Nine NGOs yesterday demanded that Phnom Penh authorities publicly apologise for painting over a huge mural of a seamstress on the capital’s White Building last week.
The organisations, including women’s rights, LGBT and pro-transparency groups, said that the mural’s removal hurt the portrait subject’s feelings and, in a broader sense, affected the government’s push towards stronger gender equality.
“The painting shows the job of a woman who puts effort in sewing to support her family,” said Thyda Khus, the director of gender equality watchdog Silaka. “It is very meaningful to the [subject] . . . We need the authorities to say sorry in public.”
City Hall spokesman Long Dimanche said that the authorities have no reason to apologise. “We are the people who obeyed and implemented the rule of law; they painted without permission,” he said yesterday. “We cannot say sorry.”
The former 10-metre-high green and black aerosol painting – done by Miles “El Mac” MacGregor as part of a broader project sponsored by US artist David Choe – depicted seamstress Moeun Thary, a resident of the building.
Thary yesterday said she was sorry to see the painting go and that the mural showed a woman’s strength in supporting her family.
Fellow White Building resident Chan Sanch said that the removal was surprising because it doesn’t negatively affect anyone. “The authorities should know the value of the painting and give encouragement to the painter,” he said.