Almost 30,000 people gathered around Phnom Penh’s Independence Monument yesterday to celebrate the 57th anniversary of the country’s independence from France, according to a government estimate.
Prime Minister Hun Sen, Senate President Chea Sim and National Assembly President Heng Samrin, alongside civil servants, members of the armed forces, students and scout groups, looked on as King Norodom Sihamoni lit a ceremonial flame at the heart of the monument.
The flame will be extinguished when the three-day celebration ends on Thursday.
Chea Sokhom, secretary-general of the government’s events planning committee, said about 28,000 people were invited to watch the ceremony.
“We celebrate Independence Day to honor the memory of those who demanded independence during the colonial era,” he said. Cambodia gained its independence from France on Nov 9 1953 after 90 years of colonial rule.
Khut Thom, who resides in Daun Penh district’s Wat Phnom commune, joined the crowds around the monument yesterday morning. Surrounded by a chanting crowd of children and teenagers waving placards of the Royal Family, Mr Thom said he felt proud to be part of the celebration.
“I am very happy to join this morning and celebrate that Cambodian people…do not have to live under the control of anyone,” he said.
So Hato, 19, whose scout group was invited to the celebration, said he enjoyed taking part. “This is the fifth time I have joined in,” he said.
Mak Sambath, deputy chairman of the Cambodian Human Rights Committee and undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Culture, said people were well educated about the country’s struggle for independence.
“I hope that all Cambodian people, and the younger generation, will keep remembering it,” he said.
National television planned to broadcast a special schedule last night featuring songs, dances and other traditional performances, according to station Director-General Kem Gunawadh.
Foreign governments expressed their warm wishes to the country yesterday. The governments of the Philippines, Brunei and Saudi Arabia all released statements offering their congratulations to the Cambodian people.