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Leng Peng Long, general secretary of the National Assembly, writes a message of condolence in a book yesterday at Phnom Penh’s Wat Than pagoda.
Leng Peng Long, general secretary of the National Assembly, writes a message of condolence in a book yesterday at Phnom Penh’s Wat Than pagoda. Eliah Lillis

MPs pay respects to ex-PM Sovann

Cambodian People’s Party lawmaker Nguon Nhel paid his respects to late former prime minister Pen Sovann yesterday, as authorities stuck to their refusal to allow his cremation at Wat Botum park.

Sovann, who was the country’s first prime minister after the 1979 fall of the Khmer Rouge and died on Saturday aged 80, is lying in wake at the Wat Than pagoda. Nhel paid his respects in his capacity as the National Assembly’s second vice president, an official said.

“A National Assembly delegation led by Nguon Nhel and lawmakers from both parties went to pay respect,” said Assembly spokesman Leng Peng Long. “We shared our condolences with the family.”

A cremation ceremony is set for Sunday, and a meeting between opposition officials and City Hall yesterday resulted in an agreement to hold the funeral at Wat Russei Sanh – near Prey Sar prison on the city’s outskirts – instead of the central Wat Botum.

CPP spokesman Sok Eysan said the CPP would not allow anything special for Sovann – who became an opposition lawmaker at the 2013 election – and decried the opposition’s apparent moralising.

“Does only the CNRP have a conscience, while the others do not?” said Eysan. “He had a different ideology . . . so how can we pay respect to him?”

Opposition lawmaker Eng Chhay Eang said he regretted that the CPP was being so recalcitrant about honouring the life of their first general secretary, who was removed in 1981 for his opposition to Vietnam. “When he was alive, we did not thank him. That’s OK – but when he passes, we must,” he said.

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