The body of former prime minister Pen Sovann was cremated at Wat Russei Sanh on Phnom Penh’s southwestern outskirts yesterday, with family, friends and opposition officials gathering in white to bid farewell to the 80-year-old in a half-hour ceremony.
Sovann, who was Cambodia’s first prime minister after the fall of the Khmer Rouge, passed away at his home in Takeo province’s Donkeo town on October 29, and had been lying in wake at the Wat Than pagoda in the capital’s Chamkarmon district since Wednesday.
The ceremony was held after a procession from Wat Than to Wat Russei Sanh.
“We all already know that Pen Sovann persistently strived and struggled in his life and in politics since he was a child to serve his nation and his people,” said Cambodia National Rescue Party lawmaker Eng Chhay Eang in his eulogy. “Even when his body was sick, he was fearless in serving his nation.”
“The death of Pen Sovann is a tremendous loss for his family,” he continued, calling Sovann “a brave man, endowed with deeply patriotic ideals for his nation, and for his entire family”.
Sovann was premier for six months in 1981 until Vietnam removed him from the post and jailed him in Hanoi for a decade, reportedly for opposing Vietnam’s continued influence in Cambodia after its overthrow of the Khmer Rouge in 1979.
The CNRP – for whom Sovann served as a lawmaker since 2013 – had sought to hold the cremation at the central Wat Botum park, yet backed down last week and agreed to hold it on the outskirts. Cambodian People’s Party spokesman Sok Eysan had said that Sovann had forfeited any special honours after choosing to become an opposition lawmaker.