Hun Sen Declines Ornate Stupa, Wants to Stay at Home After Death

3 min read
The ornate stupa at Phnom Penh’s Wat Monisovann on October 4, 2022. (Mech Dara/VOD)

Prime Minister Hun Sen’s wife Bun Rany chose a spot near the Bassac river surrounded by large trees to house her husband after he dies.

Wat Monisovann, in Phnom Penh’s Chbar Ampov district, also contains stupas of the late tycoon Suy Sophan and a row of tombs labeled “excellency” or “golden four-star general.”

But the stupa that has been built for Hun Sen towers over the rest: On a plot around 35 by 25 meters, the stupa’s golden structure is ornate and imposing.

Hun Sen disclosed in a speech over the weekend that his wife had built the tomb for him in secret, and he found out about it upon the death of his older brother Hun Neng in May.

But he will opt out, and wants to be laid to rest at his home, he said while describing imagined fights he might have as a ghost.

“According to beliefs, I absolutely wouldn’t dare. When our power and soul arrive there, they will be stepped on by the neck [by other souls] there. When your baramey is not so powerful, you should not play with them. … I do not play with them,” Hun Sen said in the speech in Siem Reap, using a word for a sacred power.

“My wife secretly built a stupa in Champouh Kaek,” he said, using another name for Wat Monisovann. “I will not stay in that pagoda. I will absolutely not go there. I am sorry that I will not go there.”

Hun Sen said he had told his wife after his brother died that he would need to build a place for himself at his home in Takhmao.

“My wife responded that she had already finished building it at Champouh Kaek, and I told her that I am sorry, I will not stay there. I absolutely will not stay there because we don’t know what things are inside the pagoda,” he said. “When our ghost gets there, there will be a gangster group and I will not stay there. We spoke clearly with each other that I will not stay in the pagoda, so now my wife handed this one to my brother,” he said, referring to his surviving brother Hun San.

“I will build it near my home, and recently I told my grandchildren that the oldest grandchild will inherit my home that I currently am staying at in Takhmao.”

He had warned the granddaughter not to sell that land, because “you will also sell grandfather’s ghost too.”

In recent months, succession has also apparently been on Hun Sen’s mind, as he picked his oldest son Hun Manet to lead his Cambodian People’s Party after him, and the government passed constitutional amendments specifying who will lead the country in the event of the untimely death of its leader.

At Wat Monisovann on Tuesday, many people relaxed under the shade of the large trees as vendors waited nearby. One man said the finishing touches were still being added to Hun Sen’s stupa, including installing lighting fixtures.

Prek Thmey commune chief Liv Vantheng said the location was prized because of the pleasant environs. “There is no special power [but] the pagoda compound is huge with a beautiful landscape and trees,” Vantheng said. “Plus, there is a pond.”

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