Minister of Civil Service Hun Many has inaugurated new statues which depict venerable teacher Kim Chreng holding the hand of former Prime Minister Hun Sen as a school boy.

The youngest son of Hun Sen, Many explained that the monument aims to commemorate the wise monk who provided his father with the education he needed to begin his journey to becoming an intellectual and a hero. 

The inauguration took place on January 8 in Kratie province, near the Peam Te Bridge in Bos Leav commune’s Taluh village, in Chitr Borei district.

Kratie provincial governor Va Thorn said the new copper statues replaced concrete versions which were erected by Hun Sen in 2003, after Chreng passed away. Because the old monument was in poor condition and collapsing, Hun Sen suggested that it be replaced.

“The new statues are already attracting the public. Many people are crossing the bridge to visit and take photos. They have beautified and raised the profile of our province,” he added. 

The statue of Chreng is 2.7m tall, while the statue of Hun Sen is 1.68m tall. They were made of copper at a cost of $410,000, donated by the former prime minister and his wife Bun Rany. The old statues have been relocated to Bos Leav Pagoda. 

Many said the statues are a reflection of the personal history of Hun Sen, born into a farming family in Kampong Cham province. He studied hard while residing at Neakvoan Pagoda after moving to Phnom Penh, under the care of the late Chreng. 

“In addition to recalling Hun Sen’s struggles, as well as his gratitude to his teacher, the statue has improved the beauty of Kratie province. The local people can use the space around it for recreation,” he added.

Pov Sok, a personal adviser to Hun Sen and an author who has published several works on the former prime minister, explained that it had taken a long time for the statues to be rebuilt.

“As a boy, [Hun Sen] was a student of venerable Chreng. He and the monk collected alms together while he was living at the pagoda. He received great care from the monk, hence a debt of gratitude,” he said.

Sok noted that the monk had once predicted that Hun Sen would become prime minister in the future.

Chhort Bunthang, a cultural relations, tourism and education research fellow at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said that not only does the monument express Hun Sen’s gratitude to his former mentor, but also set a great example of the importance of cultivating a culture of gratitude.

“Whenever someone does good things for us, we should offer our respect and express our gratitude as much as possible. If we are less successful, we do less. If we are more successful, we do more. This should serve as a role model for all of society, especially the younger generations,” he added. 

He also believes that the location of the monument will become a tourist attraction that will draw visitors to the province. In addition, he suggested that the people who live nearby will earn extra income by offering goods and services to visitors.