Opposition party leader Sam Rainsy and US Ambassador Kent Wiedemann laid the first bricks of a stupa on Thursday honoring those who were killed in the March 30, 1997, grenade attack.
This is the sixth time construction of such a stupa has begun—and opposition party officials say they hope it will be the last.
All five previous stupas were destroyed by city officials, who said the concrete and metal memorials had been built without the necessary permits.
The new stupa has the municipality’s approval.
According to Sam Rainsy, Wiedemann’s efforts finally brought the opposition leader and Phnom Penh Governor Chea Sophara together to discuss a compromise on where the stupa would be constructed.
“This is a very good symbol of the understanding we should all reach,” Sam Rainsy said in a speech Thursday, after thanking Chea Sophara.
The ceremony was attended by roughly 100 people, including victims of the attack and families of those who died.
The 3.5-meter monument will stand near the National Assembly, roughly 500 meters from the spot where grenades fell in 1997. The March 30 attack tore through a crowd of demonstrators rallying for judicial reform, killing at least 16 people. No one has been brought to trial for the attack.
In the crowd that day in 1997 was Chea Vichea, current president of the Free Trade Union of the Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia.
A fragment from one of the grenades is still lodged in Chea Vichea’s lower leg. Another had to be removed from the left side of his head.
“Today I am happy that Chea Sophara has given us permission to build the sixth memorial,” he said. But Chea Vichea has not forgotten the demands he and other demonstrators made in 1997.
He said the problems with Cambodian courts have “not yet been solved. They only reformed a little.”