Kingdom repatriates remains

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) deputy commander-in-chief General Sao Sokha speaks at the exhumation of Cambodia’s fallen soldiers buried in Vietnam on November 26. GRK

Forty-nine graves of Cambodian National Salvation Army fighters at the Cambodian martyrs’ monument in Dong Nai province, Vietnam were opened and the remains exhumed on November 26, to be repatriated in early December.

The remains of the Cambodian soldiers will be placed in coffins and will then be carried in a procession to the historic Techo Koh Thmar X16 site in Memot district of Tbong Khmum province for a 10am handover ceremony on December 1, according to General Sao Sokha, deputy commander of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) and commander of the National Military Police.

“We will bring the remains to the crematorium for a traditional ceremony at 8:30am on December 2. The cremation of the remains has been provided for by Samdech Pichey Sena Tea Banh with the participation of the people, armed forces and the authorities. The ashes will then be temporarily kept at the cultural room of the Friendship Building at the defence ministry,” he said.

He said that in April of next year when the construction of the “Great Stupa” was finished at the Techo Koh Thmar X16 site, there would be a final ceremony and internment of the remains within the stupa.

He stated that the Great Stupa would be a place to commemorate the establishment of the National Salvation Army on May 12, 1978 by Prime Minister Hun Sen and a memorial to honour the soldiers who lost their lives fighting for that cause.

Speaking in Vietnam on November 26, Sokha said that more than 44 years have passed since the loss of the 49 fighters who died during the overthrow of the genocidal regime. He thanked the Vietnamese for setting up a monument to Cambodian martyrs and establishing the area as an official historical site.

“The local authorities of the Vietnamese people in Dong Nai province and the Vietnamese army, especially the 7th Army, Division 302, have taken good care of their remains,” he said.

According to Sokha, although the remains are being repatriated, in order to preserve the historical site and the values of Vietnam-Cambodia friendship, at the request of the Cambodian side Vietnam will prepare inscriptions to preserve the area and its historic legacy so that it remains as evidence of the true history of events for tourists and researchers as well as a reminder of Cambodian-Vietnamese friendship.

Sokha added that on the 45th anniversary of the march to overthrow the genocidal Democratic Kampuchea or Khmer Rouge regime, Prime Minister Hun Sen thanked Cambodia’s Vietnamese friends for supporting the resistance movement to form the Solidarity Armed Forces and for sending their children and husbands in the army into direct combat to overthrow Pol Pot and save people’s lives and help them to liberate the motherland, restore and rebuild Cambodia from zero to the peace and development it has today.

“Hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese troops and specialists were sacrificed all over Cambodia, some of whom are still missing and whose families are still searching for the remains of those fighters to be repatriated to Vietnam,” he said.

The RCAF’s deputy commander expressed his sincere gratitude to the technical working group of the Ministry of Defence of Vietnam, 7th Military Region, Division 302, and the local authorities and people of Dong Nai province for their help and cooperation in the repatriation of the remains.

Kin Phea, director of the Royal Academy of Cambodia’s International Relations Institute, told The Post that the repatriation of the soldiers’ remains who sacrificed their lives to overthrow the Khmer Rouge regime was a demonstration of a culture of gratitude to all of the heroes, warriors and soldiers who sacrificed their lives for the cause of the motherland.

“I think we must continue this cultural practice for all Cambodian heroes who sacrifice their lives for the nation, the people, because they are role models for our children. If we do not have a culture of gratitude or respect to those who sacrificed their lives for the nation, it will be hard to find someone who dares to sacrifice their life for the nation again in the future,” he said.