Deputy president of the Cambodia National Rescue Party Kem Sokha yesterday lambasted the government for preventing the party’s supporters from paying tribute to the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk at a newly built statue of the former monarch.
About 150 CNRP supporters – including 105 Buddhist monks – gathered yesterday morning at party headquarters in Phnom Penh’s Tuol Kork district to commemorate the first anniversary of Sihanouk’s death.
An afternoon vigil at the statue near Independence Monument was planned, but had to be abandoned after authorities told the party it could not take place until after today’s official commemoration ceremony.
As many as 100 military police were seen arriving at the new monument in the hour prior to the planned ceremony, taking up positions around the memorial.
“[The authorities] told us to wait until after the official commemoration. We had requested [to be allowed to hold a ceremony] but still have had no answer,” said Sokha.
The lawmaker went on to suggest that the move was a sign that the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) saw symbols of the monarchy as their political property.
“We see that group of communists and … former Khmer Rouge has always thought of the Royal Statue of former King Norodom Sihanouk as belonging to them, even though the statue belongs to all Cambodian people,” Sokha said, referring to the CPP.
Khieu Kanharith, a government spokesman, declined to comment yesterday about the possible participation of CNRP lawmakers at tomorrow’s commemoration ceremony.
“I don’t know about the CNRP. But tomorrow all ministries and state institutions will be there,” he said.
Opposition lawmaker Yim Sovann said the CNRP had yet to pick a date to hold the observance, but would soon be writing to the committee responsible for granting permission to hold public ceremonies.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY DANIEL PYE