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Paper Coffins

Every once in a while, the Phnom Penh municipal government declares its desire to close all operating crematoria in the city and move them to the countryside. The justification is almost always about air quality, but the reasoning is almost always about two different things, which I’ve blogged about before. First, crematoria are big money makers for temples, and support lots of monks at urban wats, many of whom compose the most politically radical and liberal strata of Cambodia – not exactly a group that the government (any government) wants to support. Secondly, crematoria in the city decreases property values for neighboring properties, especially for non-national Chinese investors who simply cannot, will not, build their luxury hotels near crematoria, since to do so would be to invite horrible misfortune.

Now, for those who really want to be on the cutting edge, the good folks over at BoingBoing have let me know about ‘ecopods,’ coffins made out of recycled paper. Perhaps the government would like to start sponsoring this form of corpse-disposal. Of course, this doesn’t solve the next problem – where, exactly, are they going to put the coffins once they’re full of bodies? Speaking as someone whose own apartment in Phnom Penh was full of dead bodies not too many years prior to my residence, I can’t imagine the municipality has too many good ideas on this front.

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