The contract was awarded without a standard procurement process because, Mr. Hun Sen said, there was not enough time to advertise the project and conduct public bidding.

Mr. Hun Sen also refuted comments by Prince Sisowath Thomico, spokesman for the Royal Cabinet, that he had been told the project would cost $5 million. Mr. Hun Sen said the project would only cost $1.2 million.

Deputy Prime Minister Nhiek Bun Chhay, who was also in attendance at the meeting, said that the government was following standard procedure in withholding funds until the quality of construction could be assessed.

“Even after the construction is completely finished, we still need to check [the quality] before we pay them,” he said. “What if something goes wrong?”

Mr. Sam Ol also announced at the meeting that the late King Father’s cremation on February 4 would be marked with a fireworks display over the Tonle Sap and five minutes of rifle fire.

Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said during the meeting that more than 1,000 journalists from Cambodia and abroad have applied to cover the event, which is expected to draw 1.5 million people to Phnom Penh.

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