The late prime minister Pen Sovann, who died on Saturday from illness aged 80, will be cremated on Sunday in Phnom Penh, according to opposition sources.
The announcement from the Cambodia National Rescue Party came despite a ban by the city authorities on the ceremony taking place at the capital’s Botum Vatey Pagoda over what it said was political opportunism from the opposition.
Sovann, who was the country’s first prime minister following the overthrow of the Khmer Rouge regime in 1979, died at his home in Takeo province on Saturday after a long struggle with ill health and following a stroke last year.
Pol Ham, a CNRP lawmaker, along with other senior CNRP leaders, a procession of supporters and well-wishers on Saturday from Takeo to Phnom Penh, where Sovann’s body will remain until the cremation.
Kem Sokha, CNRP vice president, offered thanks to Sovann’s family for his service.
Yem Ponharith, CNRP spokesman, said he hoped that City Hall would reconsider the request, adding that the party intended to proceed with the funeral as planned regardless.
Meas Chan Yada, a City Hall spokesman, said they would not allow Botum Vatey Pagoda to be used for the ceremony because that site was reserved for the “elite” and not for “ordinary parliamentarians.”
So Chantha, a political scientist, said there were no such rules against cremations being held for any individuals at the pagoda, adding that a refusal to allow the ceremony to take place there would by “discriminatory”.
“According to the law, parliamentarians are of high rank and important people in the government, so when the government said they cannot allow the opposition to arrange the funeral for an ‘ordinary parliamentarian’, they devalue parliament.”