Some 50,000 government supporters packed Phnom Penh's Olympic Stadium to mark the 30th anniversary of the Vietnamese and CPP’s victory over the Khmer Rouge regime
Photo by: SOVANN PHILONG
A spectator shields his face with a Hun Sen leaflet at Olympic Stadium on Wednesday.
PHNOM Penh's Olympic Stadium was packed Wednesday with some 50,000 white-shirted, flag-waving supporters of the ruling Cambodian People's Party, including students, teachers, civil servants and lawmakers, who gathered to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime.
Supporters present at the event were treated to impressively regimented, large-scale performances to commemorate the January 7 Victory Day - marking the day on which Vietnamese troops, spearheaded by most of the current upper echelon of the ruling CPP, toppled the Khmer Rouge in Phnom Penh.
Chea Sim, chairman of the CPP and president of the Senate, gave a speech thanking the Vietnamese government and the volunteer Vietnamese-backed forces, and paying homage to those who died for the "revival" of Cambodia 30 years ago.
"We wish that all the millions of people who died during the Pol Pot regime will be reborn in paradise," Chea Sim said in his speech.
"We are gathered here today in order to remember the people who sacrificed their lives to save the nation from the genocide."
He said the January 7 celebration was significant, as it marked the day that the Cambodian people came back to life and began the ongoing process of national reconstruction.
No mention of the KRT
Five former Khmer Rouge leaders are being held in detention at the UN-backed Khmer Rouge tribunal and have been charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity.
But despite record crowds commemorating the fall of the brutal regime, no mention was made of the country's war crimes tribunal.
Nhem Ean, a former photographer at the S-21 prison and today the Anlong Veng deputy governor, told the Post Wednesday that in his district - a former Khmer Rouge stronghold - celebrations were modest but happy. He said that about 99 percent of citizens in his district supported the CPP.
"We will remain grateful to the January 7 victors, especially the three Samdechs - Hun Sen, Chea Sim and Heng Samrin - until the end of our lives," he said.
He said his district was made up mostly of people who were former Khmer Rouge fighters and that they had celebrated the January 7 victory every year since they integrated with the Cambodian government in 1998-99.
"We have no objection at all over the January 7 victory celebration," he said. "It liberated us from the genocide regime."
Opposition lawmaker Yim Sovann told the Post Wednesday he opposed the celebration.
"I see that many poor people are still the victims of the ruling CPP. Therefore, I think that January 7 is just a game to gain political interest among the poor."