More than 50 Sam Rainsy Party officials marked Pchum Ben on Sunday in the park opposite the National Assembly, paying their respects to the victims of the Khmer Rouge regime and those killed during the 1997 grenade attack on an opposition-led protest.
The Buddhist ceremony was held at the 1997 grenade attack stupa in the park following the Ministry of Culture’s refusal of an opposition request to hold a memorial ceremony for Khmer Rouge victims inside the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, party Secretary-General Eng Chhay Eang said.
Opposition Acting President Kong Korm said the ceremony was dedicated to those who sacrificed their lives for the cause of justice in Cambodia. “I wish those souls to stay in happiness,” he said.
Government spokesman and Information Minister Khieu Kanharith accused the opposition of attempting to gain political mileage out of the Pchum Ben celebrations by seeking to hold the commemoration ceremony in the Tuol Sleng museum.
“We can celebrate Buddhist ceremonies [for Pchum Ben] in any pagoda,” Khieu Kanharith said noting that a museum was not a religious site. The opposition was “politicizing” the ceremony, he said.
Kong Korm also called on Sunday for the release of jailed opposition lawmaker Cheam Channy and for the government to grant permission equally to those seeking to demonstrate peacefully.