The body of murdered commentator Kem Ley will remain at the capital’s Wat Chas pagoda until Sunday, when it will be transported for burial in his home province of Takeo.
But government officials yesterday lamented that they were not welcome to attend the funeral, saying Ley’s death had been hijacked to serve the politics of the opposition.
Pa Nuong Thea, a member of the committee tasked with organising Ley’s funeral, confirmed yesterday that on Sunday, a funeral procession including a hearse, cars and motos will begin from the capital’s Wat Chas pagoda at 7am.
The procession will continue along National Road 3 and take Ley to his final resting place in Tram Kat district, Leay Bor commune.
Thea also said a statue of Ley would be erected at his burial site and would be engraved with 12 of his slogans, such as “Wipe your tears, continue your journey” – a phrase circulated widely on social media in the wake of Ley’s death.
Ley, a prominent social and political analyst, was gunned down on the morning of July 10 while drinking coffee at a petrol station in Phnom Penh.
The funeral committee has come under fire from municipal authorities, who are expected to facilitate traffic control during the procession, for unduly keeping Ley’s body on display in what they alleged was a ploy for political and financial gain.
Over the past week, mourners from the capital and the provinces have been turning up in droves to pay their respects beside his body at Wat Chas.
But Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith said in a meeting yesterday – in which attendees prayed for Kem Ley – that the opportunity to do so publicly was not open to him and other Cambodian People’s Party members, according to his spokesman Ouk Kimseng.
“The minister commented that the funeral had been exploited for a political purpose,” he said. “He wanted to be there, but he saw that they just want to monopolise the funeral; that is why there is no way for him and other government politicians to attend to pay respects to Kem Ley.”
Last week, social media star Thy Sovantha, a former opposition supporter turned critic, and student group leader Srey Chamroeun, who criticised acting CNRP president Kem Sokha over affair allegations, were blocked from entering the pagoda where Ley’s body lay.
But Thea reiterated all admirers of Kem Ley were invited to attend the funeral and view his body, adding that funeral committee members had protected Sovantha and guided her safely away from the incensed crowd.
Phnom Penh City Hall spokesman Mean Chanyada said Kem Ley’s family and the funeral committee had not yet made a new request to help facilitate the funeral procession.