By Vong Sokheng
The cost of building a crematorium to incinerate the remains of King Father Norodom Sihanouk would cost about $1 million, not the $5 million quoted in a local media report, Prime Minister Hun Sen said yesterday.
Speaking to hundreds of construction workers during his second visit to the grounds outside the National Museum where the massive structure is being rapidly erected in preparation for the February 4 cremation, Hun Sen vowed that the government would foot the bill and it would not cost more than $1.2 million.
“It is merit for all of us in mourning and in order to not worry the King [Norodom Sihamoni] and the King’s mother [Norodom Monineath]; therefore, the government is responsible to pay for all costs of construction,” he said.
The premier also lashed out at Prince Sisowath Thomico, who was Sihanouk’s personal aide, for speculating in a local news report that the price tag for the crematorium would reach $5 million.
“I think it’s cheap behaviour for critics, including Prince Thomico. If you do not understand, [you] should write later to the government to ask for information about the cost, and I hope that you all do not use the cost of building the crematorium to attack the government,” he said.
Contacted yesterday, Thomico said he had learned of the figure from an official, whom he did not name.
“I am not involved with the construction, and my comm-ent about the cost was just heard from another source. I regret if this comment affects the government,” he said.
The premier also said the construction was not put out for a public bid because public procurement would take months. In the interest of time, he said, the job was given to a family member of Kong Sam Ol, a minister of the Royal Palace.
He reiterated that Sihanouk’s corpse would be removed from the Royal Palace on February 1 and, after it had reposed in the adjacent crematorium for three days, officials would perform the final rites on February 4.
Sihanouk died on October 15 in Beijing at the age of 89. His body was returned two days later on an Air China flight to Phnom Penh, where he has lain in state at the Royal Palace.