Sok, 25 years cremating bodies in Wat Bo

“The Buddhist monks of Wat Bo have been my family, my father, my mother, my brothers, and my life. I do not look out of here. I know life is short for me now, I am 68 years old, but now I am happy thinking that in my next life, I will be given the chance to be handsome and tall, able to stretch my legs, able to walk normally, to hear again the sounds, that's all I have left now", says Sok, the man who cremates corpses at the Wat Bo Pagoda in Siem Reap.

Mr. Sok spends his days alone in the shadow of huge funerary stupas and the palm tree forest that covers the Buddhist pagoda. With the sole company of the "ghosts" that keep people away from this place, his tired memory is anchored to those sounds that stop to listen. Today, death is the only hope for a life that can have no better outcome, his feet deformed by the thousands of miles he traveled barefoot for ‘life opportunities.’ These are the best possible definitions for the fate of many people who, like Sok, survive on the charity of others.

Twenty-five years of burning bodies has left him oblivious to what is happening around him. "Sometimes families invite me to their homes when they pick up the ashes of the bodies that I burn, this makes me happy, others give me 2000 riel ($ 0.50), but I have no salary," he says with a smile while looking at a one dollar bill that was given to him by relatives of a 92-year old man who was just incinerated. “ What kind of money is this? I've never seen it."

Photography: ©Omar Havana / All Rights Reserved