CPP supporters gathered by the thousands in Phnom Penh early Sunday to mark the 58th anniversary of the ruling party’s founding.
Sporting white T-shirts and hats emblazoned with the CPP logo, the party faithful amassed inside its headquarters on Norodom Boulevard to extol the political group’s achievements and evoke its beginnings.
“For the past 58 years, whatever obstacles and sacrifices there may be, the [CPP] continues to hold firmly to its nature as the party that is from the people, of the people and for the people,” party Chairman and Senate President Chea Sim said, paraphrasing the words of US President Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 Gettysburg Address. “May the spirit of the 58th anniversary of the foundation of the [CPP] turn into a great force of solidarity for the construction, development and defense of the fatherland.”
Mr Sim, Prime Minister Hun Sen and CPP Honorary President and National Assembly President Heng Samrin released balloons at the ceremony and accepted flowers from guests before a crowd of more than 10,000, said Chea Sokhom, deputy secretary-general for the National Committee for the Organization of National and International Festivals. A Funcinpec delegation as well as officials from the Chinese, Cuban, Vietnamese and Laotian embassies also attended the event, he said.
During his speech, Mr Sim offered a litany of CPP accomplishments, including economic development, social reforms and securing national independence and stability. He also thanked Cambodian forces for “heroically fulfilling their duties defending our fatherland along the border.” Still, he admitted the CPP and the country had its work cut out for it.
“It is true that on the path of current development we have to face with so many challenges such as the growth base of the economy [which] is still small and narrow, the socio-economic infrastructure is in a state of many imbalances at a time that global financial and economic crisis has yet to come to the end,” he said.
The ruling party traces its roots back to the Khmer People’s Revolutionary Party, which is believed to have hosted its first congress on June 28, 1951. After various ideological mutations and name changes, the political organization eventually christened itself the CPP and dropped its Marxist-Leninist positions as part of the 1991 Paris Peace Agreement.
Koul Panha, director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, said the party counts a long history and a well-established network of followers at all levels of the government, which has helped secure its control over Cambodian politics. He said Mr Hun Sen, who has served as either prime minister or co-prime minister since 1985, now solely symbolizes the CPP’s leadership, although the party was once seen as a team of leaders.
“They have become stronger and stronger,” he said of the CPP’s political position.