More than 100 SRP members and Buddhist monks will hold a ceremony today to mark the 10th anniversary of the July 1997 factional fighting, SRP Secretary-General Mu Sochua said July 5.
During two days of street battles in Phnom Penh on July 5 and 6, 1997, forces loyal to then-second Prime Minister Hun Sen routed troops loyal to then-first Prime Minister and Funcinpec President Prince Norodom Ranariddh.
“The Buddhist ceremony is dedicated towards bringing peace to the souls of the dead,” Mu Sochua said, adding that the ceremony will also be an opportunity to speak out against the evils of dictatorship and violence.
“Those masterminds [of the 1997 fighting] are now powerful people and influence the judicial system,” she said.
“There must be a change in the leadership…. Any government that utilizes a coup is harmful to the country,” she added.
Information Minister and government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said that the CPP never holds an organized ceremony to mark the 1997 fighting because the ruling party and Funcinpec have put the past behind them.
He added that the SRP was holding its ceremony simply as a way to garner votes.
“We don’t want to gain votes in an undignified manner,” Khieu Kanharith said.
Mu Sochua denied that the purpose of the ceremony was to appeal to voters.
Funcinpec Second Deputy President Prince Sisowath Sirirath said his party will be holding ceremonies on July 11 to honor all those who have died during Cambodia’s decades of conflict, but had no specific plans to mark the 10th anniversary of the factional fighting.
Funcinpec said in a statement released July 5 that it honors the 1997 fallen during the annual Pchum Ben festival of the dead.
Norodom Ranariddh Party spokesman Muth Channtha said that his party also would not be marking the anniversary, which concerned Funcinpec and particularly Nhiek Bun Chhay, Funcinpec’s current secretary-general and former military commander.
“[Prince Ranariddh] didn’t lead the fighting—the prince did not like war,” Muth Channtha added.