A veterans’ cemetery for soldiers who laid down their lives in Koh Kong province during the civil war was inaugurated on January 17 in a ceremony presided over by Minister of National Defence Tea Banh. The cemetery took more than one year to construct at a cost of nearly $1 million.

The ceremony was also attended by many of the family members of the fighters who will be laid to rest there.

Provincial governor Mithona Phuthong said at the inauguration that previously the cemetery site was all grasslands and forest but now it would serve as a permanent monument to the 447 soldiers entombed there who died in action during the war against the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime.

“This cemetery was built by a team from the defence ministry and it will also become a historical site for tourists," she said.

Ministry secretary of state Yun Min, who headed the team that built the cemetery, said that of the 447 remains laid to rest there, 392 were soldiers who died in combat or on duty while another 55 later died of natural causes.

He noted that the graveyard was built at a cost of nearly 174 million riel ($739,670) contributed by 417 donors.

“This cemetery is a monument showing gratitude for our soldiers who sacrificed their lives for the nation, for our motherland and for the peace of our people. This resting place is dedicated to our soldiers so that their family members know that their loved one's sacrifice hasn't been forgotten, and we hope that this may help bring closure for them,” he continued.

Tea Banh said the government would forever express its profound gratitude for the countrymen who sacrificed so many things, including their lives in the end, to bring the nation peace, which is why the government holds a memorial service to honour them annually.

“This cemetery was built not only as a place of memorial for our cadres and soldiers who laid down their lives for the nation and the people, but it will also become a historic monument that embodies and highlights the values of national unity, solidarity, a culture of gratitude and the resilience of our national society,” he said.

He expressed hopes that the site would become a location dedicated to the truth about the nation's military history that shows the resistance, dedication and patriotism that ensures the Kingdom's territorial integrity.

“This cemetery will help instil the spirit of patriotism, solidarity, morals and gratitude into the next generation. The combatants made the ultimate sacrifice for the motherland and have done so in every era, under every circumstance and in every province of Cambodia to get us to where we are today," he said.

The 447 remains are from soldiers hailing from the capital and 17 provinces: four from Phnom Penh; 282 from Koh Kong; two each from Kep and Pursat; 18 from Takeo; 35 from Kampong Speu; one each from Siem Reap, Kampong Thom, Battambang, Kratie and Ratanakkiri; eight each from Preah Sihanouk and Svay Rieng; 30 from Kandal; three from Prey Veng; 42 from Kampot; five from Kampong Cham; and four from Kampong Chhnang.