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Opposition Prepares for Anniversary Ceremony Outside ‘Killing Fields’

In this file photo, visitors walk by the mass grave of the victims of the Khmer Rouge regime next to a memorial stupa filled with victims' skulls at the Choeung Ek killing field in Phnom Penh.

The opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party will hold a ceremony to mark the anniversary of the fall of Phnom Penh to the Khmer Rouge on Friday, at a site of mass graves outside the city.

The Choeung Ek “killing fields” were linked to the torture center Tuol Sleng, which the Khmer Rouge established inside the city following its fall, on April 17, 1975, and the site houses a giant stupa full of the skulls of those who were buried in mass graves nearby.

Opposition officials will hold a Buddhist ceremony for the “souls of the victims,” which will also act as a reminder that Cambodia should never again fall prey to such policies. At least 1.7 million people died under the regime, from overwork, starvation or execution.

The opposition party has run afoul of some victims of the regime, however, after its vice president, Kem Sokha, was accused of claiming some of the crimes at Tuol Sleng had been exaggerated by Vietnamese troops when they ousted the Khmer Rouge in 1979.

Chum Mey, a survivor of the prison, says he will not join the opposition ceremony and has asked Kem Sokha to light three incense sticks in apology. “But he hasn’t done it,” he said.