Opposition party leader Sam Rainsy vowed to build a “bigger, stronger” memorial to the March 1997 grenade attack victims during an emotional gathering Monday at the site of the ruined stupa erected outside the National Assembly in March.
The original memorial—a concrete monument bearing the names of those killed in the attack—was destroyed early Sunday morning allegedly by anti-opposition demonstrators who later vandalized Sam Rainsy’s Phnom Penh home.
“I feel very bad about the stupa. It is for the dead,” Sam Rainsy said. “If they don’t like the living, why do they attack the dead?”
It remains unclear who razed the stupa Sunday—apparently by trying to run it over with a large truck. Sam Rainsy dismissed claims by some government officials that disgruntled former party members were responsible.
Nearly $90 for a new stupa was raised during Monday’s short ceremony, and Sam Rainsy said he would begin appealing to both the Cambodian and international community for more funds. It is not known how much the new stupa will cost.
“The problem is not going to be money. The problem is political,” he said.
The first stupa, raised the evening before the grenade attack’s third anniversary, became a point of contention between Sam Rainsy and his political opponents, who argued that the memorial was erected without permission and would have to be moved.
While Phnom Penh Governor Chea Sophara allowed the stupa to remain in place, it was torn from the sidewalk days after being put up and thrown into the Tonle Sap River.
Sam Rainsy supporters later dragged the monument out of the water and carried it back. It sat untouched until Sunday.
Sam Rainsy said he was seeking written assurances from both the municipality and King Norodom Sihanouk that the new memorial would be protected from future vandalism.
“If [government officials] are not the vandals, then there is no reason they should oppose this,” he said.