More than 200 opposition party officials, mourners and Buddhist monks took part in a memorial ceremony at the Choeung Ek “killing fields” on Sunday to mark the 30th anniversary of the fall of Phnom Penh to Khmer Rouge forces.
Sam Rainsy Party officials said that the ceremony would be the last at Choeung Ek and that future ceremonies will be held at Tuol Sleng or elsewhere to protest the government’s privatization of the genocide memorial.
Under a recent agreement, the government, citing financial constraints to redevelop the site, ceded control of Choeung Ek to Japanese company JC Royal.
“We invited only 30 monks to commemorate and offer food representing the 30th anniversary of those people who died after April 17, 1975,” said opposition party Secretary-General Eng Chhay Eang.
Eng Chhay Eang also used the memorial ceremony to encourage officials to launch the long-awaited tribunal for Khmer Rouge leaders.
“The tribunal will find justice for millions of victims who were killed violently. Those souls will not be satisfied unless the future tribunal can find real justice for them,” he said.
Uk Sophat was a 24-year-old student in 1975 when the Khmer Rouge forced him and his family out of Phnom Penh.
Taking part in Sunday’s ceremony, the 54-year-old said Cambodian youth hold the key to pushing for a tribunal.
“The young generations are our main force. We have to remind them to remember such a terrible memory,” Uk Sophat said. “The young generations will play an important role in pushing the government to set up a transparent tribunal that will find justice for millions of victims.”
Choeung Ek’s general manager, Neang Say, a harsh critic of the government privatization deal, said on Sunday that an official memorial ceremony for the Khmer New Year was held on April 13, but it was far smaller than the gathering on Sunday.
“I could invite only four monks to take part in the commemorating ceremony,” he said. “We do not have much money to hold a commemoration ceremony for victims at Choeung Ek ‘killing fields.’”