The opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party yesterday held a religious ceremony to commemorate the lives lost in two days of factional fighting that saw then-second prime minister Hun Sen wrest power from then-first prime minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh in 1997.
“On this occasion, I would like to appeal for a stop to bloody Khmer versus Khmer [fighting], like what occurred 18 years ago.
Khmers must be united,” party president Sam Rainsy said at yesterday’s ceremony.
The 1997 clash, which saw forces loyal to the two prime ministers duke it out on the streets of Phnom Penh, killed and injured hundreds.
In the aftermath, Ranariddh initially fled to France, but returned the next year to form a coalition government with Hun Sen after national elections in 1998.
Former Funcinpec information minister Lu Lay Sreng, who attended yesterday’s ceremony, said many of his own troops were killed in 1997 fighting.
“I am among the victims,” he said. “I came here just to commemorate the souls of those dead.
I have forgotten about that nightmare, and now support the CNRP’s [goal] of national reconciliation.”
Political analyst Ou Virak said yesterday it was important to remember the events of 1997.
While yesterday’s ceremony was unlikely to earn the CNRP many political points, he added, “it is an occasion to remind people that the ruling party [took] power through the armed forces”.