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City grants approval for Kem Ley’s 100-day ceremony

Workers erect marquees yesterday afternoon at Wat Chas pagoda in preparation for an event to mark 100 days since Kem Ley’s death.
Workers erect marquees yesterday afternoon at Wat Chas pagoda in preparation for an event to mark 100 days since Kem Ley’s death. Pha Lina

City grants approval for Kem Ley’s 100-day ceremony

After a weeklong standoff between authorities and the organisers of a Friday-to-Sunday ceremony marking 100 days since the murder of outspoken political analyst Kem Ley, Phnom Penh City Hall yesterday granted permission for the event to go ahead.

The committee organising the ceremony initially asked to hold it in the centrally located Wat Botum park last week, but later asked to hold it at Wat Chas on the Chroy Changvar peninsula, where Ley’s wake and funeral were hosted after he was shot dead on July 10.

However, authorities on Friday also rejected that request, and the pagoda’s abbot told the committee he could not support a banned ceremony. Yesterday, a meeting between committee member But Buntenh and City Hall officials overturned that decision.

“The committee and City Hall agreed, and we can continue with the funeral at Wat Chas as usual and as planned,” said Buntenh, a dissident monk who heads the Independent Monk Network for Social justice and was a close friend of Ley.

Buntenh said Municipal Governor Pa Socheatvong personally approved the request after coming to “understand the aims of the funeral”. Deputy Governor Khuong Sreng had said on Sunday the ceremony might be an effort to cheat money from mourners.

City Hall spokesman Mean Chanyada said the ban had been overturned because the committee had better explained what it intended to do at Wat Chas, and proved it had permission from Ley’s family.

“If they wanted to hold a normal funeral, City Hall would never have denied them,” the spokesman said. “At first, the committee did not present themselves clearly . . . But now everything is clear, so we have allowed them to hold the funeral ceremony.”

A statue of Ley will be placed at Wat Chas over the three days of the ceremony, and on Sunday it will be marched to his home in Takeo province, with Buntenh saying the committee had agreed with City Hall to manage the procession in an orderly manner.

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