Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday addressed a crowd of about 10,000 Cambodian People’s Party supporters, including the armed forces of the government, gathered in Kampong Cham province to celebrate the 33rd anniversary of what the government calls “Victory Over Genocide Day”.
On January 7, 1979, the Cambodian People’s Party – then called the National United Front for the Salvation of Kampuchea – ousted the Khmer Rouge regime from Phnom Penh with the backing of the Vietnamese, beginning a decade-long occupation of Cambodia by Vietnamese armed forces.
“The National United Front for the Salvation of Kampuchea and the Vietnamese volunteer army would not have been able to liberate Cambodia from genocide if there was no participation of Cambodian people,” Hun Sen said.
Colloquially, the day is referred to as either “Liberation Day” or “Occupation Day”, depending on political standpoints on Vietnam, which some, especially the main opposition Sam Rainsy Party, see as having “invaded Cambodia” on that day.
Previously, Hun Sen has cursed “as animals” those who do not recognise Victory Over Genocide Day as the true liberation day. However, his approach was more tempered yesterday.
“We have no intention to make a law in order to force all people to recognise [Liberation Day] January 7th, because those who do not recognise the day are under pressure from their political ideology,” said Hun Sen, adding the CPP would show “tolerance” to those skeptics.
“Even if those who do not recognise, and are insulting [Liberation Day], I would still thank them, because they participated in dissolving [the Khmer Rouge regime], and today, they are not all dressed clad in black [as the Khmer Rouge once dressed].”
Hun Sen also lashed out at the United Nations Transition Authority in Cambodia, which observed the first democratic elections in Cambodia after the collapse of the Khmer Rouge regime. UNTAC left Cambodia without full peace or political stability, Hun Sen said, and claimed his “win-win” policy of 1996 was what bought true peace to Cambodia.