PRIME Minister Hun Sen’s cabinet has called for a ban on statues depicting living political leaders, after it was discovered this week that a statue erected inside the Anticorruption Institution was a likeness of the premier.
In a statement issued Thursday, Ho Sothy, director of the cabinet, called on government departments and members of the public to refrain from making statues of leaders who are still alive, saying such works are not compatible with Cambodian culture.
“Making or carving the statues of the living people, especially the government leadership, is against the national culture and custom,” the statement said.
Om Yentieng, a senior adviser to Hun Sen and chairman of the Anticorruption Unit, said he had commissioned the 3-metre-high statue.
“I certainly made a statue of the prime minister without asking his permission, but I did so in good will,” he said.
He added that he planned to write a public letter apologising to Hun Sen, and that he will have the statue removed if he is ordered to do so.
“I will write the official letter of apology to him in public this evening,” he said Thursday afternoon.
Khim Sarith, secretary of state at the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, said statues of living people were in conflict with Buddhist tradition, and could also have negative consequences for those who erected them.
“It is not good. Our people have a belief that anyone who does that will meet their misery,” he said.
Sam Rainsy Party spokesman Yim Sovann said Om Yentieng’s decision to erect the statue had been a mistake, but pointed to political – rather than religious – reasons.
“If he put the statue in front of the anticorruption body when there is still a lot of corruption in the government, it would represent the corruption of the government, so I welcome this decision by the prime minister to remove the statue,” he said.
Miech Ponn, an adviser to the Mores and Customs Commission at Cambodia’s Buddhist Institute, said it was not unheard of for statues of living leaders to be erected.
“However, I do not know whether it is correct for people to make these statues from stone, metal, wood or clay for exhibition, because there aren’t any documents related to this issue,” he said.