Upkeep of the memorial stupa commemorating the 1997 grenade attack in Phnom Penh’s Wat Botum Park is being avoided by the municipality and ignored by the opposition party, according to government officials and staff charged with grooming the park.
The 3.5-meter stupa on the north end of Wat Botum Park was unveiled in October 2000 to commemorate the victims of the March 30, 1997 grenade attack, which left 16 dead and scores of others injured. SRP leader Sam Rainsy presided over the unveiling of the gold-colored stupa, while hundreds knelt and prayed in the park, across from what was then the National Assembly.
Eleven years later, the once-handsome memorial is now surrounded by trash and human waste, while tall weeds and untrimmed grass around it bear witness to the fact that the stupa is not being cared for.
Yim Sovann, SRP spokesman, said Tuesday that the party hires a person to take care of the memorial site, but conceded that upkeep of the stupa has lapsed recently.
“I asked Secretary-General [Ke Sovannroth] about this, and we need to correct this,” said Mr. Sovann.
However, he also said responsibility for caring for the stupa and the grass around it lies with the municipality.
“[The stupa] not only belongs to SRP; it also belongs to the whole park, and therefore the municipality,” said Mr. Sovann.
Sam Samuth, bureau chief of the municipal gardens office, declined to comment on the stupa’s upkeep.
Kong Sokunthea, 45, a caretaker for Wat Botum Park, said Monday that she and the other cleaners do not groom and clean the stupa because they are not allowed to.
“City Hall does not allow us to clear the rubbish and clean the stupa because it belongs to SRP activists,” said Ms. Sokunthea. “So we don’t clean it.”
However, Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said it is the municipality’s responsibility to care for the city’s park, including the stupa.
“It’s a public park—it’s not a Sam Rainsy park,” said Mr. Siphan. “[The municipality] is not supposed to be prejudiced against it.”