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Holiday marks anniversary of nation’s liberation, rebirth

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A banner commemorates the 42th Anniversary of January 7 Victory Day on Thursday. Hean Rangsey

Holiday marks anniversary of nation’s liberation, rebirth

On the occasion of the 42nd anniversary of the liberation of Cambodia from the Khmer Rouge on January 7, 1979, Prime Minister Hun Sen expressed commitment to maintaining and safeguarding peace and prosperity for the nation.

Festivities to celebrate the anniversary were cancelled on account of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In a letter commemorating the holiday, Hun Sen described January 7 as a day of victory which united the Cambodian people and represents their resilience in surviving and overcoming obstacles in order to rebuild their country from scratch.

Since that victory, Cambodia has transformed itself, restoring prosperity step by step.

He said that despite formal gatherings not being held this year, the meaning and spirit of the holiday remained vivid in people’s minds as evidenced by their referring to the date as every citizen’s “second birthday”.

“I would like to reiterate the government’s commitment to two priorities. The first is to maintain peace and political stability which are the foundations for order and development in society.

“The other is to better maintain macroeconomic stability and the strict implementation of tasks that I introduce for the sake of peace, safety and the well-being of the people,” Hun Sen said.

These pillars enable Cambodia to develop and prosper with independence and self-reliance, he said.

Hun Sen recalled January 7, 1979, saying Cambodia had been rescued and liberated from the Khmer Rouge genocidal regime led by Pol Pot who had plunged the country into the darkest years of history.

During three years, eight months and 20 days of terror, the cruel and brutal regime destroyed Cambodia’s society, murdering nearly two million innocent people, he said.

The US and Russian embassies in Cambodia joined the Kingdom in commemorating the event.

In a Facebook post, the US embassy said: “Today, we remember the millions of Cambodians who lost their lives or otherwise suffered during the Khmer Rouge genocide.

“The United States remains firmly committed to supporting the Cambodian people and their aspirations for justice, democracy, independence and sustainable development – and to ensuring that such a tragedy never happens again.”

Russian ambassador Anatoly Borovik said on twitter that this date marked the first step towards peace and stability in Cambodia. “I am happy and proud that Russia was among the first friends of this nation and helped to rebuild its economy.”

Royal Academy of Cambodia’s International Relations Institute director Kin Phea said on January 6 that as Cambodia walks the path towards a multi-party liberal democracy, a pluralism of views on various issues had developed.

Phea said it seemed as though the anniversary had sometimes been co-opted by those who attributed meanings to it based on political stances rather than historical truth.

But for him, January 7 represented a day of survival, rebirth of the nation, and the origin of peace and development in Cambodia after civil war had raged across the country.

“We have seen economic growth and maintained macroeconomic stability. We have maintained a growth rate of seven per cent for two decades. Per capita income previously stood at just $100 per annum, but it has now risen to nearly $2,000,” he said in a Facebook post.

Regarding the government’s progress, Phea sees Cambodia integrating itself into regional and global multilateral frameworks where the nation can play an active role in advancing equal rights and freedom in the context of international issues.

Political analyst Lao Mong Hay was dismissive of platitudes about commitments to protect peace and the public as standard sound bites that are nothing new.

For him, January 7, 1979, was the day marking the establishment of the People’s Republic of Kampuchea by foreign forces who had come to topple the Democratic Kampuchea regime.

He noted that in response, the UN Security Council convened a meeting simply calling for the withdrawal of foreign troops from Democratic Kampuchea.

“Is January 7 historically valuable for the Cambodian people? I think that December 25, 1978, was the day when Vietnam sent soldiers across the border to overthrow the Khmer Rouge and occupy Cambodia.

“The international community was concerned only about the Vietnamese invasion and not about the date and the government formed on January 7,” Mong Hay said.

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