As thousands of students and government officials gathered in the capital Monday to mark 62 years since Cambodia declared its independence from France, Prime Minister Hun Sen used the occasion to warn citizens against the dangers of change.
In a message posted to his personal Facebook page, the prime minister wrote of the successes of then-Prince Norodom Sihanouk in developing the country in the years following independence, and the disastrous period that followed his overthrow at the hands of Lon Nol.
“All Cambodians remember the greatest achievements of the hero late King Norodom Sihanouk, who struggled and sacrificed all things to demand independence from France,” Mr. Hun Sen said.
“Unfortunately, on March 18, 1970, Lon Nol became head of state in a coup d’etat and after that he led Cambodia to fall into the killing fields. This experience is an example that reminds us of the suffering that was the result of changing the leader through the desire to get power,” he said.
“This time, Cambodia must avoid that bad and dangerous path,” he added. “Especially the Cambodian People’s Party, of which I am president and prime minister, vows to protect the Constitution, protect the king and protect peace for the people.”
King Norodom Sihamoni, who ascended the throne in 2004, arrived at the ceremony in front of Phnom Penh’s Independence Monument at about 8 a.m. Monday and spent an hour moving among the crowd, greeting soldiers and government officials, shaking hands with students, and even posing for selfies.
Deputy opposition leader Kem Sokha took to his Facebook page Monday to call on politicians to change their ways in order to ensure a better future for the country.
“I appeal to the Cambodian politicians, especially those people in power: Please try to…change both physically and mentally, to be independent and get away from the greed, anger and wrong thinking that makes you commit the bad acts that bring suffering in the present and future for your family and other families in society and the country,” Mr. Sokha wrote.
“Those people in power can abuse everything and all others, but you cannot escape from the law of nature,” he added.
Keo Sakol, 62, who was born in the months after Cambodia gained its independence, said during Monday’s ceremony that she hoped Cambodia’s political parties would work together to make the country strong.
“I request that all parties unite to make our country remain peaceful forever,” she said.