A steady stream of high-ranking officials paid their respects on Thursday to Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, who passed away in Beijing on Wednesday at the age of 66, at his home in Phnom Penh amid preparations for a funeral expected to cost $750,000.
Sok An’s body arrived at 6 a.m. at Phnom Penh International Airport, where dozens of family members and senior CPP officials gathered on the tarmac, before being driven to his multistory mansion in the capital’s Daun Penh district.
At about 9 a.m., the final touches to the funeral marquee were being made as officials including Hun Manith, Prime Minister Hun Sen’s son, sat outside eating breakfast.
By the afternoon, Mr. Hun Sen and just about every other member of the ruling party’s top brass were making their way into the house to pay their respects to the man who long served as the premier’s right-hand man.
A spokesman read a statement from King Norodom Sihamoni, lauding the role Sok An had played in modern Cambodia, including his contribution to “national unity” and “protecting democracy”—the same achievements that earned him the royally bestowed honorific of “Samdech,” or “Greatest,” earlier this week.
Speaking outside the house, Sun Kunthor, a minister attached to the prime minister, spoke of his admiration for Sok An, who was often likened to a many-armed Hindu god for having his hands in so many state institutions.
“I participated in many jobs with him and I am grieving his death because we cannot see him anymore, because he left us forever,” he said.
The funeral will continue until Sunday morning, when a grand procession will take Sok An’s body to nearby Wat Botum, where he will be cremated.
CPP spokesman Sok Eysan estimated the cost of the funeral at about $750,000, using money from state coffers.
“We are not able to estimate exactly how much money will be spent for the four-day funeral ceremony, but the government gave us the right for the Finance Ministry to keep 3 billion riel in a bank for urgent use during the funeral ceremony,” he said.
Along with many expressions of mourning and gratitude, news of the hefty sum set aside for Sok An’s funeral touched a nerve for many on Facebook, who said that the deputy prime minister and his family had made enough money during his time in office to cover the costs without dipping into state funds.