January 7: Historical Reality and Driver of Cambodia’s Peace and Development

AKP Phnom Penh, January 06, 2020 —

On January 7, 2020, all Cambodian people, including youths, students, civil servants and armed forces, will hold a series of events to commemorate the 41st anniversary of the Victory Day, a historical timing of Cambodia and its people.

As scheduled, on that day, particularly in Phnom Penh capital, the Kingdom’s centre of politics, economy, commerce, culture and history, they will gather together under the auspices of the leaders of the legislative and executive bodies and mass organisations at Koh Pich Convention and Excitation Centre to observe the day synonym of rebirth from death and destruction, and of rehabilitation efforts from next to nothing to everything within the past 41 years.

Experiencing the dark period, the liberation day and the on-going development of Cambodia, the Director General of the International Relations Institute of Cambodia (IRIC) at the Royal Academy of Cambodia Dr. Kin Phea shared his insights behind the January 7.

As he explained “January 7” can mean the new day of life, new hope of development and foundation of peace in Cambodia after being battered by series of civil wars since early 1970s.

According to Dr. Kin Phea, it is a historic day for the Cambodian nation and most people acknowledge the reality. Anyone denies it play down the day of their rebirths and those of their families. Those who were born before 1979 were reborn on January 7.

“Some researchers may interpret it differently. For me as a researcher, I deeply value the reality of January 7″, he said. “I was born before the Khmer Rouge regime and was a child in the regime, and still a child and youth in the post-liberation era [after January 7]. So I experienced transitions, changes and growth of Cambodia.”

“We can simply compare the changes in our respective families since 1979,” he continued. “The first thing you can say is that we have the right to live, which is so important. In the Khmer Rouge period, even our right to live did not exist. Our own life did not belong to us. The Angkar – Organisation of Khmer Rouge – could take our life any time they want.”

Dr. Kin Phea emphasised the function of the Angkar during the Khmer Rouge era that “even eating fish or cassava that we could find on our own could be an excuse for Angkar to take our life.”

“Today, we enjoy full rights and freedom. We can practice our belief and organise any ritual events we want. For education, we have from kindergarten to elementary and to higher education as we all see. We can see the improvement of physical infrastructures. These are not the gifts from God. They derive from the efforts under the leadership of the Royal Government,” he said.

“Before, when we wanted to travel across the country, how much time did we have to spend? But now, if we go to any province, we can go [in the morning] and return in the evening of the same day if we want to.”

Roads, bridges, schools, pagodas and hospitals are the undeniable evidences of achievements after the January 7, 1979, said the IRIC director general.

Dr. Kin Phea went on that today’s Phnom Penh at night is fabulous, which is different from the past regimes. Phnom Penh is now home to skyscrapers, and other giant infrastructures.

“Moreover, we witness the economic growth and macroeconomic stability. We have achieved high economic performance of around 7 percent annually for about a decade. For the GDP per capita, we used to get only US$100 per year, but the figure rose now to almost US$2,000. The government’s vision is to become an upper middle-income country by 2030 and a developed economy by 2050,” he continued.

“These are the measurable indicators of development attained by Cambodia after January 7, 1979,” he stressed.

Mr. Sim Samrith, a resident on the outskirt of Phnom Penh shared the same impression as Dr. Kin Phea, adding that what January 7 has brought about is priceless. Some changes may not be able to show, but some are very obvious, such as improvement of roads, schools, hospitals, buildings, and beyond.

Dr. Kin Phea urged the people particularly youth to value the historical truth. “A Khmer proverb says if you drink the water, be grateful to its source. In other words, if you are in the shade of a tree, you should be thankful to those who planted it,” he said.

“Likewise, if you want to contribute to the development, harmony, prosperity and peace of Cambodia, don’t let our nation break down. We should unite under our constitution, the royal patronage of His Majesty the King, and the leadership of the Royal Government toward sustainable development, stability and peace.”

By Heng Panha & Phal Sophanith