The architect of the Win-Win Monument has defended his newly inaugurated creation, labelling critics who accused him of copying a similar monument in Vietnam as “crazy”.
The accusations surfaced on Friday, as the deputy president of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), Eng Chhai Eang, posted an image on Facebook of the Win-Win Monument beside a strikingly similar memorial in Vietnam, labelling the former a “copy”.
The comparison came only days after the three-day Win-Win Monument inauguration ceremony that marked the 20th anniversary of Hun Sen’s signature win-win policy, which saw an end to decades of conflict by allowing Khmer Rouge rebels to reintegrate into Cambodian society.
The event was held between December 29 and 31 and attended by more than a million people.
Chhai Eang’s image was widely shared by users who agreed that the two memorials shared a very strong likeness, among them self-exiled government critic Chham Chhany, who said the Vietnamese monument was copied.
“Hun Sen built Win-Win monument by following a Vietnamese style, what does he mean by this? Win-Win for Khmer or was it won for yuon?” he wrote.
Yuon is a pejorative term with which some Cambodians refer to the Vietnamese.
The Vietnamese monument – named Tuong Dai Toan Dan Chien Thang and built in the country’s Preah Trapaing province, which they renamed Tra Vinh – was erected to commemorate the end of the Vietnam War on April 30, 1975.
In late December, the General Department of Policy and Foreign Affairs director-general Nem Sowath explained the monument’s design and construction at a press conference.
He said the three-angled tower represented Prime Minister Hun Sen’s guarantee on lives and safety, jobs and property when creating the win-win policy in 1998.
He added that the main body of the monument had five angles which represented the Difid strategy (Divide, Isolate, Finish, Integration and Development), while the base structures featured seven angles representing the seven factors which enabled the win-win policy to be successful.
Lieutenant General Khem Sok who designed the monument said on Sunday that it took two years to get approval for its style, and that it came from a collection of ideas from different ministries.
“We made the style according to Hun Sen’s win-win policy. We didn’t follow the style of ancient temples built to commemorate gods. We built Hun Sen’s museum inside to celebrate his win-win achievement,” he said.
Responding to accusations that the style was plagiarised from the Vietnamese monument, he said: “They are crazy. They don’t understand Hun Sen’s policy. They say we have copied the Vietnamese style, but it is different."
“Our design was inspired by Hun Sen’s policies by having seven angles at the bottom. And we still have Khmer style with the four-angles, like our ancient temples, and we have four entrances decorated with nagas and lions . . . this is a Khmer style,” he said.
He said the monument could not be built in the style of an ancient temple because the area could be surrounded by high-rise buildings in the future and it would, therefore, be obscured.
“We didn’t just build it. We had to first get approval from the Ministry of National Defence."
“Our style went to Hun Sen and he approved it. It is not a style from elsewhere, it came from his policies,” he stressed.