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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - January 7 not black or white

January 7 not black or white

Dear Editor,

In your story of the January 7 anniversary; Chea Sim, Hun Sen and other Eastern Zone

dissidents must be very surprised to learn from your story (page 6) that former Cambodian

leader Pen Sovann was to be found among their ranks, as a member of their Eastern

Zone group that fled from the Pol Pot regime to Vietnam.

Pen Sovann, and everybody else, believed that during the Pol Pot regime, he was the

leader of an exile group of Cambodians studying Marxist-Leninism in Hanoi and first

returned to Cambodia with the Dec 2nd 1978 formation of the Kampuchean Salvation

Front.

The Salvation Front knitted together two factions of Cambodian communists - one led

by Pen Sovann was dubbed the 'Khmer Minh', a group of pro-Vietnamese exiles and the

group most trusted by Hanoi; the second faction led by Heng Samrin was the Pol Pot

rebels, mostly from the Eastern Zone. The third tendency that emerged in the same

period were non-communist intellectuals, who simply wanted to rebuild their shattered

country.

The main thrust of the story is about how Khmers are bitterly divided over whether

January 7th is to be celebrated as a day of liberation from Pol Pot rule, or a day

of mourning for the Vietnamese occupation.

But that is not the whole story. There are less simplistic views about this controversial

anniversary. Some Khmers who are not CPP supporters expressed the view that "we

welcomed the Vietnamese invasion, at the time, we wanted anyone to come to our rescue

to get rid of the Pol Pot regime, but the problem was Vietnam overstayed their welcome."

In this sense January 7th is sometimes seen as a celebration for all those who survived

the Pol Pot regime, a collective experience that transcends any particular ideology.

It does not follow that all those who identify with January 7th, are therefore uncritical

of the ten years of Vietnamese occupation that followed. Even Funcinpec officials

who had lived under the DK regime have told this correspondent that they also remember

January 7th as "a day of celebration and a day of relief". According to

this view January 7th is the anniversary of all Khmers, whereas the Post has presented

it as exclusively partisan property of the CPP.

The final quip that "history is written by the victors" is off-target as

the history of 1979 period is sadly still waiting to be written....

And the second point is how to define the victors?

Were the victors Second Prime Minister Hun Sen and the CPP? The Vietnamese? Or everyone

who was against the genocidal DK regime?

- Tom Fawthrop, Phnom Penh.

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