In the 43 years since January 7, 1979, when the Khmer Rouge regime collapsed, Cambodia has walked on the “right path” towards stability and prosperity, adhering to the principles of democracy, rule of law, and national and territorial unity, Prime Minister Hun Sen said.

In his message commemorating the 43rd anniversary of Victory Day, which marked the fall of Pol Pot’s genocidal campaign, Hun Sen affirmed: “In the last 43 years, from Victory Day on January 7, [1979], we have walked on a zigzagged and most dangerous road, but it has been the correct one to ensure the longevity and prosperity of the Cambodian motherland.”

Learning from past experience, Cambodia had opted for an independent socio-political regime consistent with its history, socio-economic circumstances, culture, and the evolving situation at home and abroad, he said.

The Kingdom has not backed down in the face of all manner of obstacles and tests, and has never bowed its head to any threat or pressure, he underscored.

On the contrary, he maintained that this has laid the groundwork for Cambodia to rise up and move forward step-by-step, overcoming the most trying of times and ushering in a period of sustainability and expansion, in which he said the Kingdom has been able to direct the course of its history to create a better sense of pride.

“In the past, Cambodia was the ‘killing fields’ of that genocidal regime, a battlefield of civil war, a hub of conflicting political ideologies, and one of the poorest and most economically disadvantaged countries.

“Now, the country has become a kingdom that fully adheres to the principles of democracy, rule of law, peace, and national and territorial unity,” the prime minister said.

The constitutional monarchy was established on September 24, 1993, and the late Prince Norodom Sihanouk was reinstated as King of Cambodia.

The prime minister highlighted that as an emerging market economy, Cambodia has graduated from low-income status to the low-middle income category as the livelihoods of the people continue to improve, and now stands on equal footing with other countries around the globe.

“All of these are the great historical achievements of all Cambodians, of all ethnicities, religions, and political affiliations.

“January 7 has been dubbed the second birthday of Cambodians. Without Victory Day, many of us would not have lived to see this day, and nothing would resemble the present,” Hun Sen said.

“This is a historical fact.”

Hun Sen said that the purpose of observing the anniversary each year was to remember the crimes committed by the Khmer Rouge regime against Cambodia and the Cambodian people so that nothing like that would ever happen again.

He said it was also to celebrate the achievements of the cadres and fighters of the Kampuchean United Front for National Salvation and the Vietnamese volunteer army who sacrificed their lives to overthrow the Khmer Rouge regime and prevent it from returning.

He called on the Cambodian people to maintain “absolute” peace and protect the independence, sovereignty and social gains that have been achieved since January 7, 1979, by never allowing any individual person or group or foreign power to destroy them.

Heng Kimkong, a PhD candidate at the University of Queensland and a visiting senior research fellow at the Cambodia Development Centre, said Cambodia has achieved remarkable success in recent years, particularly in terms of maintaining peace, political stability and socio-economic development.

“However, the country needs to improve its respect for human rights, freedom of expression and the rule of law,” he told The Post. “It is also important [for Cambodia] to continue to combat corruption, improve its public services and strengthen its education system.”