Opposition lawmakers and relatives of those who died in the March 1997 grenade attack on Tuesday replaced a destroyed stupa across from the National Assembly with a larger version.
The morning event drew angry district officials, military police and at least three young men armed with a sledge hammer, hoe and pick axe who said they were hired to knock it down.
The event, however, passed without incident, although municipal officials remain adamant that opposition leader Sam Rainsy does not have permission to keep the stupa at the public park.
As the new stupa was placed on its cement foundation, Sam Rainsy said that those who destroyed the original tried to kill the memory of the 16 people killed during the grenade attack.
Sam Rainsy, added that he will replace the more than 2-meter-tall stupa with a larger one, if it is destroyed or removed.
The original stupa was removed by police and dumped near sewage at the edge of the Tonle Sap river. The stupa was reinstalled, then destroyed two weeks ago by disgruntled former Sam Rainsy Party members.
A small commotion developed Tuesday, when three young men standing nearby admitted they were hired to knock down the new monument.
Confronted by some in the crowd, one said he was promised 10,000 riel ($2.62) to wait for orders to knock the stupa down.
Pok Kosal, deputy governor of Don Penh district, acknowledged that he hired the young men in case orders to destroy the stupa were given. “But higher officials ordered them to wait and not do this,” Pok Kosal said.
Phnom Penh Governor Chea Sophara said Tuesday that a sidewalk is not a fitting place to respect the memory of those who died. He said he has not decided how to deal with the issue.
He reportedly told Agence France-Presse that he would have the stupa removed.
According to Sam Rainsy, the municipality was informed May 10 that the reconstruction would take place. The municipality’s failure to reply indicated that they had no objection, he said.
Buddhist monks will add the ashes of some of those slain in the 1997 attack to the foundation of the stupa in a ceremony at 8 am this morning, Sam Rainsy added.