Phnom Penh municipal authorities released a statement informing the capital’s residents that military equipment will be transported through the city tomorrow in preparation for a ‘Victory Over Genocide Day’-related military exhibition.
While the national holiday was marked on its official date, January 7, by Prime Minister Hun Sen, his son and senior military official Hun Manet will lead a three-day side event on Koh Pich starting Friday.
The statement, issued by Phnom Penh Governor Khoung Sreng, said military equipment from the Bodyguard Unit and Brigade 70 will be transported on the capital’s major thoroughfares and requested residents not to be alarmed at the deployment.
“The announcement serves as information for people to avoid confusion and surprise towards the military equipment [heading] for the exhibition event,” the statement reads.
Last year, the event included soldiers competing to carry simulated casualties to safety, as well as footraces and competitions involving the negotiation of military-style obstacle courses, with civilians invited to participate in the revelries too.
January 7 is the anniversary of the day in 1979 that Khmer Rouge defectors and Vietnamese forces ousted Pol Pot's murderous regime from Phnom Penh. The premier marked the divisive holiday on Sunday, addressing thousands of CPP supporters at Koh Pich, hitting on traditional themes of liberation, but also lauding the government's widely condemned recent crackdown on the opposition CNRP.
Former CNRP lawmaker Ou Chanrath said the display of military equipment was an attempt to instil fear in people, hoping to quell any dissent.
“They are suspicious and afraid the people might protest, so they show the weapons and forces,” he said.