The past 33 years have seen Cambodia transformed from a country divided by war to “a motherland of peace” that is also contributing to peace internationally, the president of the ruling Cambodia People’s Party told about 10,000 people gathered at its headquarters to mark Victory Day on Saturday.
Chea Sim, also president of the National Assembly, presided over the ceremony marking the Khmer Rouge’s ousting from Phnom Penh by the National United Front for the Salvation of Kampuchea. “It is based on this victory that the whole Cambodian people have everything today and look to the future with hope,” he said at the ceremony attended by Prime Minister Hun Sen and National Assembly President Heng Samring.
The seventh of January 1979 “ended the darkest era and opened a new page in the history of Cambodia”, he said, adding that this year’s celebration was occurring during a time “when the country’s situation in all fields is making positive development”.
“Cambodia, which was plagued with protracted war, division, violence, destruction and insult, has become a motherland of peace, stability, unity, democracy and development,” Chea Sim said. January 7, however, is not universally recognised as a day of liberation, due to the influx of Vietnamese troops who joined the NUFSF to drive the Khmer Rouge out of power. Son Soubert, vice-president of the Khmer People’s National Liberation Front, which was created in 1979, described the date as “divisive” as it was “followed by 10 years of occupation” by Vietnamese forces.
“We should also recognise the 1982 formation of the Coalition Government of Cambodia headed by Samdech Preah Sihanouk as president, leading to the ... 1991 Peace Agreement on Cambodia,” he said in a statement.
Chea Sim, however, praised the Vietnamese soldiers, saying Cambodian people “remember always [their] great and faithful assistance”.
He also pointed to Cambodia’s increasing role in international affairs and the overcoming of such challenges as reconstruction, natural disasters and the recent border issues with Thailand as proof that the nation is “proceeding quickly on the correct path”.