A HUGE bronze statue of the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk was inaugurated on Friday ahead of the one-year anniversary of his passing, but opposition lawmakers stirred controversy by failing to attend the event.
The 4.5-meter-tall statue, housed under a 27-meter-high stupa in a park east of Independence Monument, depicts the King Father wearing a business suit. Costing about $1.2 million, Deputy Prime Minister Sok An said it took eight months to complete.
The ceremony was presided over by King Norodom Sihamoni and his mother, Queen Mother Norodom Monineath.
Prime Minister Hun Sen said on Friday the ceremony was intended to cement the former King’s position as the architect of Cambodian independence from France.
“I suggest that the next generation who leads government in the future must keep the day October 15 forever for Cambodian people to pay homage and consider [King Father Norodom Sihanouk’s] achievements for the country’s independence,” he said at the unveiling.
“I remember the late king father’s speech on October 31, 2011, calling for the Cambodian nation to keep its integrity, which shows the world that we are united,” he added.
The country’s former head of state, whose rule during the 1950s and 1960s is often referred to as Cambodia’s “Golden Age,” died nearly a year ago at the age of 89 after receiving treatment in Beijing.
National Assembly President Heng Samrin and other Cambodian People’s Party officials were also in attendance, but members of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) were notably absent.
The CNRP is still boycotting National Assembly sessions as a protest against the disputed results of the July general election.
Following the inauguration, many Cambodians came to pay their respects. Than Sitha, 33, a street vendor, said she and her family would continue to remember the late King Father.
“We miss our late King Farther. He died one year [ago] but he is still on our minds. We saw the statue, and we felt like we saw him alive in front of us [again], to defend our country,” she said.