January 7 Victory Day of/for All
First of all please allow me on behalf of Samdech Chea Sim, Samdech Heng Samrin and other leaders of the Cambodian People’s Party to express our best wishes and the four Buddhist blessings for Buddhist monks, Excellencies, Lok Oknha and Lok Jumteav, ladies and gentlemen, our compatriots to the international New Year, which was five days ago, and the 33th anniversary of the January 7 Victory Day of liberation of Cambodia (1979-2012). It is a great pleasure that my wife and I have had this chance to celebrate here with people of Kompong Cham these magnificent events, while official address on the January 7 Victory Day will be pronounced by Samech Chea Sim on January 7, 2012.
On January 5, 2011, I met people in the gathering like this at the district of Memot of Kompong Cham. Today, January 5, 2012, I am meeting with all of you here in the city of Kompong Cham. It sounds like I am coming to the province of Kompong Cham at least once a year. In fact there are two other major events in my life that make me come to Kompong Cham on 5 January. Firstly, the province of Kompong Cham to the east of the Mekong River was liberated on January 5. One day later, I got married. It was 36 years ago. I am so thrilled to see that the province of Kompong Cham has come along with substantial change and development.
Let me take this opportune moment to talk a little about the 7 January Victory Day that we all consider to be our second birthday. Maybe it is best to go back to 33 years ago to see how the people were in the province of Kompong Cham as well as in the whole country. As part of the province was liberated and people were so happy to be liberated, there were also parts that were yet to be liberated. People were still suffering hardships and facing with killing. Even after January 7, when the Phnom Penh capital was liberated, a number of provinces had not yet been liberated. Suffering and killing was still our people’s fates in those places.
This is just to remind all of us that that bitter past brought about destruction and family separation on us. There were no families that did not lose member/s. Everyone in Cambodia knows and remembers this. Those of you who were born later might have been told by parents, grandparents, etc. However, I wish to have your attention on this note that when I am saying that gratefulness should be expressed to the 7 January Victory Day, I don’t mean to single out the CPP, the United Front for National Salvation of Kampuchea or the assistance rendered by the Vietnamese voluntary army – for you to be grateful to. What I wanted your attention is that the quick fall of the genocidal regime of Pol Pot started with the people’s participation even before the offensive of the United Front for National Salvation Army and the voluntary assistance of the Vietnamese forces.
Maybe it is important to share with you my thought about our people’s role in toppling the genocidal regime of Pol Pot. First of all, if the regime of Pol Pot did not kill the people or inflict upon them sufferings and destruction, the regime might have survived till today. My wife said to me sometimes at the dining table that “if we were given food like what we have on the dining table now, God knows, how delicious would they be then.” I said to her “if we were well fed then, given rights and freedom, no one would oppose them.” However, you may look at the mode of production that was left from the Pol Pot’s regime. What did we have?
When the Lon Nol’s regime was removed on April 17, 1975, our people should have been provided with peace. On the contrary, they were faced with killing. First they did that to former city dwellers. Then they rooted out private/individual belongings. People in the whole country turned to be rural villagers. They were moved from place to place. They put in place a common mode of production, where people worked and ate in a collective way. They also gave one big wedding organization, in which more than one couple would be approved. In my case, the wedding took place with thirteen couples. We were the last couple to be approved.
After the liberation, the United Front for National Salvation army and the Vietnamese voluntary army did not have the means and personnel to organize local administration and/or a new mode of production. However, according to what happened then, it was the people themselves who rose up and dismantled the mode of production that they had to work and eat in a collective way. Our people opted for private work and consumption pattern. Let me affirm that that was not initiated and modeled by the United Front for National Salvation of Kampuchea, any provincial authority and/or Vietnamese voluntary army. It was all by the Cambodian people themselves.
You may recall, those of you who happened to be going through that very moment, who had initiated and facilitated the distribution of kitchen stuff from collective kitchen to the people in the village? Who ordered our people to move back to their native villages from wherever they were under the Pol Pot’s regime? They were all done by the people themselves. That is why I am saying it was the people who took part not only in toppling the regime but also commencing a new mode of production themselves. According to my diary, reviewing it again, I noticed that we did not have sufficient number of officials to hold even the provincial posts. How could we talk about reorganizing the villages? Buddhism was also restored and revived by our people.
All in all, what I have mentioned is to prove that 7 January Victory Day is by and for the people. While commencing a new mode of production and a new way of life, our people no longer approve collective wedding, Buddhist monks no longer being disrobed against their will, etc. According to Buddhist faith, the 7 January Victory Day liberated those who suffered the genocidal regime but also souls of the deaths. In absence of the 7 January Victory Day, we would have no Buddhist monks. Without the Buddhist monks, who are important for the traditional Pjum Ben ceremony, people could not offer respect to ancestors (the Pjum Ben day is a period of fifteen days when the Cambodian people believe that souls of the passed-away relatives, who may not rest in peace, would come for offerings in materials such as foods, beverages, clothing and Dharma – all happened thanks to the bridging by the Buddhist monks).
The 7 January Victory Day is therefore defined not as anyone particular victory/achievement – the Cambodian People’s Party, the United Front for National Salvation of Kampuchea and the voluntary army of Vietnam – but as mainly a result of our people’s participation. It is with the people’s resolute commitment that they could put an end to not only the regime but also its ideology. However, while we removed the regime of Pol Pot, war did not end. We knew war was destruction and we did not want it. But it came to us. We then had to work out hard in search for a solution.
While war was a fact in numerous locations, peace prevailed in various parts of the country too. War was on a smaller scale in terms of time and location. We were able to have peace in a larger part for the country. We fought however with three real enemies – the possible return of the genocidal regime, hunger and aftermath left from the regime of Pol Pot. This is commonly understood to be two tasks to be fulfilled at the time – preventing the return of the genocidal regime of Pol Pot and solving people’s needs for survival.
In a period of 14 and a half years, from 1979 through to mid 1993, in the state of peace and sporadic war, we then were able to assure our people’s basic rights – the right to life. We also made great efforts to initiate and conduct negotiation for political solution for Cambodia. In the mean time, poverty, which was then recognized to be 100% among the people, after the liberation on 7 January 1979, went down to below 50% in 1994, while the country needed resources for foiling the return of the genocidal regime. It should be noted that this was achieved by the authorities under the leadership of the Cambodian People’s Party through the People’s Republic of Kampuchea, which became later the State of Cambodia.
Subsequently, the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) used a sum of almost two billion USD for peacekeeping operation in Cambodia. UNTAC left Cambodia two (political) controlled areas and two governments – the area controlled by Royal Government elected by the UNTAC organized general elections with the constitutional monarchy, where Samdech Preah Norodom SIhanouk became King once again, and the area controlled by the Khmer Rouge, which Khieu Samphan was Head of State and Prime Minister in the city of Anlong Veng.
Being left in such a state, we had no other choice but to find way to put an end to war once and for all. That was when the win-win policy was formulated and put into practice. It was late 1998 that Cambodia, for the first time in centuries of its history, became one unified country under one Constitution, one King, one National Assembly, and one Royal Government and army. I am calling this the diamond opportunity for the country.
Having said all this, I wish to related that if some people do not wish to mention about any rights enjoyed by our people at all, they should at least think of the basic right to life that everyone has to be ensured. The Cambodian People’s Party and the Cambodian people themselves have implemented fully the obligation of respect of human rights, which first of all is the right to life. We toppled the regime of genocide to allow our people to live. If no one could be alive, how could anyone talk about freedom of expression?
These days there have been some people who preach about freedom of expression, while in fact they are denying it. Expressing opinion in opposition is a normal process. However, to oppose (a historical fact that gave and protected) people’s lives, including even his/her own life that were liberated by the 7 January Victory Day, would not be defined as normal. If Pol Pot were to be in power for another ten years or up to the present, would anyone expect to be alive? Such an insult on the 7 January Victory Day not only goes against the souls of those who lost their lives under the regime, but also his/her own life as well as those of their families.
Frankly speaking, it is ridiculous that those very people, who thirty three years also joined us to put an end to the Pol Pot’s mode of production, shared the benefit of establishing a new private mode of production, are now considering the 7 January Victory Day their enemy. They were doing it themselves back then and they denied it today. Back then, some were not punished by the Government for stealing rice but sent to study in the former Czechoslovakia. It is funnily enough to see that this person does not dress in black (Pol Pot ordered the people of Cambodia to wear black clothes in the whole country) but in nice clothes with ties and travels by cars or motorbikes from place to place to scold us. At least people can see how contradicting it was in his/her philosophy that s/he denies the truth of 7 January Victory Day.
While blaming the Royal Government about freedom of expression, these people also reject the fact about the right to life that was ascertained and maintained by the 7 January 1979 victory. Despite all this we do not wish to make it a law for anyone to recognize the 7 January victory day at all. I think I should bring up this story of strained relations between France and Turkey on December 23, 2011 over issue of the 1915 massacre of 1.5 million Armenians during civil unrest at the fall of the Ottoman Empire. Maybe I should read you one paragraph here: “Ties between France and Turkey, strategic allies and trading partners, abruptly unraveled Thursday after French legislators submitted a bill making it a crime to deny that the mass killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks nearly a century ago constitute genocide.”
According to the French International Radio, “if the two French parliaments approve, a punishment of up to one year in prison and a fine of euro 45,000 ($59,000) would be in force for those who deny or “outrageously minimize” the killings, putting such action on par with denial of the Holocaust.” A tip to your knowledge in history, the massacre took place nearly 100 years ago conducted by the Turkish army over the Armenian population. As you can see here, anyone in France denies this fact would be fined up to 59,000 USD. Would anyone say France is trampling freedom of expression? Under French law, it is a crime to wear uniforms, insignia or emblems linked to the Nazi regime. The act is punishable as a criminal with heavy fine.
In another development, also relating to this legal issue, on December 22, 2011, the French state prosecutor opened a preliminary investigation into the Nazi-themed stag party attended by the Conservative MP Aiden Burley in the Alpine ski resort of Val Thorens, France. Is this a violation of freedom of expression in France? No one could talk good about Nazi or they would be jailed. As for Cambodia, a person may choose to respect or not to according to his/her own will. I only think that perhaps these people’s states of mind are not normal that we should not find fault with them.
Some people state that October 23, 1991 (the day when Cambodia concluded the Paris Peace Agreement) is their second birthday while denying the 7 January 1979 one. These two dates are of historical significance for the people of Cambodia. However, one may ask what if there was no 7 January 1979, in which circumstance no one could ascertain Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk, whose children and grandchildren were already dead, could be alive? If Pol Pot were to be in power till 23 October 1991, would there be Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk to conduct negotiation with Hun Sen? As for me I would be alive because I already had my army built. Maybe my wife would not be. But would it be possible that HE Sar Kheng, HE Men Sam An, HE Tia Banh, HE Sok An, etc. could still be alive?
If Pol Pot stays in power till 23 October 1991, how many more of Cambodia people would die? As a matter of fact, despite speedy liberation we had secured, we were able to save some from being killed and pushed into graves. It is so shocking even now, on the Bayon TV program “this is not a dream,” to see people are still searching for loved ones. Some could not even remember their family names. Some in Kompong Cham province have found their lost relatives too. This is proof. Would there be this program if there were no family separation. In just days ahead I will be going to Vietnam to pay our respects to the forty nine fallen combatants of the United Front for Salvation of Kampuchea army, who were laid to rest there.
That our lives are saved while we were about to be killed already is one fact that no one could ever deny or forget. Those who went through this and deny it could ask themselves if they wish to be dead. Let me remind all of our people once again that 7 January 1979 Victory Day, our marvelously huge achievement, does not belong solely to the Cambodian People’s Party. I am grateful to all who keep live and good memory of 7 January 1979, even some might need to forget, to scold and to do whatever against their conscience for reason of political ideology.
We have had so many tasks fulfilled and many more to complete for the fourth legislative term of the Royal Government of Cambodia. We have come through challenges of defending our country from foreign invasion, overcoming impacts from world financial crisis and economic downturn, and dealing with natural calamities – the 2011 flood and the Ketsana typhoon effects. Despite all these difficulties, it is confident that we still have achieved economic growth.
As we are still waiting for final evaluation of the agricultural sector, we are almost certain now that the 2011 economy sustains a growth of around 7%, while the poverty rate will reduce to one percent lower. Now that we still have five days to step into 2012, it should be noted that we have so many works to do. We will have two elections to run – 29 January 2012 for the Senate elections and 03 June 2012 for the communal elections. Please allow me to take this opportune moment to appeal to all our people and political parties to take part in fostering a neutral political atmosphere so that the elections will proceed in a safe, transparent, democratic, just and acceptable manner. We also will hold the general elections in 2013.
I know that for the election seasons, anything at all can be politics. However, I wish to encourage our people, especially members of the Cambodian People’s Party, to take utmost patience or the ruling Party will be accused of so and so violence and wrongdoing. We also have the duty and honor to host the ASEAN Summits as Cambodia is now chair of ASEAN. Let me clarify this point that it is not Hun Sen alone who is the ASEAN Chair but the whole people of Cambodia are. From past experience, when Cambodia was the ASEAN chair, the opposition figures went on hunger strikes. In 2011, they also did that when Cambodia hosted the ASEAN Inter-parliamentary Assembly in Phnom Penh. They may do the same against Cambodian role as chair of ASEAN. I doubt if they would go on hunger strike till end of the year or to eat no rice but to have noodle.
Now let me share with you my four reasons why Cambodia should be part of ASEAN. While being its member, Cambodia has to fulfill its obligation in a responsible manner for the sake of establishing successfully the ASEAN Community in 2015. Firstly, there is this non-interference principle into one another internal affairs. This is the most important factor that attracts our membership and involvement. Cambodia went through so many wars and internal divisions because of own problems, but, as everyone knows, there had been endless interferences from the outside too. There had been invasion into Cambodian airspace in the past wars – from Bien Hoa in Vietnam, O Tapao in Thailand and there were even B52 coming from the Philippines.
It is with this principle that we believe Cambodia could defend independence and sovereignty.
As far as the conflict in Preah Vihear land area issue is concerned, some politicians in opposition demanded that Cambodia should defend its territorial integrity and sovereignty by the Paris Peace Agreement. Let me tell you that in time of conflict, the Thai Government under Abhisit said that they respect Cambodia’s independence and sovereignty, but the so-called 4.6 square km area in the Preah Vihear zone belongs to Thailand. Cambodia also claims it belongs to Cambodia too. The last resort is to seek help from the UN Security Council and the International Court of Justice in The Hague. We will wait for the court’s decision.
Secondly, ASEAN upholds the spirit of a community as decisions will be made on a consensus basis. Based on this principle, ASEAN applies a principle of equal rights and footing. It is with this principle that Cambodia takes the initiative to build peace, friendship and cooperation in Southeast Asia. It is even more convenient as ASEAN now also has its charter. In a period of thirteen years as a member of ASEAN, we became chair twice – in 2002 and in 2012. The community spirit has been an attraction for Cambodia to join ASEAN, and through ASEAN, we work with its partners on various initiatives to promote socio-economic development, security and issues relevant to the region and the world.
Thirdly, Cambodia benefits from its economic cooperation and partnership with ASEAN and ASEAN partners. As ASEAN integration proceeds – together with the ASEAN new and old members – we have benefited a great deal from it. You also know that there have been ASEAN-China, ASEAN-Japan, and ASEAN-Korea Free Trade Agreements and more will be coming. They will bring more partners and opportunities for Cambodia to speed up its national development. ASEAN and its partners have pooled a sum of 120 billion USD as reserve capital to be used in time of crisis. Also in this respect, Cambodia has worked to its benefit the connectivity with other countries by roads, rails and air links.
Fourthly, ASEAN also serves as a diplomatic channel for Cambodia. Being one of the ASEAN members, Cambodia has its external relations open far and wide because ASEAN itself has got so many partnering countries like EU, US, China, Japan, Republic of Korea, India, Africa, South America, and Canada too. With this benefit, Cambodia performed well its coordinating role for ASEAN and China, and in just months ahead, Cambodia will fulfill its coordinating role for ASEAN and India, ASEAN and EU. On behalf of ASEAN, as Prime Minister of Cambodia, I had a chance to give a keynote address in the ASEAN-EU commemorative summit in Singapore.
These four major factors are Cambodia’s key considerations for becoming a part of ASEAN and to benefit from its membership too. In 2012, as the ASEAN chair, Cambodia will strive to take ASEAN ahead along the theme: “One ASEAN Community, One Destiny.” Under this theme, the ASEAN chair Cambodia will advance the ASEAN integration framework, while making efforts to perform international role in the name of ASEAN in coordination of relevant issues in the region as well as in the world./.