Prime Minister Hun Sen heralded Cambodia’s transformation from a divided nation gripped by the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime to a Kingdom that enjoys peace, stability, democracy, development, and the rule of law.
He said this before 30,000 senior officials, Khmer Rouge survivors, diplomats, NGO representatives and Cambodian People’s Party faithful who assembled at Koh Pich to commemorate the 41st Victory Day on Tuesday.
To mark the historic achievement, the Prime Minister reaffirmed his commitment to keeping Cambodia on the democratic path and protecting national sovereignty under any conditions.
“All malicious attempts to force a regime change contrary to the Constitution and the principle of democracy have been thwarted through the government’s strict measures and the people’s solidarity,” Hun Sen said.
“More than three million Cambodians were massacred most brutally while others also faced the near-certainty of being killed.
“We are all victims of war and genocide and we are proud that we have jointly made historical achievements to transform Cambodia beyond expectations,” Hun Sen said.
He said the March 18, 1970, coup which proclaimed Lon Nol as head of the government, plunged the previously peaceful Kingdom into the depths of “extreme war that razed the spirit of this beautiful country and caused immeasurable sorrow and loss”.
After five years of war, he said, Cambodia fell victim to the Khmer Rouge and suffered even more devastation at the hands of Pol Pot.
“The killing fields of the genocidal regime have been transformed from a chronic battlefield in a divided country with no freedom to a land of peace, stability, freedom, democracy and the rule of law.
“January 7 marks the beginning of a new life for victims who, without the events of Victory Day, would not enjoy anything like we have today. Victory Day belongs not only to all Cambodians but also all humanity that loves peace, freedom and justice,” Hun Sen said.
Phnom Penh deputy governor Huot Hay said: “Actions that express ungratefulness for [Victory Day] will be punished by [God] for it is a sin. Thus far, all deceitful attempts to destroy the national achievements stemming from Victory Day have failed.
“However, the failure of the colour revolution and the November 9 coup by the opposition party proves the spirit of [Victory Day] is alive in protecting national interests, the people, independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity, peace, democracy and development.”
Cambodian Muslim Loep Saloet, 70, said he had lost five siblings to starvation during the Khmer Rouge regime and only survived because of the events of January 7.
“They starved and tortured us and they forced us to eat pork which is against our religion to consume. [We would] vomit and sometimes we cried while eating pork.
“They gave us only three scoops of [rice] porridge at each meal. Each night we thought that they would take us to be killed. We had no hope of surviving, but fortunately, I am here now,” he said.
To mark 41 years since the fall of the Khmer Rouge, the US Embassy in Cambodia wrote on Facebook: “Today, we remember the nearly two million Cambodians who lost their lives, and countless others impacted, during the Khmer Rouge genocide.
“The Cambodian people have shown great resilience in the decades since that dark period and, through hard work and determination, have taken the country far.
“The US remains firmly committed to supporting the Cambodian people and their aspirations for reconciliation, prosperity, democracy, and independence – and to ensuring that such a tragedy never happens again.”