City Hall yesterday defended its decision to ask petrol stations in the capital to halt sales along the route taken by Kem Ley’s funeral procession, citing the potential for “terrorism” and “third-party” attempts to burn down gasoline stations.
Mourners noted on social media that the stations’ closure had prevented people from filling up their gas tanks as they made their way to Takeo province – Ley’s final resting place.
Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Khoung Sreng said the move was taken as a security measure to ensure public safety, adding that station owners were asked to shut shop for a few hours as mourners passed by.
“If terrorism happens, terrorists will target petrol stations,” he said. “You can think about that, if someone burns the petrol station, how many people joining the procession are going to die.”
He dismissed complaints by mourners, questioning how they ran out of fuel close to their starting point at Wat Chas pagoda, adding that they were biased and disliked the authorities.
But Tim Malay, a member of the funeral committee and director of the Cambodia Youth Network, said that while authorities said it was to ensure the safety of mourners, such a step hadn’t been taken for previous processions.
“In comparison with the procession for the King Father [Norodom Sihanouk], the number of people was similar but none of the petrol stations were closed then.”
Employees at petrol stations the Post spoke to yesterday suggested some confusion over the directive, with some saying they had closed only when the crowds were too close, while others said their outlets were closed all morning.