Cambodia is marking the 86th birthday of National Assembly president Heng Samrin with congratulatory messages from members of the royal family and senior government officials.
Born on May 25, 1934 in Ponhea Krek district in Kampong Cham province, Mr Samrin is an influential figure within the Cambodian People’s Party and a close ally of Prime Minister Hun Sen.
In a letter, King Norodom Sihamoni hailed Mr Samrin as a great patriot due to his long-term contributions to nation building.
“In this great opportunity of Samdech’s birthday on May 25, 2019, I have the honour of expressing my warm appreciation to Samdech,” King Sihamoni said. “He is a great patriot who is trying his best to fulfil his work in order to serve the interest of the nation and its people.”
In a separate letter, Queen Mother Norodom Monineath said Mr Samrin is a patriot who made sacrifices in order to lead, protect, build and serve the nation and the Cambodian people.
CPP spokesman Sok Eysan yesterday said the letters from the King and Queen Mother were a reflection of the truth about Mr Samrin’s life.
“I agree with the King and the Queen Mother,” Mr Eysan said. “He struggled a lot to liberate the country. He was one of the military commanders at the Eastern Zone who suffered under the Khmer Rouge before fleeing to Vietnam.”
“He created the Kampuchea United Front for National Salvation in order to halt the Khmer Rouge genocide,” he added. “The most important achievement was rescuing lives from the Khmer Rouge. So what the King said is the truth. He served and developed our nation.”
According to Mr Samrin’s autobiography entitled “The People’s Struggle; Cambodia Reborn”, which chronicled Mr Samrin’s early life and current struggles, Mr Samrin was born to a peasant family. He founded FUNSK in 1978 in Kratie province.
Mr Samrin became head of state of the People’s Republic of Kampuchea and secretary general of the Kampuchean People’s Revolution Party, the book said.
On Monday, Mr Samrin confirmed on Facebook that the letters from the King and Queen Mother were received. He wrote that Royal Palace Minister Kong Sam Ol delivered the letters to his home.
In his autobiography, Mr Samrin reminisced about his ally So Phim, who perished in a purge conducted by the Khmer Rouge in 1978.
“I always remembered So Phim’s advice. There are only two ways: ‘life or death’. If we were going to die, we would do so with dignity,” Mr Samrin said. “Enemy aircraft distributed leaflets accusing eastern zone commander So Phim of being a traitor; the deputy secretary of the district, a man called Han, ordered troops to kill him.”
“In armed clashes between his bodyguards and the district troops, So Phim was killed in [the village of] Prek Pou,” he added. “They used his body as evidence that the accusation of treachery against him was true and that he was in fact dead. I had no choice. I decided to leave my family and go back to the forest to keep fighting.”