‘Democracy Square’ Protest Site Is Quick to Get a Facelift

Renovation of the site of the mass sit-in demonstration that was forcibly ended last week has already begun and the Cambodia-Viet­nam Liberation Monument will soon be cleaned and re­paired, a top city official said Sun­day.

Phnom Penh First Deputy Governor Chea Sophara was at the site of “Democracy Square” on Friday afternoon, helping to supervise the planting of grass and the installation of concrete pillars for holding lights. The site has been cleared and bull-dozed.

He said grass is coming from Kampot province at 1,000 riel per square meter. He added the light towers cost $400 each.

“The municipality will pay for it now and later we might ask businessmen for contributions,” Chea Sophara said.

Contacted by telephone on Sunday, Chea Sophara said concrete would be used on the damaged face of the Vietnamese soldier. The monument was vandalized by opposition protesters on Aug 30. The violence drew a terse response from the Vietna­mese government.

The improvement and refurbishment of the park across from the National Assembly—also the location where at least 16 people died on March 30, 1997 when four grenades were lobbed into a rally led by opposition figure Sam Rainsy—had been planned for many months, Chea Sophara said.

“We planned to upgrade it, but we didn’t yet have time,” Chea Sophara said.

He said the rainy season could help grass grow and save the municipality irrigation expenses.

Calling the project a priority, Man Choeun, Chea Sophara’s Cabinet chief, said the municipality has a large enough budget for the project, but said the definite amount has not yet been totaled. He said the park restoration will include a water system and an electrical network, as well as the replacement of light-posts.

Chea Sophara said the work is needed to make Phnom Penh more beautiful. “As a city, it has to have a garden,” he said.

Man Choeun said there will not be fines for littering, but park-goers will be educated about the importance of beauty and morality. He said garden guards will also be deployed for the protection of the park.

“Wat Phnom is our experience,” Man Choeun said, referring to the landmark park refurbished earlier this year.

(Add­i­tional reporting by Chris Decherd)

 

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