The annual Funcinpec memorial to honor party members and supporters killed in the 1997 factional fighting from now on will likely take place during Pchum Ben and not on the anniversary of their death, a party official said.
Held for the first time during the Pchum Ben festival, Funcinpec President Prince Norodom Ranariddh presided over the ceremony on Wednesday.
Chea Chanboribo, Funcinpec spokesman and Information Ministry secretary of state, said this year’s memorial was delayed until this week because the party had been too busy to hold it in July.
Funcinpec parliamentarian Khieu San said financial problems and Prince Ranariddh’s international travel had delayed the ceremony, but admitted that the change had improved relations with the CPP. “We should try to forget what happened in July .”
Khieu San said he believes the party will keep on holding the memorial on Pchum Ben.
Chea Chanboribo said the change was agreed to by Funcinpec members as a whole and denied that the party fears the CPP.
“Prince Norodom Ranariddh never forgets former [members]. He has given them high positions” in the government, he said.
Kieng Vang, an opposition parliamentarian and former Funcinpec member, slated the anniversary’s move.
“Prince Norodom Ranariddh is afraid the July ceremony would affect the relationship with the CPP,” he said. “I am very sad. Prince Norodom Ranariddh has tried to forget the people who sacrificed themselves for him. He should not change the schedule.”
Kem Sokha , director of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights and a former Funcinpec lawmaker, said the party should hold the memorial on the anniversary day of the events rather than please the CPP.
“They [Funcinpec] have no choice, they have to adapt to the current situation of cooperation with the CPP,” said Koul Panha, director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections.
Funcinpec members are uncomfortable showing the public and the CPP that they still commemorate the bloody events of 1997, he added.
Government and CPP spokesman Khieu Kanharith praised the rescheduling.
“We should not remind ourselves of past events,” he said. “We should try to work together.”
(Additional reporting by Ethan Plaut)