Protesing the government’s privatization of the Choeung Ek “killing fields,” the opposition party said Thursday that it will hold its final memorial ceremony at the site on Sunday to commemorate those who died following the Khmer Rouge rise to power on April 17, 1975.
Sam Rainsy Party Secretary-General Eng Chhay Eang said that in the future the opposition will relocate its annual ceremony to Tuol Sleng or other appropriate locations, Eng Chhay Eang said.
The government’s recent deal to place Choeung Ek under the control of a Japanese company for 30 years was “very sorrowful,” Eng Chhay Eang said.
Commenting on the opposition party’s boycott of Choeung Ek, Phnom Penh First Vice Governor Mam Bun Neang said others would continue to hold ceremonies regardless.
“Its not only the [opposition] party that knows how to hold a ceremony,” Mam Bun Neang said.
Defending the controversial decision to grant the Japanese company a “concession” for Choeung Ek, Mam Bun Neang said the municipality did not have the finances needed to renovate the memorial.
“The [Japanese] company will have to spend a lot of money to develop it. There are termites destroying it and it is rotten,” Mam Bun Neang said.
Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia—the largest repository of Khmer Rouge-era information—said on Thursday that he has written to the Japanese embassy seeking clarification as to whether the concession to Japan-based JC Royal company is linked to continued Japanese aid to Cambodia.
“I have not had a reply yet,” Youk Chhang said.
The Japanese Embassy in Phnom Penh did not reply to a request to earlier in the week seeking comment on claims by a municipal official that withdrawing JC Royal’s contract for Choeung Ek could jeopardize official Japanese assistance.
Kem Sokha, director of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, said Thursday that if Japanese aid hinged on the concession, then Cambodia should reject all Japanese aid.
“Is Japan’s aid to Cambodia tied to [to whether the concession] is taken back from the Japanese company?” asked Kem Sokha.
If that is the case, then, Kem Sokha said, “We don’t want such aid.”
Kem Sokha said that the government’s stated inability to renovate and maintain a “small place” like the memorial at Choeung Ek was shameful.
“The government has no spirit of nationalism,” he said.
“It can’t find some generous donor to build a fence and undertake some development at the [memorial],” he added.