Today has marked 38 years when Vietnamese troops invaded Cambodia to dispel Khmer Rouge. The retreat of KR to station at the borderline between Cambodia and Thailand to anchor its last resort of fighting against foreign occupation was happening in the same time of Vietnam’s plan to successfully install their regime body in Cambodia through the public banner of Cambodian People’s Party (CPP). Since then, this party has been believed was led by Cambodians but aided wholeheartedly by Vietnamese experts; and this party has celebrated the January 7 every year to ascertain their motto of “liberation Cambodia from the killing field of the Khmer Rouge” while the KR itself has become gradually disappeared from memory and its meaning from the Cambodian people.
Many post cold war movements, banners, and installing regimes have become antique which are unsalable, non-impressive, and gradually disappearing. The day of January 7 is one of them. After the election in 2013, the CPP didn’t make much public appeal of this day although Prime Minister Hun Sen promised with Vietnam during his short visit to the country. His returning back was expected to make this day as ever-making public celebration by spending huge amount of money to arrange it. Instead, his return immediately lined up arm-forces to halt all types of demonstration: conducted bloody shooting by authority towards garment workers in Veng Sreng street who demanded for $160 monthly raise, and demolishing CNRP’s stronghold freedom expression site at the freedom park, including many other bloody incidents happened. There were not much impressive years after that for January 7 day.
This year, CPP is organizing this day under the frenzy of mocking public eyes especially from youths and those savvy social media individuals. While almost all government sectors are holding group to celebrate the day without worrying of “conflict of interest” in their government’s public servants and positions, the social media individuals are virally spreading interests and opinions opposing this day. A facebook post said “Vietnam killed millions of Cambodian people, burned millions of Cambodian houses, plundered millions of Cambodian resources and assets, and Vietnam just boiled 10 eggs to give one each among those 10 people, so those 10 people who has consumed eggs have invited Cambodians entire nation to pay gratitude and thankful to Vietnam“. And other post asked “what is the meaning of January 7, 1979 and April 17, 1975? Which one we must remember?” etc.
In conclusion, the decrease of popularity witnessed by election 2013 is likely caused by the deep intervention of Vietnam over Cambodia through Vietnam’s installing banner inheriting as CPP, and it is likely caused by CPP that has held strong idea to pay gratitude towards Vietnam. Hence, academics and observers have asked why CPP is holding this strong idea of paying gratitude towards Vietnam without prejudice or learning from past policy failed by taking Cambodian people voice as a key indicator?
Watching 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”?
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
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.
PhD student in political science
University of Hawaii at Manoa
On 25 December 1978, Vietnamese armed forces invaded Cambodia, ushering in an occupation lasting nearly thirteen years. This incursion marked the first and only extended war between communist regimes and led to a brief but bloody border war between Vietnam and the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Moreover, the occupation added to the tremendous suffering that Cambodia endured during the Cold War and greatly affected Southeast Asia.The origins of the Vietnamese-Cambodian conflict are complex and reach far back into history. The Vietnamese and Khmer (Cambodian) Empires had been bitter rivals for centuries. By the early 1800s, much of Cambodia had come under Vietnamese rule or was forced to pay tribute to it. This gave rise to deep-seated animosities that survived decades of French colonial rule, Japanese occupation during World War II, and two Indochinese conflicts spanning nearly thirty years.
January 11, 2012
By Theary Seng
Letter to The Phnom Penh Post
January 7 is indeed a significant day for survivors of the Khmer Rouge. It arrested the macabre convulsions that would have swallowed all of us into a hellish hole if the Vietnamese military had not intervened.
It is a bittersweet day of commemoration through invasion.
And now, unfortunately, it is a day propagandised to be solely the Day of Liberation, neatly sweeping away the equally important fact of it being simultaneously the inaugurating day of an occupation that would last for the next decade.
That occupation began with the barricading of Phnom Penh to facilitate the plundering of its wealth by convoys of trucks heading to Vietnam and the mass crimes of the K5 plan.
My hairdresser remembers returning from Battambang to his home in Boeung Keng Kang I on February 3, 1979, only to find that all the wealthy neighbourhoods of villas and jewellery stores were still barricaded off.
It was an occupation cut short only by the meltdown of the Cold War – specifically, the break-up of the Soviet Union, which funded the Vietnamese occupation of Cambodia.