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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - January 7 reignites debate

January 7 reignites debate

MORE THAN 10,000 members of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party are expected to gather at the party’s headquarters today to mark the 32nd anniversary of the day the Khmer Rouge regime was toppled by Vietnamese troops in 1979.

Senate president Chea Sim is scheduled to give a speech at today’s event, to express the party’s gratitude to the Cambodian and Vietnamese soldiers “who sacrificed their lives to save the Cambodian people”, according to a copy of a prepared statement obtained by The Post yesterday.

“On this occasion, I would like to appeal to all patriots to maintain the precious spirit of January 7 and keep continuing to strengthen the unity of the government under the umbrella of the King, in order to take Cambodia toward glory,” the statement reads.

The January 7 anniversary – known as Victory over Genocide Day – remains a divisive issue, however, with some commentators claiming yesterday that the day marks the moment the country fell under the influence of Hanoi.

It is time for our leaders to wake up and take notice of the general fear ... of losing national independence.

In a statement yesterday, political observer Son Soubert argued that January 7 had initiated a period of domination by Vietnam.
“It is time for our leaders to wake up and take notice of the general fear, felt by the great majority of the Cambodian people, of losing national independence and sovereignty,” the statement reads.

Former Prime Minister Pen Sovan, who was dismissed from office in December 1981 and imprisoned for 10 years after criticising the extent of the Vietnamese presence in Cambodia, said the CPP had “betrayed” him and was “manipulated by Vietnam”.

“It is bad for the ruling CPP, which not only conceded territorial sovereignty to Vietnam, but has also brought a lot of illegal immigrants into Cambodia and provided a lot of economic land concessions, leased for 99 years, to Vietnam,” he said.

“I think they are a group of extremists.”

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Hun Sen lashed out at critics of the January 7 holiday, emphasising the importance of the day in Cambodian history.

Speaking at a high school inauguration in Kampong Cham province, the premier said all criticisms of the event were politically motivated.

“I would like to say that January 7 liberated everything, including ghosts and evil spirits and even liberated the heads of those who are cursing January 7,” he said.

Yesterday, police in Siem Reap reported the discovery of an antigovernment leaflet released in advance of January 7, which described Hun Sen as a “second Pol Pot” and blamed his government for a host of ills, including the Diamond Island stampede.

“We have not yet identified the people who threw the leaflet,” said Keo Sambath, Siem Reap’s deputy provincial police chief. “We are investigating.”

In August, Takeo provincial court convicted four people on disinformation charges after they were accused of distributing antigovernment leaflets in advance of last year’s January 7 celebrations.

The leaflets, which were found scattered in three Takeo districts, asserted that the day should not be viewed as one of liberation, but as the day Cambodia became “abused and occupied” by Vietnam.

The plot’s alleged mastermind was convicted in absentia and sentenced to three years in prison and fined 6 million riels (US$1,430).

The three other convicts were sentenced to two years in prison and fined 2 million riels (US$476).

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