The absence of ailing party president Chea Sim did not stop the ruling CPP from holding a festive 63rd anniversary party on Saturday in which thousands of supporters turned out at the party’s Phnom Penh headquarters to listen to leaders defend the current government’s legitimacy and warn of the threat posed by the opposition CNRP.
National Assembly President Heng Samrin delivered a speech normally given by Mr. Sim, who was sick, to mark the founding of the Kampuchean People’s Revolutionary Party, whose name was resurrected by the Vietnamese-backed communists who defected from the Khmer Rouge in 1979 and would later transform the party into the CPP.
“For the Cambodian People’s Party, the two successful elections obviously ascertain that the people still need the party’s leadership role at national level, sub-national and local level,” said Mr. Samrin, referring to last year’s national election and May’s provincial and district council election.
Mr. Samrin blasted continued efforts by the opposition CNRP to undermine the legitimacy of the ruling party, which currently sits alone in the National Assembly amid an opposition boycott of parliament.
“They [the CNRP] aim to bring society into turmoil, state into malfunction, foreign relations to weaken, economics to go down and people’s livelihood to get harder in order to push the Cambodian People’s Party [toward a] leadership crisis because of lack of people’s confidence,” he said.
“Their action created real difficulties at the start of the term for the Royal Government that is making efforts to maintain stability and build the country in all fields,” he continued.
Formed on June 28, 1951, the Khmer People’s Revolutionary Party (KPRP) struggled following Cambodia’s independence from France, when the growing popularity of then-Prince Norodom Sihanouk’s Sangkum movement, along with violent anti-communist crackdowns, saw the party lose nearly 90 percent of its members.
In a secret congress in September 1960, the KPRP reorganized itself as the Marxist-Leninist Workers’ Party of Kampuchea. In 1966, the name was again changed to the Communist Party of Kampuchea. Vietnamese-supported defectors from the CPK formed the Kampuchean People’s Revolutionary Party in 1981, with Mr. Sim, Mr. Samrin and Mr. Hun Sen taking leadership positions in the party.
Standing behind Mr. Samrin and Prime Minister Hun Sen, the party’s deputy president, at Sunday’s ceremony were party stalwarts including Say Chhum, the CPP’s secretary-general, and Pol Saroeun, commander of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces.
CPP spokesman Cheam Yeap said Mr. Sim was too ill to show up for the celebration.
“Samdech [Chea Sim] is more than 80 years old, so he is sometimes well and sometimes ill. He was not very well that day, so he could not attend the 63rd anniversary,” Mr. Yeap said.
“He stayed at his home in Phnom Penh and was taken care of by Cambodian doctors.”
(Additional reporting by Van Roeun)