City Hall yesterday rejected the opposition’s request to hold the funeral of former Prime Minister Pen Sovann at Phnom Penh’s Wat Botum Park, saying he ceased to enjoy any special privileges after becoming a lawmaker in the 2013 election.
“That was the past, but now it is the present and things are different,” said City Hall spokesman Mean Chanyada. “Currently he is a lawmaker, therefore we treat him like a lawmaker.”
Sovann, who was Cambodia’s first premier following the fall of the Khmer Rouge, passed away on Saturday night after a prolonged battle with poor health and will lay in wake at his family home in Takeo province. He was serving as a Cambodia National Rescue Party lawmaker for Kampong Speu province.
Chanyada said the municipality had yet to receive a request for a funeral march from Takeo to Chamkarmon district’s Wat Khan or for holding the cremation ceremony at Wat Botum, adding that the site was reserved for officials who were ranked deputy prime ministers and above.
“There is no discrimination. Even ministers cannot be cremated there,” Chanyada said. CNRP lawmaker Yem Ponhearith said it was “regrettable” that the authorities were ignoring Sovann’s past contributions to the country and that even lawmakers could be honoured for their service. “They should honour all Cambodian ministers the same, whether past or present,” he said.
In the wake of Sovann’s death, the CNRP must now fill one of the three National Assembly seats they won from Kampong Speu province in 2013 – Sok Umsea and Nuth Rumdoul are the other two sitting lawmakers.
According to the Law on the Election of Members of the National Assembly, the party is to nominate a new member to fill in the vacancy from the broader list of candidates originally submitted for that province.
CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann said the party – following its list from the 2013 election – would propose Soun Rida to take over the seat. He said Rida, who is a doctor by profession, currently serves as vice chairman of the party’s Phnom Penh working committee.
“There is no need for discussion because we have to follow whoever is fourth on the list,” Sovann said.
“I don’t think we will change that, and it will happen after the funeral.”
Rida could not be reached for comment yesterday.