Society for Death Saving: A Case Study of Rural Associations in Cambodia

Association leaders during the interview with me in July 2006

The association (English’s name above is used officially by the association posted in front of their local office) was founded in 1996, by a group of elderly villagers based in Kampong Thmar commune, Santuk district and Kampong Thom province. Mr. Ouk Samorn was President. During the first mandate, 1996-2001, it was active only in Kampong Thmar commune and had 31 families as members. In 2002-2007, for the second mandate, Balang commune and other communes have been integrated and the membership grows very fast, to 355 families. Below is the summary of my interview with the committee members on 26 July 2006 for your reference.

The leaders of the association posted for a photo in front of their local office in Kampong Thmar

The objectives of the association are to provide support to the death family’s member in cash and in kind, to boost the solidarity among members and to preserve the cultural and traditional heritage at the local level.

Organization structure

  • Advisory committee consists of ten members from different villages
  • Two honorary presidents: chiefs of the Kampong Thmar and Balang communes
  • President, elected for five years term
  • Representatives at the commune and village level
  • Members

Dominant principles of functioning are merit, solidarity, mutual support, independence and volunteerism etc.


Certificate for Founding Members


  • Individual membership
  • Collective membership as family
  • Types of membership: founding members, financial members, supporter
  • Membership fee, three categories: 500/1000/2000 Riel/family/month
  • One time admission contribution: 10.000 Riel

How to become member of the association?

  • On voluntary basis
  • New members could get information from others or during religious ceremonies in pagoda etc
  • Apply with CV, plus two photos, decided by the advisory committee
  • Membership card with signature of the president and stamp of the association
  • Paying membership fee and the admission fee

Members divided in communes

  • Kg. Thmar commune: five villages, 83 families (F)
  • Balang commune: four villages, 167 F
  • Prasath commune: three villages, 74 F
  • Kroyear commune: two villages, 31 F
  • Total members: 355 families, plus some individuals as monks, teachers, doctors
  • Members come also from Phnom Penh, Kg Thmar, Kg Thom, pagodas (monks) etc


Book keeping records of membership fee payments


  • Membership admission fee
  • Membership fee at monthly basis
  • Donation from other sources, either as private or via organizations
  • Membership additional collection fee in case of emergency (more deaths as predicted: more than 12 cases)


Receipts of payments


  • Until March 2006; members who pay 500 Riel/month receive 60.000 Riel in case of death (of family members); members who pay 1000 Riel/month got 120.000 Riel/case
  • After 11/3/06: each case got 300.000 Riel for all membership categories
  • Small expenses for committee members for traveling purposes
  • Income around 4 mil./year would be enough for 12 death cases. More cases? The association has difficulties to have money to support.
  • Balance by now: 50.000 Riel in cash (500.000 Riel to be collected until the end of the year!)

Documentation system

  • Written statute with signatures of president and committee members
  • Minutes of meetings
  • Financial records: income and expenses
  • Receipts for membership payment
  • Receipts (honorary) for donation
  • CVs (with photos) of members
  • Others

Information flow channels

  • Religious ceremonies
  • Copies of statutes distributed to members (150 copies)
  • Copies all the minutes of advisory committee meetings
  • Representatives from the group (communes and villages level) spread information to members
  • Mouth to mouth

Fixed assets owned by the association

  • Death storage facility: 1.5 million Riel
  • Transport cart: 4 million Riel
  • Other necessary materials and equipments for funerals

Sustainability characteristics

Strong points

  • Good leadership
  • Good organization structure
  • Voluntary membership
  • Good information flow
  • Fund raising ability
  • Financial management system in place
  • Good documentation system

Weak points

  • Leadership personnel are working based on voluntary (merit spirit) at the top and local level, mostly above seventies
  • Lack of long-term strategy
  • Difficulty to collect membership fee
  • Members are mostly poor
  • No financial reserves in case of emergency

In my opinion, the association has strong foundation with many members from different villages and communes involved. Local authorities are supporting its activities. All relevant documents are kept properly and in written format. Their leaders are very committed. Besides, it has helped many of its members in case of emergency of death cases in a proper way.



  1. Welcome

    • I come from Sampung Village in Prasath Commune of Santuk District, Kampong Thom, Cambodia.

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