Thousands of Cambodians gathered near Independence Monument in Phnom Penh Monday, celebrating the 62nd anniversary of the nation’s independence from colonial rule.
Cambodia left 90 years of French colonialism on this day in 1953, ushering in a brief period of art and culture, before the country fell into civil war and eventually to the Khmer Rouge.
The day was marked by an address by King Norodom Sihamoni and other government officials and the lighting of a flame at the monument. King Sihamoni was greeted by students, onlookers and government officials. Many took selfies with him.
Ros Vireak Yuth, 16, a student from Sisowath High School, who was one among those who shook hands with the king, told VOA Khmer he felt honored. “It’s my luck to touch the high virtue of our nation.”
Ros Vireak Yuth said Cambodians should give thanks to the late King Father, who brought freedom and independence to the country.
Souv Theng, a 36-year-old official from the Ministry of Labor who took part in Monday’s ceremonies, said the Independence Day festivities were improving each year. “Our king, who has a kind heart for all Khmers, seems very happy this year,” he said.
He also said he was happy that the country had received letters of congratulations on its independence from US President Barack Obama and others. “Normally, for a small country like Cambodia, we need support to have national security and for all citizens to live in harmony,” he said.