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Holiday evokes unity pleas

King Norodom Sihamoni (right) and Prime Minister Hun Sen are received by the crowd during an Independence Day
King Norodom Sihamoni (right) and Prime Minister Hun Sen are received by the crowd during an Independence Day celebration in Phnom Penh’s Daun Penh district yesterday. Heng Chivoan

Holiday evokes unity pleas

Crowds in the capital celebrated the 60th anniversary of Cambodia’s independence from French colonial rule on Saturday, in an event marked by the conspicuous absence of opposition politicians, who have yet to take their seats in parliament.

About 2,000 people attended the ceremony presided over by King Norodom Sihamoni, who used the occasion to call for unity to further economic development amid ongoing political deadlock since July’s disputed general elections.

“It is a historic day and of the highest value. We must remember about gaining independence and freedom from the French under the royal crusade of the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk,” the King said in his speech.

“On this occasion, I would like to call on all Cambodian people to be united under the roof of the constitution and state laws in order to contribute to defending and building the nation in all domains, particularly the economy, as the country has full peace and political stability.”

At Independence Monument, the King laid a wreath and lit a torch that will burn for three days.

Opposition lawmakers did not attend the ceremony, according to opposition spokesman Yim Sovann, because, having not taken their seats in the National Assembly, the 55 elected MPs had not been issued the appropriate uniforms for such an occasion.

“We have not [had a] swearing-in [ceremony] at the National Assembly yet, and we have no official uniforms, so we did not celebrate Independence Day,” he said.

Speaking to the crowd at Saturday’s ceremony, Prime Minister Hun Sen said the July 28 election had been free, fair and transparent.

“The fifth mandate of the government was established by the Cambodian people and belongs to the Cambodian people; [we] will sacrifice for the supreme interest of the nation and people,” he said.

The late King Father Norodom Sihanouk led the country to independence from the French protectorate on November 9, 1953, after 90 years of French rule.

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