The cremation service for Cambodian statesman Son Sann will be held at 7:30 am Sunday next to Wat Botum, with King Norodom Sihanouk expected to ignite the flame of the crematorium, officials said Thursday.
The last time the king so honored a citizen was in July, when he officiated at the funeral of Samdech Patriarch Oum Sum, one of Cambodia’s most beloved monks.
Plans are still being finalized, but the ceremonies for Son Sann, one of the country’s leading fighters for democracy for the past half-century, will be elaborate, officials said.
“He is a hero, so trumpets and soldiers will be provided suitable to his reputation,” said Min Khin, secretary-general to the national and international festival committee.
Son Sann died Dec 19 in Paris at the age of 89. He entered public life in 1935 as governor of Battambang province and created the National Bank in 1955. Between 1967 and 1968 he served as prime minister but abruptly quit politics to protest what he saw as widespread corruption. After returning to the Thai-Cambodian border following Pol Pot’s ouster in 1979 he founded a guerrilla force that fought both the Khmer Rouge and the Vietnamese.
Min Khin said Son Sann’s ceremony, like Oum Sum’s, will likely begin with a bamboo flute imitating an elephant’s cry. An elaborate crematorium, draped in white-and-gold cloth, is being constructed in the park next to Wat Botum.
Former parliamentarian Pal Ham, a political ally of Son Sann’s, will speak at the service, along with Son Soubert, Son Sann’s son.
Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has extended his condolences to Son Sann’s family along with National Assembly President Prince Norodom Ranariddh and Senate President Chea Sim, may not attend.
The year 2000 is the Year of the Dragon, which corresponds to the year of Hun Sen’s birth 48 years ago. According to Cambodian tradition, people do not attend festivals in the year corresponding to their birth cycle.