Tens of thousands of Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) supporters and all levels of civil servant are expected at Phnom Penh’s Olympic Stadium on Monday morning to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Kingdom’s liberation after the collapse of the Khmer Rouge regime on January 7, 1979.
At a rehearsal at Olympic Stadium on Saturday, thousands of people stood in formation to create representations of the Cambodian and ruling party flags as part of the preparations for a spectacular ceremony to mark the annual commemoration of Victory Day.
The 40th-anniversary celebrations are to be attended by Prime Minister Hun Sen and his wife, president of the National Assembly Heng Samrin and his Senate counterpart Say Chhum in the company of 34,750 people, the event’s organising committee said.
However, Samrith Sarun, the deputy head of the CPP’s Central Committee office, said on Sunday that the participants at the Victory Day celebrations would actually number around 60,000.
Phnom Penh Municipal Hall spokesman Met Meas Pheakdey said his institution was responsible for security, safety, public order and traffic flow during the celebrations on Monday.
“We will celebrate the event [on Monday] at Olympic Stadium with tens of thousands of participants – a huge gathering – so we have to pay attention to the security tasks,” Meas Pheakdey said.
CPP spokesman Sok Eysan wrote on Telegram on Sunday that Cambodians in Australia had on Saturday declared their intention to mark the anniversary with a protest in front of the Maxim restaurant in Springvale, a suburb of Victorian capital Melbourne, with at least 200 people joining a rally claiming that Victory Day was when Vietnam had invaded Cambodia.
“The Cambodian community members in Australia who have appealed for a protest against Victory Day in Australia [are] biased people, and they organising a protest abroad will have no influence on Cambodians living in Cambodia."
“[Protest], it is [their] business, but they have no influence on the Kingdom though they annually protest against Victory Day. January 7 will stay forever and protests from outside [the country] will not be able to stop it."
“A demonstration of just hundreds of protesters cannot be more than 16 million Cambodian people,” Eysan stressed.
Youk Chhang, the head of the Documentation Centre of Cambodia (DC-Cam) which researches and records the Khmer Rouge era, said Victory Day is historic for Cambodia and that the people know its meaning.
He said the ultra-Maoist regime killed over two million people while January 7, 1979 saw the liberation of five million Cambodians, and so Victory Day carried huge significance for the Kingdom’s people.
“We know today that [40 years ago] was the time when the Khmer Rouge [were removed] from the villages where we suffered, and it is also the day when we all began to have enough food to eat, we could search for family members and return to our hometowns,” Chhang said.
He said the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport was responsible for teaching the younger generations at schools and universities of this period of Cambodian history.
He said education would help them understand what brought about the Khmer Rouge and that this would help prevent incorrect historical interpretations.
Melbourne-based former Victoria state MP Hong Lim – who was born in Phnom Penh – and political analyst Ou Vireak could not be reached by The Post for comment on Sunday.