Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Independence Day celebrated as parties bicker

Independence Day celebrated as parties bicker

Cambodian scouts wave bouquets as balloons fly near Independence Monument during a ceremony marking Independence Day in Phnom Penh yesterday.
Cambodian scouts wave bouquets as balloons fly near Independence Monument during a ceremony marking Independence Day in Phnom Penh yesterday. AFP

Independence Day celebrated as parties bicker

Cambodia celebrated its 62nd year of independence from France yesterday, an opportunity that leading figures from both of the country’s political parties quickly took to promote their own agendas.

During the official ceremony, attended by thousands of students, members of the armed forces and others, King Norodom Sihamoni, accompanied by Prime Minister Hun Sen and other top officials, laid a wreath and ignited a torch at the Independence Monument in Phnom Penh.

According to tradition, the “Flame of Victory” will burn for three days to commemorate the Kingdom’s independence from France on November 9, 1953.

Although the event was largely apolitical, a post on Hun Sen’s official Facebook page heralding Independence Day was less neutral. In the post, Hun Sen – who has repeatedly warned of civil war should the opposition prevail – reappropriated the opposition’s mantra of “change”, saying Cambodia’s history showed regime change to be a road to genocide.

“On March 18, 1970, Lon Nol made a coup against the former King [Sihanouk] and plunged [the country] into the killing fields, a lesson which shows [the effects of] ‘change’ caused by toppling the head of state in order to take power, and now Cambodia has to move from that very dangerous road,” the post read.

“The Cambodian People’s Party, of which I am the president and prime minister, is determined to protect the constitution and the King and ensure peace for Cambodia.”

The prime minister did not, however, mention his own role as a military commander in the Khmer Rouge revolution that ushered in the so-called killing fields.

King Norodom Sihamoni (centre) and Prime Minister Hun Sen (centre-right) preside over a ceremony to mark Cambodia’s 62nd year of independence in Phnom Penh yesterday.
King Norodom Sihamoni (centre) and Prime Minister Hun Sen (centre-right) preside over a ceremony to mark Cambodia’s 62nd year of independence in Phnom Penh yesterday. Hong Menea

Meanwhile, Kem Sokha, vice president of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, also took to Facebook to congratulate Cambodia on its independence – and to make an implied critique of the ruling CPP. “I would like to appeal to all Khmer politicians to be independent from foreign countries and fully ensure [Cambodia’s] sovereignty,” Sokha wrote.

Sokha did not elaborate on which countries he was referring to, but the opposition has long accused the CPP of being backed by Vietnam, a country some of its members also accuse of encroaching on Cambodian territory at the border.

With relations strained following the beating of two opposition lawmakers on October 26, political analyst Chea Vannath said the fact that both of Cambodia’s main political parties were implicitly attacking each other on Independence Day showcased the Kingdom’s enduring divisions.

“In Cambodia, the divisions between the political parties is much more acute,” she said, noting that independence day celebrations in other countries were typically occasions for national unity.

“It means that the maturity of democracy [in Cambodia] is still at a very early stage.”

A cheerier message about Cambodia’s national day came from United States President Barack Obama, who highlighted his wife Michelle’s visit to the Kingdom in March in an official message from the White House delivered late last week.

“I hope that Cambodians, both home and abroad, have a healthy and happy Independence Day celebration,” the letter read.

MOST VIEWED

  • Construction begins on $1.5B Kampot seaport

    The International Multi-Purpose Logistics and Port Centre, principally invested by Kampot Logistics and Port Co Ltd and projected to cost $1.5 billion, has officially broken ground in Bokor town, Kampot province. The multi-purpose logistics and port centre, located in Prek Tnaot commune, will be built on

  • Cambodia eyes key role in electronics, auto hubs in SEA

    Two roadmaps, part of the LDC’s economic diversification plan, were designed to see it through its migration process, but experts say the journey might be arduous, particularly in the presence of two established hubs in the region By 2028, Cambodia hopes to have exited the

  • Hun Neng, lawmaker and PM’s brother, passes away aged 72

    Hun Neng, chairman of the 4th Commission of the National Assembly, has passed away from heart disease at the age of 72 on the afternoon of May 5, according to the Ministry of Information. Hun Neng is the older brother of Prime Minister Hun Sen, and was

  • Massive stingrays may live in Mekong’s deep pools

    US scientists have suggested that unexplored deep pools in the Mekong River in an area of Stung Treng could potentially be home to significant populations of giant freshwater stingrays, one of the world’s largest freshwater fish species. This comes as a fisherman hooked a 180

  • PM meets with US business giants

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has met with a number of major US companies who have expressed interest in investing in Cambodia, in a meeting convened by the US-ASEAN Business Council (US-ABC). A delegation of companies – including Amazon, Meta, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, Ford, Visa and Pernod

  • CCC team off on US business trip

    The Kingdom’s leading economists and private sector representatives have called on the US to renew its tax preferential status for Cambodian exports, as a Cambodia Chamber of Commerce (CCC) delegation departed for a weeklong business visit to the US, where they will meet with