Victims of the Khmer Rouge regime can count on receiving long-awaited justice “in the upcoming time,” CPP President Chea Sim is scheduled to tell a crowd of more than 10,000 at the party’s headquarters today.
“We really can finish the darkest page in history successfully through establishing the law to form the Cambodian tribunal to try genocidal crimes that were committed during Democratic Kampuchea,” Chea Sim wrote in a speech he plans to deliver this morning at a celebration marking the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime.
“The pitied Cambodians who survived and died will receive justice,” according to a copy of the speech, released to the news media this week.
As the celebration takes place at CPP headquarters, the Khmer Front Party is planning a demonstration against the Jan 7 anniversary this morning near Wat Phnom, despite the municipality’s refusal to grant it a permit to demonstrate.
The municipality has banned demonstrations that view the Jan 7 holiday with anti-Vietnamese fervor, which includes the Khmer Front Party’s.
On this date in 1979, the Vietnamese army, supported by former Khmer Rouge guerrillas, such as Chea Sim and Prime Minister Hun Sen, toppled the genocidal regime. Pol Pot led his army from Phnom Penh to the country’s northwest, from where it waged guerrilla warfare against what it called a “Vietnamese puppet government” until massive defections crippled the movement in the 1990s.
None of the surviving Khmer Rouge leaders, blamed for the deaths of more than 1 million people from starvation, disease, overwork and execution during its rule, have been tried. After six years of troubled negotiations between the government and the UN, an agreement was signed last June setting up a three-year trial of the Democratic Kampuchea’s “senior leaders.”
The tribunal will become a reality when and if the National Assembly ratifies the agreement and the court receives pledges to fund three years of operation and enough cash to cover its first year.
In his speech, Chea Sim says “Jan 7 liberated the nation and the Cambodian people from the Pol Pot genocide, which allowed people to live with future hope.”
He blasts political groups that say today simply marks the anniversary of Vietnam’s occupation of the country, which lasted more than 10 years after its army ousted Pol Pot’s regime from power.
“Those groups survived because of Jan 7, but now they are against January 7,” the Chea Sim speech says. “These activities legitimize Democratic Kampuchea and look down on the nation’s rebirth.”
Sam Rainsy Party officials on Tuesday criticized today’s planned celebrations.
“We should not celebrate Jan 7 because it is Vietnamese invasion day,” said Eng Chhay Eang, the opposition party’s secretary-general. “The Khmer Rouge killed people directly, but the Vietnamese soldiers killed people indirectly.”
The Vietnamese army used Cambodians to clear land mines placed by Khmer Rouge guerrillas and enlisted Cambodian teenagers into the army, Eng Chhay Eang said.
Meanwhile, the municipality outlined its stance on the Khmer Front Party’s plans to demonstrate in a general letter to the public dated Jan 5.
“There is a small group that wants to regard Jan 7 as the Vietnamese invasion day,” the municipality wrote. “This attitude looks down on the 1 million Cambodians who were killed.”
A separate letter from the municipality explained that the Khmer Front Party was not allowed to demonstrate because the municipality wishes to “to protect public order and security for the people in Phnom Penh.”
The Khmer Front Party, which expects 300 demonstrators to show up today, was undeterred by the municipality’s letters.
“We are still continuing our demonstration,” Sun Sokunmealea, the party’s deputy president, said Tuesday.
Apart from political rallies, on Tuesday about 500 students from Preah Yukunthor High School visited Tuol Sleng Prison, where an estimated 16,000 people were executed under the Khmer Rouge regime.
“I want those students to learn about the genocide and see the actual event in the museum,” said their principal, Kouch Serng Krung. “I want them to see the misery of those killed by the Khmer Rouge.”
The message appeared to have got across.
“Jan 7 is the second birthday of the Cambodian people,” said Lin Hong, 18, after she visited the former high school for the first time on Tuesday. “We escaped the hell, so I think we should celebrate.”