The stone effigy of a man holding a firm gaze, clutching a microphone in one hand and gesturing with the other is the first glimpse of what the statue of slain unionist Chea Vichea will look like.
It is not, however, the actual statue – the version pictured above, carved at a cost of $4,000 in tribute to the fallen Free Trade Union president, was rejected because sculptors had depicted Vichea’s belt as being worn too low.
A second statue, chiselled by the same statue-makers in Siem Reap at a cost of $3,000, will be unveiled on May 3 in a garden close to the news stand where Vichea was shot dead, west of the Independence Monument, on January 22, 2004.
At a groundbreaking ceremony yesterday, Mann Senghak, president of the FTU commission, said the statue – carved out of expensive stone from Tbeng Meanchey mountain in Preah Vihear province – was 1.68 metres tall and would stand on a one-metre-high stone pedestal.
“We’re happy the government has allowed [us] to build a statue showing Chea Vichea demanding justice for workers,” he said. “But we’re not happy his murderers have not been found.”
Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun are serving 20 years in prison for Vichea’s murder, but rights groups say they are innocent.
The cost of the project – including the two statues – is $8,000, Senghak said.
Phnom Penh municipality put forward $5,000. When contacted yesterday, deputy governor Khuong Sreng declined to comment on whether city officials would take part in the statue’s inauguration.