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PM defends divisive celebration

PM defends divisive celebration

The January 7 holiday provokes mixed emotions in the Kingdom

PRIME Minister Hun Sen lashed out Tuesday against those who did not recognise today's Victory over Genocide holiday, calling them "animals". 

"If you ignorant persons and extremists do not dare acknowledge the truth [of January 7, 1979], you are not humans, you are truly animals," Hun Sen said during an inauguration for the new Stung Meanchey bridge.   

Hun Sen acknowledged that not all areas were liberated on the same day that the Vietnamese-backed forces toppled the Khmer Rouge in Phnom Penh 30 years ago, but he said that the day represented the end of the regime.

"This is the truth of history," he said.

On Monday, a statement from the Son Sann Foundation called October 23, 1991 - the signing of the Paris Peace Accords - the true date to acknowledge freedom from oppression because the agreement partially restored "Cambodian independence and sovereignty" after the "de facto Vietnamese Victory" in 1979.

"Instead of national reconciliation, [the January 7 celebration] further splits the unity of the Cambodian people and civil servants who are forced to parade at this shameful day," the statement said.

Son Sann was the founder of the Khmer People's National Liberation Front, which was one of four factions involved in Cambodia's civil war of the 1980s.  

Opposition Sam Rainsy Party members have also said they would not celebrate January 7, which they insist has been hijacked by Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party.

But government spokesman and Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith told reporters on Sunday that the holiday is for all Cambodians because many movements fought for victory against the Khmer Rouge.   

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