Monday, February 16, 2009
Sam Bunthoeun was appointed president and chief abbot in 1996. Seven years later in February 2003, aged just 47, he was gunned down by two unknown assailants at Wat Lanka in Phnom Penh, after he encouraged monks to register and vote in the National Assembly elections at that time. No-one has ever been arrested and the investigation remains open. Today his body lies in a large glass case and has become a popular pilgrimage for his followers, and anyone wishing to view a mummified body at close range. It's impossible to get so close to the body of Ho Chi Minh in Hanoi, so this will satisfy those with a similar curiosity. There was a group of small children with me when I visited and they didn't seem fazed at all by this rather gruesome looking body in front of us. In the corner a very life-like wax model is a bit surplus to requirements when you have the real thing next to it, and a group of real monks were stationed closeby to deliver good fortune on the steady stream of visitors. All a bit bizarre but that's Cambodia for you.