I do abstain from talking about January 7 with strong rationales

Posted by: | Posted on: January 6, 2016

Talking about the January 7, 1979 Anniversary, personally, as a Cambodian younger generation, I am ashamed to mouth about it.

janauary-7-2009Watching this cartoon, sometime, I believe by speaking out the past, the Trauma of Cambodian people (especially my family elders) could be healed. But everything is like Adele sang that “They say that time’s supposed to heal ya, But I ain’t done much healing…” in her current popular song “Hello“.

From this cartoon, why Khmer Rouge has been stereotyped as Devil when those are also Khmers? How many generations more that Khmer shall learn to say “Sorry” and learn to “Forgive”?
There are accounts recalling the importance of January 7 day, but how much the brain of younger Cambodian generation could be developed when they are good in parroting to follow the upper echelon, or dare not question the wrong doing of the elders, or strongly believing in only one side of the coin etc. I would like to invite everyone to listen to what Sovanna’s Uncle talked through his pragmatic voice “Freedom is like racing through a mine field, it demands sacrifice…, everyone look at it (Cambodia) like a battered child who are so traumatized….”
This year, I do abstain from talking about January 7 because I have much rationale behind it:
  • Historical recorded, or according to the culture of lineage, Cambodian leaders from the past to present are good in fighting against their own people or among their own circle. Most of the time, Cambodian leaders are under the yoke of foreign vanguard. So, the cold war keyly projected Cambodia like that which is not different from every part of the world.
  • While Hiroshima and Nagasaki have paid less attention towards the US Atomic Bombs, Germany people have paid less attention towards the Nazi Hitler after the Berlin wall was totally demolished, and many stories to disclose about the aura of outdated cold war, but why Cambodia is so much keen and ingrained into such self-inflicted politics of Jan. 7 Anniversary?
  • As a pragmatist, I will not instruct my kids about family’s circle fighting but I tend to instruct them about our family’s circle bonding by exposing the bad fighting from an inventory story (Puggalathidhana). 
Thus, I have closely monitored about the different themes of Jan. 7 Anniversary celebrated by the CPP. I have seen less visual theme for 2014, 2015 and 2016; but I saw some change of theme in 2009 as shared below:

Letter to Editor: The Phnom Penh Post

Posted by: | Posted on: January 7, 2009

The January 7 celebrations in context

Written by Sophan Seng

Wednesday, 07 January 2009

Dear Editor,

It is a great privilege for me to write something about how the day of January 7 simply reflects the thought of a Cambodian. Of course, January 7 is still an ongoing controversial day. Some people see it as the day of foreign occupation over Cambodian sovereignty, but others see this day as their second life when Vietnamese troops toppled the Khmer Rouge regime.

However, to celebrate this day is not significantly representing Cambodians as the whole nation. It is only celebrated by the Cambodian People’s Party, which has been in power since the day of January 7, 1979.

In the past, the celebration of January 7 was likely to honour the victory over the Khmer Rouge regime and aimed to condemn, to ban the Khmer Rouge and make it impossible for them to control the country again, and, legally, to sentence them to death in absentia.

But in this year, the theme of the celebration after its 30 years in power, according to the news, is that the CPP will focus on increasing the awareness of sovereignty protection, economic development and leading Cambodia to enjoy a further level of advancement.

Hence, the January 7 day has significantly belonged to the CPP. It has not been generally accepted by the Cambodian people. Whatever theme each celebration expects to achieve, those themes still belong to the CPP, and it is truly reminding Cambodian people of the brutality, the foreign invasion and the nonstop division among Cambodian nationals.

I understand that the CPP holds this day as very important for their internal bond and achievement of pride, particularly the victory during each national election. This day might not work any longer to recall the brutality of the Khmer Rouge because by doing so, it might not be smart to pursue national unity, long-sighted leadership, national reconciliation and an advance of Cambodia to further achievement in the age of globalisation.

Sophan Seng
PhD student in political science
University of Hawaii at Manoa

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