The Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts has denied a request from the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party to hold a memorial ceremony inside the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum on April 17, a letter obtained yesterday reveals.
The document, signed by Chamroeun Vantha, the ministry’s general director of administration and finance, states that the request was denied due to the opposition not having first gained permission from City Hall.
“The Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts does not allow this, because any ceremony constituting a public gathering needs the permission of local authorities first,” the letter reads.
The CNRP sent a letter to the ministry on April 3 asking permission to hold the ceremony at Tuol Sleng, the site of the Khmer Rouge’s former S-21 prison, where Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, oversaw the deaths of more than 12,000 people between 1975 and 1979.
Opposition lawmaker-elect Mao Monivann said yesterday that the CNRP would not ask City Hall’s permission to hold a ceremony at Tuol Sleng, but would inform municipal officials of the party’s plans to instead hold a ceremony at the Choeung Ek "killing fields" on the outskirts of Phnom Penh.
“If we hold the ceremony at Choeung Ek, we will just inform City Hall and we will do it,” Monivann said.
City Hall spokesman Long Dimanche said his office received a letter from the opposition yesterday informing it of its plans for a ceremony at the Killing Fields.
“We will have to inspect this request first and will ask advice [from our superiors],” Dimanche said.
In recent years, the opposition has held a Buddhist ceremony at the Choeung Ek "killing fields" each April 17 – the anniversary of Phnom Penh falling to Khmer Rouge forces in 1975 – to remember the roughly 1.7 million people who died under Pol Pot’s brutal regime.