About 2,000 people gathered at the Independence Monument in Phnom Penh today for a ceremony marking the 57th anniversary of the country’s emancipation from French colonial rule.
A brass band played patriotic anthems as crowds of students, diplomats, police and Royal Cambodian Armed Forces soldiers – some bearing photographs of King Norodom Sihamoni and his father – gathered to watch senior officials lay wreaths at the monument.
The King laid a wreath at the foot of the monument and ignited the flame inside its central canopy.
According to tradition, the flame will remain lit for three days under the guard of RCAF soldiers and will be extinguished again by King Sihamoni on Thursday.
Independence Day marks the day – November 9, 1953 – Cambodia was granted its independence by France, ending 90 years of colonial rule. It was also the culmination of then-King Norodom Sihanouk’s so-called Royal Crusade for Independence, the legacy of which he subsequently used to cement his role at the centre of Cambodian political life.
Minister of Defence Tea Banh said November 9 was a precious day for the Cambodian people – particularly for members of the military who have sacrificed their lives for the protection of the country’s territorial integrity.
“It is an affirmation that Cambodia has full independence and political stability for national development in most sectors,” he told The Post at the ceremony.
Yim Sovann, spokesman of the opposition Sam Rainsy Party, said his party was grateful to King Father Norodom Sihanouk for leading the country’s fight for independence.
But he said the government had to ensure that neighbouring countries such as Vietnam and Thailand respected the independence and sovereignty of Cambodia.
“I’m grateful to the King Father, but I’m concerned that the current controversial border issues with neighbouring countries will cause Cambodia to lose its independence and territorial sovereignty in the future,” he said.
The SRP has recently been vocal in its accusations that the government has turned a blind eye to Vietnamese territorial encroachments.
The party’s self-exiled president, Sam Rainsy, has been sentenced to a total of 12 years’ jail for pushing the claims publicly.