Lavish funerals in vogue as rich Asians go out in style

Fri Sep 24, 2010 4:41am EDT
 
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By Razak Ahmad and Angie Teo

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters Life!) - Demand for luxury funerals is booming in Southeast Asia, driven by the rising ranks of the wealthy in the region.

From $100,000 gold-plated caskets to million dollar burial plots, a growing number of the rich are making the passage to the afterlife with the best that money can buy.

"Our clients tell us their loved ones deserve the best in life and in death," said Au Kok Huei, the group chief operating officer of Malaysia's NV Multi Corporation Berhad, Southeast Asia's sole listed bereavement services provider.

The company offers a range of funeral services and runs cemeteries and columbariums in six countries - Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia and Taiwan.

Its 100,000 clients are mainly ethnic Chinese who make up more than 40 million of Southeast Asia's population. Muslims make up the majority of the population in the region, but lavish funerals are frowned upon by the religion.

Company officials said demand for luxury funerals among the ethnic Chinese has been growing especially in Indonesia, which has a small but affluent Chinese community and in Singapore, where the company runs a $22 million columbarium.

Among the more popular top-of-the-line products are a burial urn crafted from Canadian jade priced at 188,000 Malaysian ringgit ($60,780), while a gold-plated casket costs 388,000 ringgit. Prices for a basic burial provided by smaller firms start from about 4,000 ringgit.

The company's most expensive burial plots are on hilltops, conforming to Chinese geomancy principles. Each costs 1.6 million ringgit and wealthy customers usually purchase several adjacent plots for their family members.   Continued...

 
<p>A gold-plated casket, priced at 388,000 ringgit ($125,000), is on display at the Nirvana Memorial Centre in Kuala Lumpur September 22, 2010. Demand for luxury funerals is booming in Southeast Asia, driven by the rising ranks of the wealthy in the region. Photo taken September 22, 2010. To match Reuters Life! MALAYSIA-FUNERALS/ REUTERS/Bazuki Muhammad</p>