Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema said Thursday that in order to renovate the park in front of the National Assembly, the memorial to the victims of the 1997 grenade attack should be removed.
The memorial stupa was erected in 2000 to commemorate the attack on a peaceful protest outside parliament, in which more than a dozen people were killed and around 100 were injured.
“That stupa should be moved because it is in the garden that we have to upgrade—we want to make the park green,” Kep Chuktema said by telephone.
Five times during 2000, the SRP erected stupas on the spot where the blast occurred and all five times they were removed, with the municipality saying that the party had not asked permission to build the monuments and that the site was inappropriate, SRP President Sam Rainsy said at the time.
Phnom Penh Municipal Garden Bureau Chief Sam Samuth said Thursday that the park in front of the Assembly will be renovated in the near future, although he did not know whether City Hall would remove the stupa.
Sam Rainsy said the municipality should consult with the relatives of the grenade attack victims before deciding on whether to remove the memorial.
He declined to comment further until the municipality makes an official announcement of its plans. SRP lawmaker Son Chhay referred questions about the stupa back to Sam Rainsy.
Heng Samrin, National Assembly and CPP honorary president, said that he supported moving the memorial to the attack.
“They should not place the stupa in front of the garden—it is not appropriate,” he said. “They should move the stupa into a pagoda because the stupa affects the tourists.”
Chea Vannath, former president of the Center for Social Development, said that the country’s leaders may want the stupa removed because “it’s a bad memory.”
But a garden renovation is not a good enough reason for removing the memorial to the dead and wounded, she added.
(Additional reporting by James Welsh)