Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday warned critics not to oppose the upcoming Jan. 7 anniversary, which marks the ouster of the Khmer Rouge by Vietnamese forces in 1979.
“Jan. 7 did not make anyone become enemies, and Jan. 7 belongs to the Cambodian people and all of Cambodia,” Hun Sen said, speaking at the inauguration of a high school in Battambang town.
He asked that no one “oppose” the upcoming anniversary, which is a government holiday, saying that the day had opened the way to the Paris Peace Accords, in 1991.
After pushing the Khmer Rouge from power, the Vietnamese installed a government, including then foreign minister Hun Sen and many of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party members. The CPP regards Jan. 7 as a day of victory and a rebirth of the Cambodian people.
The Vietnamese-backed regime began a long civil war with the Khmer Rouge guerrillas until Vietnam withdrew in 1989, following the collapse of the Soviet Union. The UN intervened in 1991, putting an end to the war and establishing an election in 1993.
The Jan. 7 anniversary has since become a political flashpoint, because the decade-long occupation still rankles many Cambodians. Every year, leaflets appear in markets in different parts of the country that oppose the celebration of Jan. 7.
Leaflets were found in Takeo town on Monday denouncing the day.
“The whole world and the nation thinks that Jan. 7 is the Vietnamese invasion,” said Kem Sokha, head of the Human Rights Party, which is part of an opposition coalition. “In fact, the United Nations did not recognize the government at the time, because the United Nations thought that it was a Vietnamese invasion. So it is history that the world recognizes.