A sculptor who is working on a statue of slain political activist Kem Ley has decided to resign from his job rather than abandon the project.
Sien Kamangdang, a self-employed sculptor for 20 years, had spent the past four months working at a shop in Kampong Speu province.
Kamangdang’s employer, who he yesterday refused to identify, fired him when he found out the sculptor was working on a Kem Ley statue, he said. He was then told he could return to work on one condition – that he stop working on the statue.
“I decided to stop working for him; I could not abandon my work”, Kamangdang said yesterday.
Work on the statue, originally to be cast in cement, came to light publicly last week when Kamangdang posted pictures of it on his Facebook page. CNRP lawmaker Ou Chanrath then contacted him, pledging the funds necessary to upgrade it to copper.
That post got him fired, said Kamangdang, who believes his employer feared backlash from the government and the public. “There are some people that like him [Kem Ley] and some who don’t”, he said.
Kamangdang added that while he admired Ley greatly, he has no intention of getting involved in politics himself.
Social analyst Meas Ny yesterday said that the shop owner might feel pressure from local authorities, saying he knew of a print store that had refused to print images of Kem Ley out of fear of government reprisal.
Ny said while local authorities might try to pressure the shop owner, any such attempt would only discredit the government.
For his part, the opposition lawmaker Chanrath said the project, materials for which will cost about $5,000, is not political in nature.
“It has nothing to do with CNRP,” he said. “My close friends and I are paying for the materials.”
On August 17, Chanrath submitted a letter to City Hall requesting that a statue of Ley be erected at Freedom Park but has not yet received a response from the government.
Chanrath said he expects the statue to be ready in two weeks.