Tuesday, January 6, 2009

What’s happening in Cambodia on 7 January?

So I have been in Cambodia for three months and realised that I don’t really write much about this country. I guess the only reason is because I haven’t really travelled much within the country itself. Nay, that isn’t really the main reason.

The main reason is that for the three months that I have been here, probably half of it has been some sort of a holiday; whether public or self-declared. When I am on holiday, I don’t usually do anything but laze around all day. So one can’t expect anything to happen by just lazing around.

Cambodia is a country that allows me to laze around A LOT. The last time I checked the 2009 Calendar of Public Holidays, there are about 22 national holidays in a year here. Apparently, it is one of the top 5  countries in the world with the most public holidays. Unlike Malaysia, where there are three major ethnic groups and hence most related festivals are being celebrated every year, Cambodia is rather homogenous.

More than 90% of Cambodians are Khmer. Minorities include Vietnamese, Chinese, Muslim Cham and other indigenous people. Christmas, Eid and Chinese New Year are not celebrated here. The only religious celebrations are those related to Buddhism. The rest are the King’s birthday, King’s coronation, post-Khmer Rouge related events (Paris Peace Accord, Independence Day, Constitution Day), International Women’s Day, International Children’s Day, International Human Rights Day, so on and so forth.

You can say that Cambodians love celebration. Well, who wouldn’t except if you are an employer who is concern about your staffs’ productivity level. Anyway, there is one particular national holiday which has sparked some controversies here and is to take place tomorrow.

7 January is the anniversary of the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime. I am still confused as to whether this is a national holiday or not because some organizations declare it as a holiday while mine don’t. (Damn!) Well, you see, opposition parties have voiced that 7 January is also the anniversary of the start of the Vietnamese occupation in Cambodia. They are accusing the ruling government led by Prime Minister Hun Sen and his CPP (Cambodian People’s Party) party of using this day to assert and advance its political agenda.

A mass gathering has been organized for tomorrow’s celebration at the Olympic Stadium, Phnom Penh. Rumours have been going around that CPP has paid students to carry flags, banners and posters bearing its logo at the gathering. When asked whether this is indeed a manipulation by the ruling party, its spokesperson firmly said, “This is not a CPP celebration. It is a celebration for all Cambodians.” However, when questioned why are there going to be only CPP’s posters and banners all over the city, the same spokesperson quickly replied, “Don’t worry. We’re not using even 1 riel from the state fund for this event. It’s 100% from our party’s coffer.” Errrr….I think the opposition party might have a point there.

Last Friday, three bombs were found in the city; one outside the Ministry of Defence, the other two were somewhere around the Independence Monument on Norodom Boulevard. Luckily, they were detonated on time and I did hear the blast from the detonation but was oblivious to it. This apparently occurred around the same time last year and most likely planted by the same people who would like to destabilize the government.

What made me wonder though was how three bombs were discovered so easily and taken care of so quickly. Hmmm….could it be the work of the ruling party itself?

Well, I can just foresee what I will be doing tomorrow. Going to the rally will not be one of them. What’s that? Oh yeah, I have to go to work. Damn! But above all, what I have learned from living in politically unstable countries is, don’t be a hero or “kei poh chi” (busy body). Curiousity can kill the cat.

*Sigh* Life can be so difficult here.


  1. Hi Ka Ea,

    Like the Vietnamese, Cambodians have also suffered alot because of the war and the Khmer Rouge. I have seen documentaries on how they tortured their own people and that Pol Pot fellow died before he could be brought to face justice for crimes against humanity. Hope he burns in hell ... he would have lots of friends there i.e. Hitler, Stalin etc.

  2. Hello Whatmeworry (btw, interesting pseudonym),

    you're absolutely right. The Khmer Rouge Tribunal is still trying the five individuals allegedly involved in the genocide. They are all old and physically weak and yet no convictions have been given yet. Many are doubting whether justice for the million people who had died will be executed before they die of old age.

    Mean time, there has been allegations of corruption within the tribunals which prompted many international community to halt funding. Without sufficient fund, trials have been delayed due to lack of qualified human resource while the paper work is piling up.

    So, it's a dead end kind of situation. But the Cambodians are really wonderful people. Many are really trying hard to re-build a country that is rife with corruption and impunity. I really admire them for their courage and strength to move on.