Army Convoy Trundles to Games to Commemorate January 7

The 38th anniversary of Cambodia’s liberation from Pol Pot’s forces in 1979 will be marked with a sports tournament in Phnom Penh hosted by the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) on Koh Pich island and adorned with military vehicles.

Phnom Penh governor Pa Socheatvong issued a statement on Wednesday notifying city residents of the plans and sought to allay potential public concern about the movement of heavy equipment from the military’s Intervention Brigade 70 base on the city’s outskirts to the Koh Pich Conference and Exhibition Center.

“Phnom Penh administration would like to inform all people living in Phnom Penh that the commission for organizing RCAF sports will host the RCAF sports event to mark 7 January Day,” the statement said.

A convoy of two armored personnel carriers and 15 military trucks was set to wind its way along Veng Sreng Boulevard, Monireth Boulevard, Mao Tse Tung Boulevard and Sothearos Boulevard to its final destination at 2 a.m. today, before being returned to the base on Monday.

“This notice is meant to inform all people not to be confused and surprised over movement of military equipment of military exhibition,” it said.

The three-day event, which will be televised and open to spectators, is set to begin on Friday and will raise funds for the Cambodia Veteran Association, which claims more than 200,000 members and is chaired by Prime Minister Hun Sen.

RCAF infantry spokesman Mao Phalla said the games would be the first of their kind in Cambodia’s history and held in celebration of Pol Pot’s fall, a national holiday that annually draws scorn from the opposition, which says it should instead be lamented as the start of 10 years of Vietnamese occupation.

“This is the plan that we announced one month ago. It’s a sport tournament led by His excellency Hun Manet,” Major General Phalla said, referring to the prime minister’s eldest son, who is head of the Defense Ministry’s counterterrorism department and a senior figure in the CPP’s efforts to expand support.

Maj. Gen. Phalla denied that the contest was intended as a demonstration of the  military’s strength during tense political times, instead describing it as a plan “to show how the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces was developing.”

The general said the competitors would mostly be young soldiers, though he did not know how many competitions were expected. He referred further questions to Defense Ministry spokesman Chhum Sucheat, who could not be reached.

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