Thousands of Phnom Penh high school students will receive a stipend to participate in Wednesday’s ceremony to mark the 30th anniversary of the fall of Democratic Kampuchea at Olympic Stadium, officials said Friday.
An estimated 12,040 students from six Phnom Penh’s high schools—including Bak Touk, Wat Koh, Yukunthor, Tuol Tumpoung, Hun Sen Phsar Doeum Thkov and Tuol Svay Prey high schools—will take part in the January 7 rally, said Meas Ngek, Deputy Director of the Phnom Penh Municipal Education Department.
Officials have said an estimated 60,000 people in all are expected to participate in the 30th anniversary celebration.
“There are more students who want to join in this biggest ever celebration of victory day,” Meas Ngek said, “But because space in the stadium is limited, I needed to choose the nearby high schools, so it is easy to transport them to the rally place.”
“The attendees, including students, teachers as well as education officials, are willing and eager to join in the anniversary,” Meas Ngek said. “Nobody forces others or pressures students.”
Each participating student and teacher will receive 6,500 riel (about $1.60) to buy snacks and water, and will get a T-shirt and cap bearing the ruling CPP’s logos, said Sok Sovanna, Bak Touk high school director.
“We’ve only chosen students and teachers who volunteered to take part in the ceremony and love the CPP,” he said, adding that 4,696 students and 134 teachers are scheduled to attend.
“Anybody who is on other sides or parties—we are not forcing them to join in such an important event,” he added.
The 30th anniversary celebration is slated to be the second largest celebration of January 7 ever: An estimated 100,000 students attended a similar rally for the anniversary in 1985, Sok Sovanna said.
“Cambodians living in Cambodia, who passed through the grief and brutality of the regime, truly understand that January 7 is our second birth,” he added.
“[It is] just a group of people living overseas who dislike this historical and superior event.”
At Phnom Penh’s Wat Koh high school, school master Chhun Sarom, said 440 students and 19 staff members plan to attend the rally.
“Neither students nor teachers, including myself, have been pressured or forced to attend the rally for the victory day of January 7,” Chhun Sarom said.
Wat Koh students will carry a January 7 victory slogan billboard and they will release pigeons as a symbol of peace and freedom, he said.
“To give snacks and water as treats is not a type of bribery,” Chhun Sarom said. “The [CPP] just expresses its kindness to its people and attendees for their applause…. We would not have schools or anything at all if January 7, in 1979 did not exist.”
Students also said they were excited about participating in the event.
“My parents frequently tell me that I would not have been born and my parents’ life would have disappeared in that regime,” said Kun Pidor, 16, a Wat Koh High School eighth-grader who said she has attended two rehearsal rallies ahead of Wednesday’s ceremony.
Iv Phanosith, a 19-year-old sophomore at Bak Touk high school said: “To attend the rally and wear a shirt with a CPP logo does not mean we belong to the CPP…. I am going to attend the rally because it is for victory day for all Cambodians and the logo just tells the public to be aware that the CPP is the party that brought a new birth for my parents and others.”