The Phnom Penh municipal government has rejected a request to hold a 100-day memorial for slain political analyst Kem Ley at the city’s central Wat Botum park, saying the venue was inappropriate for such a ceremony.
A funeral committee comprising friends and family of the popular government critic, who was gunned down on July 10 while having his morning coffee at a Phnom Penh convenience store, had asked to hold the traditional commemoration at the park on October 14 through 16.
In a reply dated Tuesday, and provided on Thursday to local media, the city rejected the request.
“To respect Khmer tradition, you must discuss with the family of the deceased to organize the religious anniversary either at his house or where the body was buried in Takeo province,” it said.
City Hall spokesman Mean Chanyada said on Thursday that a public park was “no place to hold a 100-day anniversary.”
Activist monk But Buntenh, who sits on Kem Ley’s funeral committee, said he had submitted another request on Wednesday, proposing the ceremony be held at Phnom Penh’s Wat Chas, where Kem Ley’s body lay on display for several days after the murder, and that he was waiting for an answer.
“First, I think City Hall is afraid,” he said. “Second, they are confused in thinking that Kem Ley was a normal person. They don’t know that Kem Ley was a hero in the hearts of Khmer people and a hero without a royal decree, but appointed by the people.”
Wat Chas chief monk Meas Sakhorn said he would be happy to host the ceremony—with City Hall’s blessing.
The government does not need to sign off on a 100-day ceremony at a pagoda, but the chief monk said Kem Ley’s high profile demanded special attention.
“The funeral committee asked me about the anniversary and I referred them to City Hall because Kem Ley is famous; it is different from other ceremonies,” he said. “If City Hall gives permission, it will be OK.”