Fu­neral held for for­mer Kh­mer hon­cho

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL -

Thou­sands of Cam­bo­di­ans lined the streets of Ph­nom Penh Fri­day to mark the lav­ish fu­neral of Chea Sim, a for­mer Kh­mer Rouge of­fi­cial who be­came a key fig­ure in the coun­try’s rul­ing po­lit­i­cal party.

Chea Sim, who died on June 8 at the age of 82, was a lo­cal party sec­re­tary in the bru­tal com­mu­nist regime re­spon­si­ble for the deaths of up to two mil­lion peo­ple dur­ing their 1975-1979 rule.

Like Cam­bo­dia’s now premier Hun Sen, who was a mid-rank­ing cadre in the Kh­mer Rouge, he de­fected from the regime to join a Viet­namese-backed front to oust it, with both men be­com­ing top po­lit­i­cal fig­ures in the king­dom’s rul­ing Cam­bo­dian Peo­ple’s Party (CPP).

Hun Sen gave a eu­logy at the fu­neral Fri­day, which was at­tended by dig­ni­taries in­clud­ing Cam­bo­dian King Norodom Si­ha­moni and sev­eral for­eign diplo­mats.

“In his his­toric mis­sion for na­tional sal­va­tion ... (Chea Sim helped) lib­er­ate the na­tion from Pol Pot’s geno­ci­dal regime,” Hun Sen said, re­fer­ring to the over­throw of the for­mer Kh­mer Rouge leader also known as “Brother Num­ber One.”

It “is the loss of a great leader for the na­tion, peo­ple and the CPP,” he said.

Around 40,000 peo­ple, in­clud­ing stu­dents and gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials dressed in black and white mourn­ing clothes, gath­ered to watch the elab­o­rate pro­ces­sion in the cap­i­tal’s city cen­tre, ac­cord­ing to Ph­nom Penh City Hall.

Author­i­ties had granted

a hol­i­day for the at­tend­ing civil ser­vants and stu­dents with many of the crowd fer­ried to the cap­i­tal by trucks from the out­skirts of the city for the fu­neral shown live on tele­vi­sion.

On­look­ers watched as the cof­fin car­ry­ing Chea Sim, draped with the Cam­bo­dian flag, was driven from his home atop a golden dragon float to a spe­cially-built cre­ma­to­rium near the Royal Palace.

Af­ter the speeches and re­li­gious rites led by chant­ing Bud­dhist monks, King Si­ha­moni lit the pyre to cre­mate the body of Chea Sim.

The for­mer CPP pres­i­dent, who died af­ter suf­fer­ing from a va­ri­ety of chronic ill­nesses in­clud­ing di­a­betes, was a key fig­ure in Cam­bo­dian pol­i­tics, be­com­ing chief of the party in 1991 and also pres­i­dent of the Se­nate in 1999.

How­ever he was also a di­vi­sive fig­ure in­ter­na­tion­ally with US-based Hu­man Rights Watch ac­cus­ing Chea Sim of “se­ri­ous in­ter­na­tional crimes, in­clud­ing pos­si­ble charges of geno­cide and other crimes against hu­man­ity” dur­ing his time as a Kh­mer Rouge of­fi­cial.

Up to two mil­lion peo­ple were ex­e­cuted or died from star­va­tion, over­work or tor­ture dur­ing the bru­tal era.

HRW’s crit­i­cism, re­newed a day af­ter Chea Sim’s death, has out­raged Cam­bo­dian of­fi­cials with the gov­ern­ment claim­ing it was “pure dis­tor­tion with­out con­science and lack of re­spect” dur­ing the mourn­ing pe­riod.

AP

The char­iot car­ry­ing the cof­fin of Chea Sim, a key Cam­bo­dian po­lit­i­cal fig­ure af­ter the fall of the bru­tal Kh­mer Rouge regime, leads his fu­neral pro­ces­sion to a cre­ma­tion ground at a public park near Royal Palace in Ph­nom Penh, Fri­day, June 19.

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