Rainsy, City Agree on Stupa Site

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy and Phnom Penh Governor Chea Sophara shook hands Friday on an agreement for a new memorial site for the victims of a 1997 grenade attack.

After wrangling over the stupa for the last three months, the two men decided the new memorial will be halfway between the National Assembly and Wat Botum.

The old stupas, which were removed several times by police, were placed directly across from the Assembly.

“It was a compromise,” Sam Rainsy said.

The two sides agreed that the old site was too close to the main road and to the National Assem­bly, but Sam Rainsy maintained that the stupa should be in the park where the grenade attack that killed at least 16 occurred.

The new stupa will be 2.5 meters by 2.5 meters, placed on an area of 5.5 meters by 5.5 meters.

Sam Rainsy said it would be constructed within the next few days.

Sam Rainsy had wanted the new stupa to be placed in the direct line of the Vietnamese-Cambodian Friendship Monu­ment across the park, but Chea Sophara said that row is used for other ceremonies and indicated senior government officials would object. After they agreed on a nearby location, Sam Rainsy told Chea Sophara, “Your excellency, let’s shake hands as a symbol.”

Chea Sophara said this time, he did not turn Sam Rainsy down when the opposition leader asked if he could put up a new stupa because they worked together to find the most appropriate spot.

“I cannot reject his request because they asked for legal permission,” the governor said. “It’s not like last time.”

Since March, five stupas have been removed and destroyed. Most recently on June 14, three people were injured as police used batons and water cannons to disperse crowds protesting the removal of the stupa.

Sam Rainsy criticized the removal of the stupas, noting that Chea Sophara had said he would abide by the decision of King Norodom Sihanouk, who was requested by the opposition leader to intervene in the dispute.

The King, however, kept out of the dispute.

Sam Rainsy said Friday afternoon that he wasn’t disappointed that the King hadn’t intervened, and added that he had sent a fax to the King informing him of the agreement.

 

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