Senior Cambodian leaders on Monday marked the 41st anniversary of the founding of the Kampuchea United Front for National Salvation, which eventually ended the Khmer Rouge’s reign of terror.
Known by its French acronym FUNSK, the movement has since changed its name to Solidarity Front for the Development of the Cambodian Motherland.
The Khmer Rouge ruled Democratic Kampuchea between 1975 and 1979 under the brutal Pol Pot-led regime, with the death toll estimated at between 1.5 and three million people.
During the period, Cambodians were slaughtered on a large scale, forcefully displaced, subjected to forced labour, and deprived of basic necessities like food and medicine.
Speaking during a ceremony to commemorate the event at Chaktomuk Conference Hall in Phnom Penh, National Assembly president Heng Samrin hailed December 2 as a historic day that brought about peace and development and reunited Cambodian families.
Samrin, who is also the president of FUNSK, said: “Currently, Cambodian people live in harmony and peace with full freedom, and are moving together on the path of development based on our achievements thus far.
“Peace has brought about success in all sectors in 2019, and further expanded the foundation for continued economic development and poverty reduction for the people.”
December 2 marked a historic event in 1978 when Samrin, the late Chea Sim, now-Prime Minister Hun Sen and other patriots gathered in Kratie province’s Snuol district for a movement to fight against the Khmer Rouge with the help of Vietnamese forces.
Samrin also emphasised the role of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) in maintaining peace and stability in post-Khmer Rouge Cambodia, citing their instrumental role in reconstructing the country.
Over the past 41 years, he said, the CPP and all Cambodian people have united to bravely overcome big and small obstacles.
He said the spirit of December 2 and January 7, when the FUNSK eventually overthrew the Khmer Rouge, has been inscribed in the minds of all citizens and has served as a driving force behind the main achievements the entire nation cherishes today.
“The success and joyfulness we have earned today resulted from the December 2 movement and January 7 victory which lighted our path for more than four decades.
“Currently we can see with our own eyes the achievements in all sectors resulting from the great efforts made by all of us,” he said.
He said the FUNSK had also eliminated social and national divisions and brought about prosperity and greater national solidarity.
FUNSK and the CPP, he said, have continued to strengthen the capacity and governance of public institutions at national and sub-national levels.
This has helped ensure the effectiveness of public services and promoted a favourable investment environment for business.
On Monday, Prime Minister Hun Sen also sent out a message to commemorate the FUNSK’s 41st anniversary.
“FUNSK was created by a great solidarity force of all Cambodians inside and outside
the country, as well as many other patriotic heroes in organising a force to topple the genocidal Pol Pot regime. We achieved victory over it on January 7, 1979.”
History lecturer Sambo Vannara said had it not been for FUNSK, Cambodians would have continued to be brutally massacred.
“We all suffered from this bitter past. I, for one, lost 20 family members. Had the Khmer Rouge regime thrived, my life would have been lost too. I was very lucky that I survived and continue to live up to now.
“We encountered a brutal massacre. In the Democratic Kampuchea [Khmer Rouge] regime, we faced a serious crisis as the massacre was carried out amid allegations that we had close relations to a foreign country, namely Vietnam,” he said.