Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - National Day of Remembrance held




National Day of Remembrance held

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Actors in Khmer Rouge uniforms re-enact atrocities from the regime to mark the annual National Day of Remembrance at the Killing Fields in Phnom Penh on Sunday. Heng Chivoan

National Day of Remembrance held

Haunting music and explosions served as the soundtrack as men and woman wearing the Khmer Rouge’s signature red-chequered krama marched across the Killing Fields carrying weapons.

A scene that has surely played out over and over in the minds of survivors was on Sunday enacted for Cambodia’s National Day of Remembrance, which was made a national holiday in February.

Held at the Choeung Ek Killing Fields, where thousands of Cambodians were slain and buried in mass graves in the late 1970s, the event drew a crowd of some 2,000 people.

The day’s proceedings struck an odd chord by juxtaposing the tragedies carried out by the Pol Pot regime, such as forced relocations, executions and the destruction of pagodas, with the achievements of the Cambodian People’s Party, whose flag was carried alongside that of the Kingdom at the end of the ceremony to replace Democratic Kampuchea’s banner.

Rhetoric by the CPP professing to be a bringer of peace has ramped up in recent months, with the July 29 election just around the corner.

Phnom Penh Governor Khuong Sreng told reporters after the event that it was crucial to prevent others from destroying the peace that Prime Minister Hun Sen had fought so hard to secure.

“In order to prevent such a regime from returning in Cambodia, I would like to appeal to all Cambodian people to keep the peace that Hun Sen has made sacrifices for since he was 18 years old,” Sreng said.

His words seemingly echoed those of Hun Sen, who has been quoted as saying an opposition victory could plunge the nation into another civil war.

Prime Minister Hun Sen took to Facebook to celebrate the anniversary.

“Peace has provided all kinds of opportunities for people in building our society, family, community and country to be more developed,” he posted. “Please brother and sister, keep and protect the peace forever.”

Kim Leap, 70, who lived in Battambong province during the Khmer Rouge era, said at Sunday’s event: “Today’s regime has brought prosperity because Hun Sen saved us. We could all have been killed during the Khmer Rouge. “We were on the edge of slaughter.”

Kong Vuthy, 56, whose parents, brother and sisters were all killed, said: “For me and my family, we are not satisfied with the ECCC [Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia] – more people should face trial”

“[Former Khmer Rouge leaders] live comfortably . . . they have doctors, and a place to sleep comfortably and have TVs to watch – me and my family and many people are not satisfied with this.”

According to a sub-decree signed by Hun Sen and Deputy Prime Minister Bin Chhin on February 14, the holiday is to “respect and pray for the victims who passed away during the Democratic Kampuchea regime”.

Initially established back in 1984 as a day of hatred against the genocidal Pol Pot regime, the holiday has a political dimension.

Many have noted the expediency of pinning the tragedies on just a few members of the Khmer Rouge, pointing to the fact that Hun Sen himself was once a member of the movement.

The Day of Remembrance is nestled in the Kingdom’s packed holiday roster between the Royal Ploughing Ceremony on May 14 and International Children’s Day on June 1.

MOST VIEWED

  • School reopening to be postponed until November

    Minister of Education Hang Chuon Naron on Tuesday wrote to Prime Minister Hun Sen requesting a delay of school reopening across the Kingdom until November, when the new academic year begins. In his letter, Chuon Naron said the postponement is warranted to avoid the new

  • Foreigners in Kingdom must now register in FPCS system

    The Ministry of Interior’s General Department of Immigration (GDI) announced that it would not grant visa extensions to foreigners staying in Cambodia if their names are not listed on the Foreigners Present in Cambodia System (FPCS) by July 1. Foreign nationals can register in the

  • Covid-19 at ‘alarming rate’, health ministry says

    The Covid-19 risk level for individual transmission is at an “alarming rate” in the Kingdom and its probability is “not low”, warned Health Ministry spokesperson Or Vandine. “Cambodia’s coronavirus scenario is classified as being at an early stage of the pandemic because of ongoing

  • Mandatory quarantine for 30,000 workers begins

    Some of the roughly 30,000 workers from factories and enterprises across the Kingdom who went on leave during Khmer New Year began their government-imposed 14-day quarantine on Monday. Speaking at a press conference while visiting workers at the Phnom Penh Special Economic Zone on Monday, Ministry

  • Unemployed to get $40 per month

    The Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training has instructed enterprises, business owners and travel agencies in five provinces to prepare the proper forms for the suspension of employment contracts. This, it said, will make it easier for the ministry to transfer $40 a month to workers

  • Gov’t travel ban flouted

    While the majority of Cambodians have paid heed to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s order to stay put and not travel during the Khmer New Year – the holidays of which were also postponed – several hundred have left Phnom Penh nonetheless. They have allegedly breached provincial

  • G20 energy ministers struggle to finalise oil output cuts

    Top oil producers struggled to finalise production cuts during a virtual summit held by Group of 20 (G20) energy ministers on Friday, despite US President Donald Trump’s mediation efforts to end a standoff with Mexico. The final G20 communique appeared to gloss over simmering divisions

  • Kingdom revises travel restriction order

    The government on Friday eased the district and provincial border restrictions issued on Thursday. People are now allowed to cross districts within their provinces. Phnom Penh and Kandal province are to be treated as a single region where people are allowed to travel freely. In

  • Private schools struggling

    The Cambodian Higher Education Association has claimed that 113 private educational establishments are facing bankruptcy because of their inability to pay rent and staff salaries in light of nationwide school closures caused by the Covid-19 outbreak. It said the financial trouble started when the Ministry of

  • Khmer New Year holidays postponed

    In an effort to halt Covid-19 infections in the Kingdom, Prime Minister Hun Sen has postponed the Khmer New Year holidays scheduled from April 13 to 16. While the people will not have their usual break, nor will there be any public celebrations or gatherings at pagodas,