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As Divisive Jan. 7 Holiday Passes, An Expert Reflects

Chea Vannath is an independent analyst in Cambodia.
Chea Vannath is an independent analyst in Cambodia.

Jan. 7 remains a contentious day for Cambodians, marking both the ouster of the Khmer Rouge and the beginning of Vietnamese occupation. And while Cambodian's can be bitterly divided on the day, an independent analyst says that's the “beauty of democracy.”

“We should take these differences and bind us to each other, to unite build the country,” said Chea Vannath, as a guest on “Hello VOA” Thursday.

People have different views the world over, she said, but some people understand the “art of the the win-win” and that different opinions can be a strength.

The ruling Cambodian People's Party remains a fervent supporters of the day, while denouncing those who are critical. Meanwhile, the opposition and its supporters find more to celebrate on Oct. 23, the birth day of Cambodia as a constitutional democracy.

On Jan. 7, 1979, Vietnamese forces pushed the Khmer Rouge from power. They did not leave until 1989, after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Bitter civil war continued through Oct. 23, 1991, when a peace accord was reached.

Both days are important to reflect on Cambodian history, she said.

“Jan. 7 is the father and Oct. 23 is the mother,” Chea Vannath said. “Children need both a father and a mother and they can't say a father has more favor than a mother, can't say that a mother has more favor than the father.”