bavet commune, Svay Rieng province – Thousands gathered in driving rain Saturday to say farewell to the late national police chief Hok Lundy, who perished along with three others in a helicopter crash Nov 9 in Svay Rieng province.
Hok Lundy’s funeral, held at his lavish home in Chantrea district’s Bavet commune, drew approximately 2,000 mourners, according to Keo Samoeun, director of the Svay Rieng provincial information department.
Among the mourners were a number of senior government officials including Interior Minister Sar Kheng and newly appointed National Police Commissioner Neth Savoeun.
According to Keo Samoeun, a number of high-level officials from Vietnam were also in attendance.
“Today all of our entire Ministry of Interior greatly mourns [the loss] of His Excellency Hok Lundy, who died Nov 9 by helicopter crash during his mission,” Em Sam An, secretary of state with the Interior Ministry, said during a eulogy he delivered at Saturday’s ceremony.
Funeral attendees wandered around the grounds of the Bavet residence hours before the funeral procession arrived, while countless others stood along National Road 1 to witness the 140-vehicle funeral procession, which left Phnom Penh at about 9 am.
Chan Sophea, 28, was among the 400 people who gathered to mourn near Hok Lundy’s house in Phnom Penh. “I want to see the celebration and procession conducted by senior officials to compare the difference between senior and ordinary people,” she said Saturday.
The day was not without incident, with an SUV traveling in a convoy ahead of the funeral motorcade having struck and injured three villagers traveling by motorbike along National Road 1 in Svay Chrum commune Saturday morning, Keo Samoeun said by phone Sunday.
Local police said the three men only sustained minor injuries, and declined to reveal who owned the vehicle that ran into the motorbike or who was driving it at the time of the accident.
Mourners wearing black ribbons pinned to white shirts flanked both sides of the driveway to Hok Lundy’s Bavet residence, where the procession arrived at 2:15 pm.
The sizeable attendance at his funeral is a testament to the legacy Hok Lundy will leave behind in his native Svay Rieng province, where he helped build schools, pagodas, roads and a park, Keo Samoeun said.
“Everyone here feels regret,” Bavet resident Phanna Teav, 25, said Saturday.
A military band wearing crisp formal white uniforms played the national song of mourning for deceased soldiers while pallbearers carried the decorated coffin containing Hok Lundy’s body to the grave site dug about 10 meters from his house.
Hok Lundy’s wife, Men Pheakdey, 52, their four children and other family members walked directly behind the coffin, wearing traditional white mourning attire, although the ceremony was derived from Chinese tradition, according to the undertaker, Kong Lim.
Steady rainfall turned into a torrential downpour during the ceremony, sending mourners standing near the gravesite running for shelter. Hok Lundy’s family remained kneeling on mats beside his grave, however, while ceremony organizers struggled to keep them dry with umbrellas.
After the ceremony and burial, which lasted slightly more than one hour, Sar Kheng and several other high-ranking officials sloshed through ankle-high water and across the muddy lawn to lay flowers on Hok Lundy’s burial site, while his family lit sticks of incense and watched funeral organizers burn paper offerings for Hok Lundy’s soul.
“We are feeling very sad but there’s nothing we can do,” said Dy Rotha, Hok Lundy’s 19-year-old son, who expressed concern for the safety of Cambodian people, now that his father, the national police chief, was gone.
“My dad was the national police [chief] in Cambodia, so I hope everyone is going to be OK,” he said.
(Reporting by Saing Soenthrith and Lea Radick in Svay Rieng and Chhorn Chansy in Phnom Penh)