The government yesterday marked the 40th anniversary of Victory Day by hosting a massive celebration attended by thousands at Olympic Stadium in Phnom Penh.
About 100,000 civil servants, members of the armed forces and general public, as well as students, yesterday marked the 40th anniversary.
Attendees held banners that read: “Remember to thank those who sacrificed their lives for the nation” and “January 7 means victory for peace, solidarity, democracy and development”.
Prime Minister Hun Sen delivered a speech at the celebration and said that Cambodians must not forget the past.
“Today, we celebrate the great event to remind us of the brutality of Democratic Kampuchea under the rule of Pol Pot’s regime,” Mr Hun Sen said.
He added that 40 years ago, his forces managed to topple Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge regime and stand up for the rights of all.
“The great historical victory opened Cambodia to the modern era,” Mr Hun Sen said. “It also made you have what you have today.”
He added that the government of Vietnam in the 1970s also played a role in liberating the country.
“National Solidarity Forces were led by the Cambodian People’s Party and Vietnam joined to lead as well,” Mr Hun Sen added. “On behalf of the Cambodian people, I would like to thank the Communist Party of Vietnam, as well as the government, for helping liberate the country from a genocidal regime.”
An estimated 1.7 million people died of overwork, starvation, disease and execution under the Khmer Rouge.
Van Theary, a Mondulkiri province resident who came to Phnom Penh to celebrate Victory Day, yesterday said Mr Hun Sen played a major role in achieving peace for the country.
“I’m glad we are celebrating January 7,” Mr Theary said. “We defeated Pol Pot’s regime and I would like to congratulate the country on the improvement of development.”
“If it wasn’t for January 7, we would not have had anything,” he said. “On this day Cambodians are reborn.”
Ham Thivuoy, a student, yesterday said that January 7 served as a turning point of the war against Pol Pot.
“It serves as a second chance for our parents because they had the opportunity to distance themselves from the war,” Mr Thivuoy said. “Because of January 7, our country is able to be developed.”
During his speech, Mr Hun Sen also spoke of peace and stability, along with economic development, noting that Cambodia is growing economically by seven percent per year.
He also noted that last year, 83 percent of eligible voters cast ballots in the national election. Mr Hun Sen said the voter turnout was a sign that Cambodians voted freely within a flourishing democracy.
“It is clear that Cambodians rejected extremism and foreign intervention that were against the development of Cambodia,” he said. “[Extremists] are pushing Cambodia away from democracy.”
Sam Inn, secretary-general of the Grassroots Democratic Party, yesterday said January 7 serves as a reflection of the past.
“January 7 taught me that people are still divided,” Mr Inn said. “Cambodians must learn about history and recognise it instead of arguing about the past.”