Borrowed Memorial

The remains in the memorial locked up with the whereabouts of the keys unknown - Wat Baray Choan Dek, Kampong Thom

The remains in the memorial locked up with the whereabouts of the keys unknown – Wat Baray Choan Dek, Kampong Thom

“No, please. Don’t take a picture of me,” said the monk at Baray Choan Dek.

My uncle gestured with his camera. In response, he respectfully put it away. This was the monk’s reason:

“I’m not dressed properly.”

This is a rather adorably ridiculous statement if you saw this man. He was draped in the familiar sheen of clerical saffron, but I’ve never seen a cut on a robe like that before. It reminded me of a very short romper, like the one supposedly so chic in women’s fashion now, or those frilly numbers forced upon toddlers from well-to-do families during the Victorian age.

“He’s a monk,” my uncle said. “Why is he even dressed like that in the first place?”

Aside for that one distraction, the monk who came around to greet us when we did a little stumble upon the memorial at Baray Choan Dek was most helpful. He told us a man named Huth had built the structure before 1975. After then the personal stupa was abandoned. Huth unfortunately had not survived the genocide. So, in the 1980s, the community used his stupa left standing empty to serve as the community’s public grave site for genocide victims found in the area of Baray Choan Dek.

The grounds of this temple were in complete contrast to what we came upon at Champuh Ka’ek, which I saw just a few days earlier. In my memory I had the image of Champuh Ka’ek looking grand, with its illustriously structured temples. And then there before me was Baray Choan Dek, which looked somewhat forlorn and forsaken.

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