Scale of festivities mirrors country's progress: officials
Two students hold balloons while celebrating Independence Day in front of the Royal Palace.
KING Norodom Sihamoni on Sunday presided over Cambodia's 55th National Independence Day, commemorating the Kingdom's liberation in 1953 from 90 years of French colonial rule.
The King and Prime Minister Hun Sen headed a procession that began at Phnom Penh's Independence Monument. There, he lit the traditional victory candle, accompanied by Hun Sen, Senate President Chea Sim and National Assembly President Heng Samrin.
The procession then made its way to the Royal Palace along streets lined by hundreds of thousands of spectators, parliamentarians, government officials, members of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF), civil servants and students.
"Since November 9, 1953, our country has enjoyed freedom from France and has become a fully independent state," King Sihamoni told onlookers at the Royal Palace.
Hun Sen later addressed the crowd with admonishments to improve professionalism among the armed services and provide the technology necessary to defend the nation's sovereignty.
"Today we are also celebrating the 55th anniversary of the creation of the RCAF, which now continues to protect our ancient temples and territorial sovereignty from invaders," Hun Sen said as ranks of soldiers stood in formation at the Royal Palace.
"The government will continue to improve the RCAF and provide it with the best training and technology to ensure that it will serve the nation appropriately," he said.
Yos Serey Vathanak, 17, a student at Chea Sim Boeung Keng Kang High School, said Sunday's ceremony was larger than any he remembered from previous years.
"I was very excited to see so many people," he said. "I've attended many times, but this year's was the most exciting so far."
Last month, organisers of Sunday's events said this year's commemoration would outshine those held in previous years.
"Cambodia has become more prosperous, so we want to make this event bigger and better than ever before," Kong Sam Ol, minister of the Royal Palace, told the Post in late October, following rehearsals that included more than 8,000 officials from 30 government institutions.
Sunday's procession also featured performances of traditional Cambodian dance along the parade route, organised by the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts.