On January 7, 1979, the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia was ousted from power. The Communist regime was accused of ordering the mass slaughter of more than 1 million Cambodians. Last week the Cambodian government marked the 30th year of the downfall of the Khmer Rouge. But opinion is divided whether this day should be celebrated as Liberation Day or Invasion Day since Vietnam, which helped in removing the Khmer Rouge, occupied Cambodia until 1988.
Prime Minister Hun Sen insists January 7, 1979 was a victory over genocide. He criticizes those who refuse to honor the occasion:
“This is the truth of history that even those unwise groups and extremist groups must acknowledge this truth. If you dare not acknowledge the truth, you are not a human being, you are a real animal. This is the truth. If we didn’t have the 7th January 1979, we will not have today.”
But Sophan Seng explains why not all Cambodians are joining the government in the celebration:
“To celebrate this day is not significantly representing Cambodians as the whole nation. It is only celebrated by the Cambodian People's Party (CPP), which has been in power since the day of January 7, 1979.
“It has not been generally accepted by the Cambodian people. Whatever theme each celebration expects to achieve, those themes still belong to the CPP, and it is truly reminding Cambodian people of the brutality, the foreign invasion and the nonstop division among Cambodian nationals.”
Modern Progressive Khmer mentions Vietnam’s invasion of Cambodia after January 7, 1979:
“January 7th did in fact stop the killing, but Cambodia was not free. Vietnam occupied Cambodia; therefore, by definition Cambodia was not liberated. This is why the word “liberation” has a major semantic problem. One cannot call oneself a liberated being if one is not free to determine one’s destiny. Liberation could not be further from the truth. The world knows that Cambodia was under Vietnam’s control from the day it invaded Cambodia until it was pressured to withdraw.”
“Celebrating January 7 without having in mind a broader historical perspective, is playing into the hands of the current Phnom Penh regime whose only raison d'être was to “free” the Cambodian people from the Khmer Rouge with communist Vietnam's decisive but not unselfish help.”