Celebrations Set For Friday For KR Defeat Anniversary

Today government leaders will meet to discuss plans for a trial of former Khmer Rouge leaders. Tomorrow they will celebrate Pol Pot’s defeat.

Friday is the 21st anniversary of “Liberation Day”—the day a victorious Vietnamese-led army marched into Phnom Penh and ended nearly four years of deprivation, terror and murder under the Khmer Rouge.

Many of the current leaders of the CPP were part of that army and the nation’s most influential party will honor the anniversary Friday.

“It is the day Cambo­dian people survived and we cannot forget it,” said Mam Sarin, deputy director of cabinet for the CPP.

Thousands of people are expected for a ceremony at CPP headquarters on Norodom Boule­vard, according to Nhim Vanda, a CPP parliamentarian. CPP President Chea Sim will preside over the ceremony to celebrate “the survival, the new millennium and national reconciliation,” Nhim Vanda said.

Similar celebrations are expected across the country.

Not everyone will be celebrating. In the past, the ceremony has been criticized by some in rival parties as the start of the Vietnamese occupation.

Still, Funcinpec officials who in the more politically charged past did not celebrate with their CPP rivals, declined to criticize the ceremony this week.

For many, there is a lot to celebrate. Oum Sarith, a close aide to Chea Sim and the secretary-general of the Senate, remembers the night before liberation back in 1979. He was trapped at a work camp digging stone out of a mountain about 25 kilometers outside Phnom Penh.

“That night they told us to evacuate from the mountain and go to Battambang by walking,” he said. “They said the Viet­namese were coming. They asked us to run away. I could not escape from the Pol Pot group until March….This celebration is different. It is the first in the new century.”

The celebration comes as government leaders prepare to try the former architects of the Khmer Rouge reg­ime.

The Council of Mini­sters is slated to meet today to discuss a government plan for a trial to bring to justice some of those responsible for the death of more than 1 million Cambo­dians by starvation, disease and murder.

CPP officials downplayed whether there was any connection between today’s talks and the Liberation Day events, saying Friday’s themes will be more about achievements and pro­gress in development then about pinning blame on former enemies. They stressed national reconciliation and said they were not concerned that it would anger former rebel soldiers.

“It will not anger Ieng Sary or Pailin,” Mam Sarin said, referring to the former Khmer Rouge intellectual who defected to the government with more then 15,000 people in 1996.

“If they were angry, they would not have decided to join the government’s policy. There will be highlights on recent development and achievements made by the government.”


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