Thousands of students and government officials gathered at Phnom Penh’s Independence monument yesterday to mark the 64th anniversary of Cambodia’s independence from France, with the opposition CNRP visibly absent.
King Norodom Sihamoni was greeted by throngs of flag-waving supporters as he made his way to Independence Monument at 8am.
At the monument, the King welcomed officials and lit a ceremonial fire and then shook hands with students, civil servants and armed forces while flanked by Defence Minister Tea Banh and RCAF commander-in-chief Pol Saroeun before heading back to the Royal Palace two hours later.
At the monument, Prime Minister Hun Sen, Interior Minister Sar Kheng, National Assembly President Heng Samrin, and Senate President Say Chhum also greeted the King, whose father, the late king Norodom Sihanouk, secured Cambodia’s independence from France on November 9, 1953.
“November 9 is the day that brought independence, land sovereignty, peace and development to Cambodia,” said Mr Hun Sen.
Pol Ham, vice-president of the CNRP, said he did not receive an invitation letter when asked why he and other opposition lawmakers did not attend the event.
“Last year, we went to join the ceremony because we received the invitation,” Mr Ham said. “I wanted to join in the ceremony but I didn’t have the invitation letter.”
Chhin Ketana, secretary-general of National Committee of Organising National and International Festivals, declined to comment.
Chheang Vun, spokesman of CPP lawmakers at the National Assembly, said he did not see any opposition lawmakers at the ceremony but could not speculate as to why they did not attend.
“I think that Independence Day is very important for all Cambodian people,” Mr Vun said.
“When we join the ceremony, it means that we respect and love the achievements of the late King and we love peace forever.”
Sok Pheakna, a Grade 11 student at Chea Sim Boeng Kengkang High School in Phnom Penh, said she was glad to join the ceremony, which was important. “I think that all young Cambodian people must study our history a lot, so we clearly know about our past,” she said.
Sieng Seytith, 57, from Daun Penh district’s Chaktomuk commune, said he considered the country’s sovereignty to be the most important political issue.
“I believe in the current government and in the Cambodian People’s Party, because they can protect peace for our country,” he said.