Minister of National Defence Tea Banh will commemorate the 42nd anniversary of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s struggle to reach Vietnam and return with troops to topple the genocidal Khmer Rouge.
Banh, who is also deputy prime minister, will hold the remembrance ceremony on Thursday on behalf of the prime minister in Koh Thmar in Tbong Khmum province, from where Hun Sen began his journey in 1977.
Historian Diep Sophal, an assistant at the Institute of Military History who organised the ceremony, said Banh is to inaugurate a 9.9km-long road named “Hun Sen’s Historical Road”, hold a local spirit-thanking ceremony and plant a type of banyan tree as a symbol remembering Hun Sen’s departure to Vietnam.
He said Banh would travel from Bun Rany Hun Sen Primary School to the Cambodia-Vietnam border to a place where an ebony tree grows – the location where Hun Sen and his comrades crossed over the border into Vietnam.
He is also to place a memorial stone there and present gifts to locals, Sophal said.
“The location known as Koh Thmar, in Memot district’s Tonloung commune, was the former headquarters of Hun Sen, who was then the commander of Zone 21 at the border region. He left Cambodia with his four closest and most trusted comrades,” Sophal said.
The four comrades were Nuch Thorn, Nhek Huon, San Sanh and Va Por Ean, he said.
“Hun Sen decided to devote his life to the struggle and crossed into Vietnam while [the Khmer Rouge’s] Democratic Kampuchea and Vietnam were in conflict."
“He had to overcome many dangers, including bumping into the Khmer Rouge, being attacked by Vietnamese troops, stepping on landmines or falling into traps with sharpened bamboo."
“Hun Sen did not wait to be killed by the Khmer Rouge, and with very little hope, he had to struggle to Vietnam, even with the possibility of his arrest there,” Sophal said.
Sophal said the journey undertaken on June 20, 1977, was the beginning for the emergent Kampuchean United Front for National Salvation, which was formed on December 2, 1978.
This led to the overthrow of Khmer Rouge on January 7, 1979, he said.
“The Paris Peace Agreements on October 23, 1991, did not actually end the civil war in Cambodia – war [with the Khmer Rouge] only ended on December 29, 1998 thanks to the Win-Win strategy of Hun Sen,” Sophal stressed.
Political analyst Lao Mong Hay said the commemoration was “a gesture to emphasise and glorify the heroism of the prime minister”.