Only hours after the Prime Minister’s cabinet asked public institutions not to display sculptures of government leaders-at around 1 am Friday-a crane hoisted the large cloth-veiled statue standing at the entrance to the Anticorruption Institution off its pedestal and placed it on a flat bed truck. A Cambodia Daily reporter witnessed the truck traveling south down Phnom Penh’s Norodom Boulevard with its cargo.
Anticorruption Unit Chairman and Hun Sen advisor Om Yentieng on Thursday issued a statement saying, “I would like to make a public apology because I have built the statue of the prime minister of Cambodia.”
Mr Yentieng’s apology followed the directive from the premier’s cabinet, which said statues and other such tributes to living leaders were “against Cambodian culture.”
The Hun Sen statue was first observed on Tuesday at the new anticorruption unit’s offices, but was never unveiled.
Mr Yentieng declined to comment on the removal of the statue when contacted Friday.
CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap said that statues are often built for heroes who “protect their people from violence like Hun Sen,” but he added that such statues “can only be built when [the individuals] are dead, not when they are alive.”
According to Mr Yeap, such a sculpture could bring bad luck to a living leader.
Prak Sok, Vice Chairman of the newly installed National Council for Anticorruption, said he knew little about the statue’s brief tenure at the front gate of his new office.
“I have not entered my institution yet because…I don’t want to disrupt the construction workers,” Mr Sok said, adding that he didn’t know if a new statue would be placed on the now empty pedestal inside institution’s gates.
SRP Spokesman Yim Sovann said that by placing a statue of the Prime Minister prominently at the front of an institution that is supposed to be independent, Mr Yentieng had likely displayed his priorities.
“To put the statue of the prime minister inside the grounds signals that the institution is not independent,” Mr Sovann said.
Mr Sovann added that he had opposed Mr Yentieng’s appointment as head of the Anticorruption Unit because he had been unable to tackle corruption as the previous head of the Council of Ministers’ Anticorruption Unit.
(Additional reporting by D Jae Lee)