While thousands of members of the Cambodian People’s Party gathered Sunday to celebrate their role in toppling the Khmer Rouge regime, a former Communist Party leader, in a separate event, gave himself credit for “Victory Day.”
Every year, the ruling CPP celebrates the Jan 7, 1979 anniversary of Vietnamese troops entering Phnom Penh, which forced the Khmer Rouge to flee into the jungles. Vietnam then set up a government in Cambodia and occupied the country until 1989
This year Pen Sovann, who was prime minister of Cambodia and head of the Communist Party here in the early 1980s, decided to hold his own event to remind the public he was the one who set up and led the forces to overthrow the Khmer Rouge.
Pen Sovann, president of the Cambodian National Sustaining Party, said he cooperated with Vietnam to help liberate Cambodia from the Khmer Rouge, and that assistance came without any conditions.
He appealed to the public to fight dictatorship, corruption and partisanship through peaceful, democratic means.
“I wish Jan 7 to be the cause of a restored national policy that leads to democracy, as I used to pave the way for the country,” said Pen Sovann, who was educated in Vietnam.
He said he rejected the mass immigration of Vietnamese into Cambodia and opposed any attempts to encroach on Cambodian land.
Because he was against Vietnam taking advantage of Cambodia, he said he was arrested by Vietnamese authorities in December 1981 and held in a Hanoi prison until 1992.
Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said Pen Sovann deserves only partial credit, and noted many others fought the Khmer Rouge.
“Pen Sovann should not say a lie to the new generation because many of the old people who struggled at that time are still alive,” Khieu Kanharith said.
CPP President Chea Sim presided over a ceremony at party headquarters in which he vowed to try former leaders of the Khmer Rouge. The National Assembly last week unanimously passed a draft tribunal law that has been passed on to the Senate.
“The successful implementation of this law…could close the dark chapter of [the Cambodian people’s] history,” Chea Sim said.
Chea Sim also indirectly criticized the Cambodian Freedom Fighters, the group blamed for the Nov 24 attack on government offices.
“There are still some bad elements…[that] continue to incite the masses, create confusion and create anarchy in our society,” he said.