Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Hun Sen uses ‘Victory Over Genocide Day’ to focus on ‘colour revolutions’

Hun Sen uses ‘Victory Over Genocide Day’ to focus on ‘colour revolutions’

Billboards featuring the faces of Prime Minister Hun Sen and National Assembly President Heng Samrin overlook a crowd of ruling party supporters at yesterday’s January 7 celebrations on Koh Pich.
Billboards featuring the faces of Prime Minister Hun Sen and National Assembly President Heng Samrin overlook a crowd of ruling party supporters at yesterday’s January 7 celebrations on Koh Pich. Hong Menea

Hun Sen uses ‘Victory Over Genocide Day’ to focus on ‘colour revolutions’

There was a ceremonial freeing of doves and balloons, song and dance performances, and cheers of “victory, victory, victory” from thousands of ruling party supporters at yesterday’s January 7 celebrations on Koh Pich. But much of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s annual address marking the anniversary of the Khmer Rouge’s ouster focused not on January 7, 1979, but on a present alleged threat to the nation – “colour revolution”.

Speaking at the event for “Victory Over Genocide Day” – which commemorates the day Khmer Rouge defectors backed by the Vietnamese army retook Phnom Penh from Pol Pot’s murderous regime – Hun Sen warned of an ongoing conspiracy, despite the dissolution of the Cambodia National Rescue Party in November over its purported efforts to foment a foreign-backed “revolution”.

“I am underlining for our compatriots that though the organisation of colour revolution was dismantled, perfidious schemes of ill-willed circles taking commands from behind their backs for colour revolution in Cambodia have not yet ended,” the premier said to a sea of Cambodian People’s Party supporters.

The CNRP – the only viable competitor to the CPP – was dissolved by the Supreme Court at the Ministry of Interior’s behest for allegedly attempting to overthrow the government, though little evidence was presented to substantiate the claim. Its former leader Kem Sokha is awaiting trial on “treason” charges.

Traditionally, Hun Sen’s January 7 speeches have focused on the liberation of the country from the Khmer Rouge, and on peace, harmony and growth.

But yesterday, he harkened back to a familiar narrative in recent months – that foreign actors, namely the United States, have been supporting an alleged opposition plot. “We hope that those circles will see and accept the truth, live with Cambodian people and stop creating obstacles for our pitiful motherland,” said Hun Sen.

As the premier was delivering his speech, Ul Navy, an activist from Borei Keila evicted from her home to make way for development, was whisked away by bodyguards as she attempted to deliver a petition requesting a fair resolution to residents’ ongoing land dispute with City Hall.

Another activist, Phouk Sophin, was also prevented from approaching the premier as he left the event and was forcefully dragged away by security personnel. Both were part of a larger group of who eventually handed the petition to Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Mean Chanyada.

“While I was holding the petition for Samdech [Hun Sen], four bodyguards stopped and escorted me and they also closed my mouth to prevent me from screaming. I screamed to Samdech [Hun Sen] for help, but they closed my mouth,” Sophin said.

In the run-up to the event, the Council of Ministers’ Press and Quick Reaction Unit produced a 90-minute documentary focusing on the premier’s defection from the Khmer Rouge and his subsequent liberation of the country and ensuing “peace and development”.

Prime Minister Hun Sen (second right) and National Assembly President Heng Samrin (second left) release doves to mark the anniversary of the ouster of the Khmer Rouge on January 7, 1979.
Prime Minister Hun Sen (second right) and National Assembly President Heng Samrin (second left) release doves to mark the anniversary of the ouster of the Khmer Rouge on January 7, 1979. Hong Menea

Despite the documentary’s level of detail, it omits certain parts of the historical record, including the part of key actors in the invasion who would later go on to join the opposition, as well as the fact that the Chinese government – now the country’s largest donor – had for years supported the regime.

Perceptions of the national holiday have always been divided along party lines. While the CPP focuses on the ouster of the Khmer Rouge, others see it as the start of a nearly decade-long occupation by Vietnamese forces.

University student Vo Meygech, who attended yesterday’s event, said that despite not having lived under the Khmer Rouge, she believed the CPP’s version of the narrative.

“I come to celebrate the event because I think that it is the day that Samdech [Hun Sen] liberated the country and people from genocide. Today is the day that he brought the peace to Khmers,” she said.

However, former CNRP lawmaker Ou Chanrath challenged the framing of the event, saying it was meant to spread CPP propaganda and untruths about his now-dissolved party.

“It is not like that, and there is no evidence proving that CNRP attempted to topple [the government] or run a colour revolution. It is just the propaganda to gain support,” he said.

As he does almost every year, former opposition leader Sam Rainsy took to social media to rebuke the government’s January 7 celebrations, writing that the CPP was both a precursor to and descendant of the Khmer Rouge.

Calling the observance a “political show”, Rainsy on Friday said the Vietnamese were responsible for the Khmer Rouge, comparing the country’s purported salvation of Cambodia to extinguishing a fire they started in the first place.

In a seeming rebuttal to the self-exiled leader, state-run newswire AKP published an opinion piece by government adviser Raoul Jennar, which accused Rainsy of historical ignorance and instead blamed the US for the emergence of the Khmer Rouge.

Jennar said the Vietnamese couldn’t possibly have controlled the Khmer Rouge, which slaughtered ethnic Vietnamese in a racially motivated genocide, suggesting that Rainsy “read historians like David Chandler” for better understanding.

Chandler, however, sided with Rainsy’s interpretation of events. “The CPP logo claims it was founded in 1951, but while it is silent about being founded by the Vietnamese, it was,” he wrote via email, confirming Rainsy’s timeline on the many iterations of the party that would become the CPP.

“In other words, Rainsy is right . . . The [CPP] is no longer even faintly Marxist, but it is closely allied with the Vietnamese Communist Party.”

MOST VIEWED

  • ‘Education’ a priority traffic-law penalty

    A top National Police official on June 21 neither rejected nor confirmed the authenticity of a leaked audio message, which has gone viral on social media, on a waiver of fines for a number of road traffic-related offences. General Him Yan, deputy National Police chief in

  • Pursat Ford assembly plant opens

    The Kingdom’s first Ford assembly plant was inaugurated on June 16 in Pursat province amid rising demand for brand-new vehicles among Cambodians. The facility is seen as a game changer for the domestic automobile industry, which could bring a wave of investors seeking to cash

  • Siem Reap’s $18M zoo said to educate public, help wildlife

    Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium Co Ltd has invested $18 million in a zoo in Siem Reap province, which will be opened in October to educate and promote animal conservation as well as attract national and international tourists. Currently, the Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium is building the

  • Volunteer scheme to foster ‘virtuous’ humanitarian spirit

    A senior education official said volunteer work contributes to solidarity and promotes a virtuous humanitarian spirit among the youth and communities. Serei Chumneas, undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, made the comment during the opening of a training programme called “

  • $50B infrastructure plan en route

    The government’s upcoming $50 billion,10-year infrastructure master plan will provide tremendous investment opportunities for domestic and foreign entities, transport experts and economists say. Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol revealed the plan to Japanese ambassador to Cambodia Masahiro Mikami on June 15. At

  • Chinese firms unveil preliminary results on metro, monorail for capital

    Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol and representatives from China Road and Bridge Corp (CRBC) and its parent company, the state-owned China Communications Construction Co Ltd (CCCC), met on June 24 for talks on results of the firms’ preliminary study on a potential metro