King’s Birthday Is Newest Public Holiday

Twenty-five of the working days in 2005 have been dubbed public holidays, according to a sub-decree issued by the government this week.

But this year Cam­bo­di­ans won’t receive a day off for Paris Peace Agreement Day. Instead they’ll have a break to mark King Noro­dom Sihamoni’s birthday and the anniversary of his coronation.

Paris Peace Agreement Day was celebrated on Oct 23 to mark the 1991 Paris International Con­fer­ence on Cambodia, which end­ed years of civil war in the country, established the Untac mission and brought the first democratically-elected government to Cam­bo­dia.

Dropping the occasion from the official public holiday list was “a technical choice,” rather than a political one, said Prak Sokhon, a CPP deputy secretary-general of the government.

“Of course it’s still an important day in our history,” he said Mon­day. “[But] the fact is that we have to add a new holiday so we have to make a choice.”

While most Cambodians may only miss another day off work, Paris Peace Agreement Day still carries much significance for those who struggled for Cambo­dia’s independence from the Viet­namese occupation, said Chea Vannath, president of the Center for Social Development.

“Those people living in the refugee camps, in the jungle, sacrificed their well-being and families for cause of peace…. So I think among those people, they value that day. It means a lot for them,” she said.

Jan 7 Victory Day Over Geno­cide, marking the fall of the Khmer Rouge—and, to many, the beginning of the decade-long Vietnamese occupation of Cam­bo­dia—remains a recognized public holiday.

Already long-criticized by businesses and factory operators for having more public holidays than many other countries, government officials have considered the possibility of reducing the number of holidays celebrated in Cam­bodia.

But “there’s no plan yet,” Prak Sokhon said.

“I think it was an administrative decision in the beginning” to have so many holidays, he added.

According to the sub-decree, signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen on Feb 10, changes to the calendar include an additional three days off, from May 13 to 15, for King Sihamoni’s birthday, and one day, Oct 29, for the anniversary of his coronation.

Retired King Norodom Siha­nouk’s birthday, which is normally a three-day affair, has been re­duced to one day, Oct 31. And International Children’s Day, celebrated on June 1, has also been de-listed as a public holiday.

In addition to the 25 days listed, holidays are extended if the occasion falls on a weekend, the sub-decree states.

“Any holiday that falls on…[a Saturday or Sunday] is allowed to have one more [day of] holiday,” it states.

In comparison, the US, Canada and Germany each have 11 days of national holidays. Japan has 15 days. France has 10.


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