CPP Rally, Counterprotest Planned for Jan 7

More than 10,000 civil servants and government officials are expected to participate in a rally on Wednesday to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime that killed more than 1 million people from 1975 to 1979, CPP spokesman Khieu Kanharith said Monday.

Prime Minister Hun Sen and other prominent CPP members will also participate in the rally, which will be held at CPP headquarters in Phnom Penh on Wednesday morning, he said.

“We celebrate Jan 7 because it is the liberation day from the Khmer Rouge regime,” Khieu Kanharith said.

He added that smaller celebrations will be held in provinces throughout the country. CPP Honorary President Heng Samrin will be in Kompong Cham town for anniversary celebrations today, but will be back for the rally in Phnom Penh the following day, Khieu Kanharith said.

Last month, the CPP scrapped its plans to hold a similar rally on Dec 12 to mark the anniversary of the begining of the anti-Pol Pot resistance movement that led to the fall of the Khmer Rouge. The CPP decided not to hold the Dec 12 demonstration because it was not a national holiday and participants were required to go to work.

Wednesday however, is a national holiday for civil servants and government officials, Khieu Kan­harith said.

But some groups see Jan 7 as the day the Vietnamese began its 10-year occupation of Cambodia, and say the date is nothing to celebrate. The Vietnamese helped leaders of the resistance front

topple the Khmer Rouge regime and create a pro-Hanoi government that included Heng Samrin, Prime Minister Hun Sen and CPP president Chea Sim. The Viet­namese occupation lasted until 1989.

On the same day as the CPP-hosted rally, the Khmer Front Party is planning to lead a 300-person demonstration in front of the National Assembly to counter Jan 7 celebrations, despite having been denied permission by the Phnom Penh Municipality.

“We are calling on the Cam­bodian people not to hold the Jan 7 ceremony because this is the Vietnam invasion day,” Sun Sokunmealea, the Khmer Front Party’s president, said Monday.

“If we celebrate this in ceremony, it means that we agree to offer the land which the Vietnamese had taken in the 1980s,” she said.

Last week, the municipality called a meeting with the Khmer Front Party to discuss its demonstration plans, but concluded it would not grant the group permission.

Sun Sokunmealea said that won’t stop them from demonstrating.

“We are not afraid of police officers imprisoning us. If they arrest us, they are abusing our human rights,” she said.

Phnom Penh Municipality Cabinet Chief Mann Chhoeun declined to comment.

The Khmer Front Party issued a statement attacking the municipality’s decision and calling last week’s meeting with municipal officials “a trick to convince and threaten” the group to cancel its protest.

It also wrote a letter to the UN human rights office in Phnom Penh appealing for protection of its leaders “from the arrest and detention of Hun Sen’s authorities.”

The office’s spokeswoman, Saku Akmeemana, could not be reached for comment Monday.

Meanwhile, the Students Movement for Democracy distributed some 400 leaflets to students at the Royal University of Phnom Penh, criticizing the Jan 7 anniversary and Vietnamese occupation.

The leaflets, however, were quickly confiscated by university professors, according to one of the student movement’s members, Sorn Dara.

The fourth-year philosophy student added that the university called police to try to crack down on the distribution.

The leaflets, which were sarcastically titled in Khmer “Con­grat­ulations to the great Jan 7,” were popular among the students, Sorn Dara said.

“Although the professors and the police dislike our statements, all the students of Royal Uni­versity of Phnom Penh who re­ceived our statements said they supported us,” he said.

The dean of the Royal Univer­sity of Phnom Penh was not available for comment Monday.

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