CPP Celebrates End of Khmer Rouge Rule

Thousands gathered at CPP headquarters in Phnom Penh and rallies were held in the provinces to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime, while police in the capital turned out in force to crack down on a small group protesting the anniversary.

Among the top government officials who attended the ceremony were CPP leaders Senate President Chea Sim, Prime Minister Hun Sen and National Assembly Deputy President Heng Samrin.

“We always remember the most horrified event of three years, eight months and 20 days under the regime of Democratic Kampuchea that carried out the most cruelly genocidal policy, resulting in the massive and countless destruction,” Chea Sim told the crowd.

He called the 1979 ouster of the Pol Pot-led regime, which is held responsible for the deaths of more than 1 million people, “a great victory [that] gave a second life to our nation.”

Chea Sim also blasted those who objected to the celebration of the anniversary.

“Still there are some immoral elements who incessantly continue during the last 25 years to air their views against the 7th of January day,” he said, referring to those who see the occasion as the start of a decade of Vietna­mese occupation following the fall of the Khmer Rouge.

During the two-hour ceremony, attendance at which fell short of the 10,000 supporters that government officials had earlier estimated, officials released pigeons and colorful balloons, and bouquets of flowers were offered to Hun Sen, Chea Sim and Heng Samrin.

Despite more than five months of political dispute, Funcinpec sent a delegation to the CPP-hosted ceremony.

Co-Minister of Interior You Hockry, Health Minister Hong Sun Huot, parliamentarian Ky Lum Ang and May Sam-Oeun, secretary of state for the Ministry of Agriculture, attended on behalf of the royalist party.

May Sam-Oeun said he was asked to attend by Funcinpec President Prince Norodom Rana­riddh, who is currently in France.

“Every Jan 7 celebration, as coalition partner, we send our representatives to the event because before, we cooperated with the CPP,” said Funcinpec Deputy Secretary-General Nhiek Bun Chhay.

But, he said: “I understand the CPP considers the day of ousting the Khmer Rouge from power, but for myself, I think Jan 7 is the day the Vietnamese invaded the country.”

The relationship between both parties has been acrimonious since Funcinpec joined the opposition Sam Rainsy Party in an Alliance of Democrats and has opposed the CPP’s victory in the July 27 general election. The dispute between the three parties has delayed the formation of the new government and Assembly.

Near Wat Phnom and the National Assembly, hundreds of police gathered in anticipation of a demonstration by the Khmer Front Party to oppose the Jan 7 celebrations.

Though expecting about 300 people to demonstrate, only four supporters turned out to protest at the Assembly. Police quickly bundled the four onto a police truck and briefly detained them.

Throughout the day, television stations broadcast films and songs about the Khmer Rouge.

“A lot of younger generations were born after the event so we want them to know,” said Sok Ey San, director of Apsara Television Station and deputy director of the Television Association.

The station also scheduled two evening music concerts to mark the anniversary, one near Phsar Chas and another near Hun Sen Park.

More than 8,000 people also gathered at a Jan 7 ceremony in Banteay Meanchey province’s Serei Saophoan district, including former-Khmer Rouge leader Tep Khunnal, said provincial deputy police chief Chhoeung Sokhom.

Provincial officials were also scheduled to host an evening concert and Khmer Rouge movie screening.

In Pailin, however, a former Khmer Rouge stronghold, municipal cabinet chief Mei Makk said officials had no plans to celebrate the anniversary this year.

He said in the past, Pailin officials marked the occasion, but this year, the governor of Pailin was not in the municipality.

“We feel guilty because of our leaders’ misconduct so we [usually] hold the Jan 7 [celebrations] in order to share anxiety with the families who were killed,” Mei Makk said.

Mei Makk said those former Khmer Rouge members who defected to join the government after the fall of the regime were now loyal to the government. The government should only try former top level Khmer Rouge leaders at an anticipated UN-supported tribunal, and not bring former lower level members to court, he added.

“It is very confusing whether the former Khmer Rouge celebrate Jan 7,” said Youk Chhang, the executive director of Documentation Center of Cambodia.

“Different people will have different memories so they have to define their understanding and meaning,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Lor Chandara and Kate Woodsome)

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