Friday, February 06, 2009

Cambodians debate Vietnam 's military presence 30 years later (FOCUS)

By Puy Kea
Ahead of the 30th anniversary on Wednesday of the entry of Vietnamese forces into Cambodia to fight the Khmer Rogue, arguments still rage here over its historical significance.
Sam Rainsy, leader of his self-named opposition party, objects to the move by the ruling Cambodian People's Party of Prime Minister Hun Sen to signify the day as the second birthday for millions of Cambodians. Hun Sen and his party have been claiming that without Jan. 7, 1979, Cambodia would not have been able to achieve anything that it has achieved since and that they never forget the help from Vietnam .
But Sam Rainsy compared the day to what had happened to most Eastern and Central European countries after Stalin's Red Army invaded them to ''free'' them from the Nazis. ''When the Vietnamese communist army invaded Cambodia to 'free' us from the Khmer Rouge, we quickly realized that we were caught between Scylla and Charybdis,'' Sam Rainsy said. He said that without April 17, 1975, the date of the Khmer Rouge takeover and the beginning of the Cambodian genocide, there would have been no need for Jan. 7, 1979. And without the Vietnamese and Chinese communist intervention in the early 1970s to help the Khmer Rouge, the latter would not have been able to seize power and there would have been no April 17, 1975.
He said therefore April 17 and Jan. 7 are inextricably associated, calling them ''communist Frankensteins.'' ''Celebrating Jan. 7 without keeping in mind a broader historical perspective is playing into the hands of the current Phnom Penh regime whose only raison d'etre was to 'free' the Cambodian people from the Khmer Rouge with communist Vietnam 's decisive but not unselfish help,'' he said.
This week, ignoring criticism, the CPP celebrates the country's second-largest event marking the day as a liberation day from the genocidal regime with some 50,000 participants. It held the largest event in 1985 with some 70,000 participants. Just days before the event is to take place, a nongovernmental organization, the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, said it was concerned about people being forced to celebrate the anniversary. ''The people are being forced to pose with Cambodian flags outside their houses to show support for the ceremony,'' said Ou Virak, president of the CCHR. ''They force people to support them. This is a communist style like in North Korea . No democratic countries do this,'' he said.
But Information Minister Khieu Kanharith, a senior member of the CPP, said no one was being forced to take part and that the event was merely being staged in a disciplined manner. Khieu Kanharith said money spent by the CPP on the event will come entirely from the CPP's coffers. Bun Pov, a high school teacher, said some 5,000 students and 130 teachers from his school, one of six selected high schools in Phnom Penh, were chosen to take part in the event. He said each participant will be given 6,500 riels (about $1.6) and a CPP cap and T-shirt. Other critics, however, said Jan. 7 marks the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia .
''The Khmer People Committee for Freedom considers Jan. 7 the date of Vietnam 's invasion of Cambodia , the date of their plundering of Cambodian wealth, and their total occupation of Cambodian land,'' it said in a statement. It suggested that Oct. 23, 1991, the date of the signing of the Paris Peace Accords which brought national reconciliation, should instead be celebrated. But Khieu Kanharith argued that if there were no Jan. 7, 1979, there would not be Oct. 23, 1991, either. ''Jan. 7 doesn't belong exclusively to the CPP, but to all the Cambodian people,'' he added. Sorn Samnang, a Cambodian historian and president of the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said that without Jan. 7, 1979, he would have been killed along with millions of other Cambodians.
He added that some 50,000 Vietnamese soldiers were killed or died during Vietnam 's 10-year presence in Cambodia , and billions of dollars were spent. Vietnamese troops came to Cambodia in 1979 and remained here until 1989.
KyodoJanuary 05, 2009

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