In an elaborate Buddhist ceremony yesterday morning, King Norodom Sihamoni and ruling party ministers laid flowers at the newly erected statue commemorating the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk in observance of the one-year anniversary of his death.
Standing before the crowd of about 500 senior government officials who attended the service at the statue – located just east of Independence Monument – Prime Minister Hun Sen said Sihanouk gave Cambodian people hope for political stability and national unification.
“We have done and will do our utmost to follow the path taken by the late King,” Hun Sen said in his speech, which also credited Sihanouk with achieving independence from France in 1953.
But conspicuously absent opposition ministers-elect yesterday said the Cambodian People’s Party fell well short of living up to the late King Father’s pursuit of national unity.
The Cambodia National Rescue Party filed a request with the Royal Cabinet for six of its ministers to be allowed to attend, said spokesman Yim Sovann. On Monday, the party received an envelope from the cabinet containing a program for the ceremony with no letter of permission, Sovann said.
That ambiguous reply came the same day about 100 riot police were deployed after authorities told CNRP officials that they could not hold a memorial planned for that day until after the official commemoration.
“It’s a total insult,” said Mu Sochua, a CNRP spokeswoman. “We are saddened as much as we are appalled about the image of anti-riot police surrounding the statue.”
The CNRP will hold a memorial at the statue, Sochua said, but they have not yet set a date.
Born in 1922, King Sihanouk sat on the throne from 1941 to 1955 and reclaimed it in 1993. He voluntarily abdicated the throne in 2004 to his son, King Norodom Sihamoni.
He died of a heart attack in Beijing at the age of 89 after suffering from hypertension, diabetes and several forms of cancer.
More than 100,000 people were estimated to have crowded the streets of Phnom Penh when his body was returned to Cambodia to lie in state days later.