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City Hall, Kem Ley funeral committee at odds over march

Monks lead a procession of hundreds for Kem Ley over Chroy Changvar bridge as they travel to Wat Chas pagoda earlier this month. SBN
Monks lead a procession of hundreds for Kem Ley over Chroy Changvar bridge as they travel to Wat Chas pagoda earlier this month. SBN

City Hall, Kem Ley funeral committee at odds over march

City Hall and slain political commentator Kem Ley’s funeral committee yesterday had yet to reach an agreement on the route for his funeral procession on Sunday, or if mourners would be allowed to march to his final resting place in Takeo province.

At a meeting yesterday, Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Khoung Sreng asked the committee not to use the broad thoroughfares of Monivong Boulevard or Russian Boulevard, instead suggesting a longer route that would finally join Russian Boulevard nearer the outskirts of the city.

Other requests included asking mourners to ride on motorcycles or use cars rather than march during the procession and for them to refrain from using any political banners or sloganeering, according to a statement released after the meeting.

Ley’s wife Bou Rachana, funeral committee member Pa Nguong Teang and two family members attended the meeting, which is expected to resume today.

Sreng said the distance from Wat Chas pagoda, where Ley’s body has been on display since July 10, to the Chom Chao roundabout near the airport, was close to 11 kilometres – a long distance to march within the city.

“If they walk until there, they will cause traffic congestion,” he said. “However, if they want to walk from the pagoda to somewhere before the Chroy Changvar bridge, we can understand that.”

In regards political chants or banners, Sreng said a funeral procession was supposed to be a solemn event, and that City Hall was worried outsiders could hijack the occasion.

“This is not for coming there and insulting or shouting,” he said. “We are just afraid of opportunists taking advantage of the funeral.”

The body has been on display at the Wat Chas pagoda on Chroy Changvar peninsula since Ley’s shooting death at a petrol station in the capital on July 10.

Last Saturday, Phnom Penh city governor Pa Socheatvong accused Ley supporters of wanting to keep his body at the pagoda for longer than planned only to earn more from visiting mourners.

His statement came after the committee tasked with overseeing the funeral balked at an agreement with City Hall to send the body for interment on Sunday.

The committee on Monday decided to take Ley to his final resting place in Takeo’s Tram Kat district, where they plan to erect a statue engraved with 12 of his popular slogans.

Rachana, Ley’s wife, told the Post she was disappointed City Hall was reluctant to let them use the planned route.

“I regret that my wish is not fulfilled, but I will request them again to let us use this route,” she said.

Tim Malay, a member of the funeral committee and director of the Khmer Youth Network, said they expected as many as 100,000 people to attend Ley’s procession, but would instruct people to refrain from making any political statements or using insulting language.

“The banners will only include Kem Ley’s slogans, which he used when he was alive, such as ‘wipe your tears and continue your journey’,” he added.

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