Not everyone was happy to see Chinese President Jiang Zemin arrive Monday, but some had trouble making that known.
Separate events, one at the Choeng Ek “killing fields” and the other on the Phnom Penh campus of the Institute of Technology, were held to point out that the Chinese had backed the brutal Khmer Rouge regime.
At Choeng Ek, Tuol Rey, whose parents died under Pol Pot, spoke bluntly: “I don’t support his visit, as China supported the Khmer Rouge.”
Another young man, who gave his name only as Lyry, said he, too, had lost family to the Khmer Rouge. “I want Jiang Zemin to support an international tribunal for the killers,” he said.
Those at the event, organized by the opposition Sam Rainsy Party, said they were incensed that China threatened in 1999 to veto a UN resolution to bring the Khmer Rouge to trial.
“We welcome Jiang Zemin’s visit. It will be useful to the Cambodian people and the Cambodian-Chinese,” said Hul Thol, a party adviser.
But, he said, China should not “interfere with the internal affairs of [Cambodia],” which must “make a judgment for who is responsible” for crimes committed under the regime.
At Phnom Penh’s Institute of Technology, dozens of students representing the Democratic Front of Khmer Students and Intellectuals gathered to protest the visit. Students said they want the Chinese government to apologize for its support of the Khmer Rouge.
Pok Leak Reasey, a chemistry professor at the institute, wore a T-shirt displaying a pile of skulls captioned, “My God—which one is my father’s skull?”
The protesters attempted to hoist signs on Jiang’s motorcade route, but were pushed out of site by police. The protesters’ signs, proclaiming things like, “Cambodia is not a Chinese province” and “China! Apologize for the Crimes against the Cambodian People!” were confiscated before the motorcade came by.