Meeting Memot People on 32nd January 7 Victory Day Anniversary
On this auspicious occasion of the 32nd anniversary of the January-7 Victory Day, my family and I, friends, and officials from various ministries and portfolios have come once again to the district of Memot to meet and to share our joy with the people here. I would like to convey to you all blessings from Samdech Akka Thoma Pothisal Chea Sim, President of the Senate and President of the Cambodian People’s Party and from Samdech Akka Moha Punnhea Chakrei Heng Samrin, President of the National Assembly and Honorary President of the Cambodian People’s Party.
My wife and I would also like to wish you a good blessing for New Year 2011 and share with all of our people here the joy of the 32nd anniversary of the liberation of our country from the genocide of Pol Pot. Our gathering today is not an official one though, as the official event will be celebrating on January 7 and Samdech Chea Sim, President of the Cambodian People’s Party will make an official address. The gathering here at Memot today is to commemorate two historic events that are closely related to the January 7 liberation. I would like to thank all officials and institutions concerned, especially HE Chea Sophara, (Minister of Rural Development and) Head of the CPP working team for the district of Memot, and provincial authorities of all levels for taking initiatives and organizing this event to commemorate the liberation of Cambodia from the genocide.
January-7 Victory Day – a Historic Reality
Today is January 5, and 35 years ago on the same day there was a marriage of thirteen couples in Memot. Also, in Memot my wife and I have lost our first child. You may notice that my children are here present to celebrate the Buddhist rite to bless his soul. As of today he was dead 34 years and 55 days. Indeed, Phnom Penh was liberated on January 7. However, the liberation movement had started even before this date. Svay Rieng was in fact liberated on January 4, 1979, while Prey Veng and many other provinces on the eastern side of the Mekong River were liberated on January 5. Even earlier to those dates were the provinces of Mondulkiri, Ratanakiri, Kratie and Stoeung Treng. There are also provinces that were liberated on January 11. However, we have decided to set the day that Phnom Penh was liberated – January 7 – to be our auspiciously historic victory day.
It has been said, and it was correct to say so, that January 7 victory day is the beginning of everything. If it were not for the January 7 victory day, there would not be anything now. This is historical reality and no one could falsify it. It was this day that the whole people of Cambodia found themselves liberated from the devil regime of Pol Pot’s genocide.
January 7 belongs to the people of Cambodia as a whole and is not in any way hostile to anyone. Its only enemy is the Pol Pot’s genocidal regime, both political and military organization. The January 7 victory day has indeed become a national movement that our people cherish. Despite efforts by ill-willed circles in misleading the public about the true meaning of the January 7 victory day, they cannot block the sun light with their hands. I think that those who are ungrateful to January 7 victory day for political reasons would never make a gain from that. As January 7 liberated the whole people, it is a victory for all.
A Victory of People’s Participation
Just for your note, January 7 is not the victory that was won by military alone. Let’s not forget that our people directly and actively participated in this liberation movement. People joined in dismantling old model of production, which played very important role in national liberation at the time. We may agree with each other that no matter how many soldiers and the Vietnamese soldiers together would take part in the fight, if our people were not participating in the fight, they would not have chance to liberate the country in such a short time.
We did not have enough soldiers to go to every communes or villages. However, the Cambodian people were waiting for the chance to liberate themselves. They were ready to dissolve the Pol Pot’s model of production which was living, eating and working together in a collective form. Their share in the liberation is by far very important. If the Cambodian people loved Pol Pot’s Angkar and the militia did not disarm themselves, how could we assure a victory in such a short time? It was a case in general that, even before arrival of the Front’s army, our people already divided among themselves rice and animals, whereas the model of collective life was uprooted. In many cases, they also set up their village system and appointed their village heads too.
Genocide, Was There or Was There Not?
For those who have falsified the January 7 victory day, they should answer one question: whether there was or not the genocidal regime of Pol Pot (in Cambodia)? There would be two answers for this question. First, there was. Second, there was not. Those who may choose the second question would then be ally of Pol Pot and they should therefore be brought into trial in relation to the regime of genocide. It should be noted that in the world, as of today, there has been no one who does not acknowledge that there was this regime of Pol Pot’s genocide (in Cambodia).
No one would deny that because the 001 Case on Duch, former S21 Tuol Sleng prison head under the Pol Pot’s regime, was completely processed under the Extra-Ordinary Chamber in the Court of Cambodia, which is a blended UN-Cambodian court to try the crimes committed by the most senior leaders of the regime. Case 002 is about to start. The United Nations has, through its involvement so far, affirmed that there had been the genocide by the regime of Pol Pot (in Cambodia). Can anyone deny it?
By denying the true meaning of the January 7 liberation day that people of Cambodia were saved from the genocide and making political gain from that over the deaths, blood and tears of the Cambodian victims, I am sure we all agree that those oppose to the January-7 are committing acts of immorality. Therefore, the Cambodian people, in whatever circles or social strata they may belong, would never cast their votes for them because by voting for them they would ignore the pleas of the dead, who are actually their relatives.
Two Basic Questions, Would Pol Pot Negotiate for Peace? Who Would Survive to Sign Peace Deal?
Those oppose the January-7 have gone this far to suggest October 23, 1991, when the Paris Peace Agreement was signed, be a holiday to be observed in place of January 7. Let’s put two basic questions here for them. Firstly, if Pol Pot were to survive till 1991, or if he were not to be taken out of power, would Pol Pot accept to go into negotiation and/or sign the peace deal? Anyone, as a man and with no beastly nature, may answer this question. As far as this issue is concerned, let me clarify to all of you that I have never been a warmonger. I do not wish to be separated from my wife and children. I would not trade for a life that has to struggle and to suffer detention abroad.
Secondly, how many of us could have had a chance to sign the peace deal? Look, in 1991, how many signatories were there? There were only five of the signatories who had been living abroad then – HE Son San, HE Ieng Moly, HE Khieu Samphan, HE Son Sen and Samdech Krom Preah Norodom Ranaridh. The seven other signatories – Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk could be one of them, were locked inside Cambodia. In our meeting at Fere-en-Tardenois (in the course of finding a political settlement for the Cambodian problem in France) in December 1987, Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk, by his side were Samdech Mae (the Queen Mother) and Prince Norodom Ranaridh, affirmed that if it were not for HE Hun Sen’s and the Vietnamese armies to liberate Cambodia, he might as well die.
In light of this, definitely Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk would not stand the chance to give his signature. As for the six dignitaries from State of Cambodia who would sign the peace deal, only two could have been alive, HE Tia Banh and me Hun Sen, because we had left the country with our soldiers, while four others, HE Hor Nam Hong, HE Im Chhun Lim, HE Dith Munti, and HE Sin Sen could have surely been dead. In this circumstance, we could also infer that there would not be a Paris Peace Agreement because with whom would I negotiate the peace deal?
A Response to Ill-Willed Remarks
People in the opposition have so far enjoyed rights that they could say anything in an overbearing manner. How much more would they ask for? Would they want rights to step on anyone’s head? There has been an analysis a few weeks ago on radio by heads of two (political) parties concerning the Chinese economies versus that of the United States of America.
One party leader gave no analysis but blindly threw support behind the US. Another leader gave a more analytical view as he talked about deficit of current account in the US case, while China has this much money and is gaining from more exports. However, in the last part of their interviews, they both turned to attacking Hun Sen. They said China is making progress because they change their leaders. Let me take this point to him that China has changed leaders but they do not change the Party. Maybe he should go deeper in his analysis.
Another point I wish to make to the person is that the Chinese leaders have changed when they are in their 70s while Hun Sen is just over 50s. I think they should have said right away that if Hun Sen is a candidate, s/he may never stand a chance. Or they may ask me to let them have a chance. Originally, these people insulted China of being a one-party country, but they have conflicting analysis about Chinese leadership change.
Thirteen Couple Marriage, 35 Years Ago
I have actually been one of the actors like our people in the tragedy of Cambodia. I suffered no less hardship and ill fate than our people in the whole country. Thirty five years ago today and at this moment, I was in the village of Jrab in the district of Tbong Khmum listening to reading of biographies of 25 men and women who had been there for a marriage of thirteen couples. My wife and I were the last couple and my biography was the 26th one to read. After going through our biographies, everyone was asked with at least two questions. My wife also had two questions to answer. I was asked particularly with four questions. The last one was ‘if comrade could be able to build up a family into a proletarian class.’ It was quite a painful question.
Two of the thirteen couples were allowed to get married according to personal requests. I asked to be married to my wife. As for the other couple, a man named Hem who got a wound in his head and had to live with tetanus effect every day, it was the woman who asked to be married to him. As far as the rest eleven couples are concerned, they all were crippled of some kind and were married at the order of Angkar (the Pol Pot’s organization). I was so lucky that because of the wound in one of my eyes, I was allowed to get married in the age of 24. My wife was in her 21 to 22 years of age.
How Did I Meet My Wife?
On the night of January 5, we stayed at Jrab. Instead of our honeymoon night, we had to survive the chicken fleas in a house long abandoned by their owners for fear of B52 bombardment. My wife dug a trench beneath the house. On January 6, because of the flat tire we had to stay in the village of Ta Hiev. After being fed, my wife was being escorted by two other women to her bed as they could have thought that we did not look like married couple. As I arrived at the regional military headquarters in the village of Jamka Daung, the head of military region sent me for urgent military statistics and postings. I had to travel fast to return the same night. On January 8, I traveled to Koh Thmor and on January 9, we were separated.
My wife and I have started our love because of our love-hate comments by my soldier who was sent for hospitalization and happened to see her (my wife). He told her, addressing her as ‘Sao’ (a derivation from Chinese to mean sister-in-law), I sent her my regard and concern on her health. Discharged from hospital, he came to me to covey me similar lies. As we were shy on each other, we also developed feeling of love on each other. It was in like August 1973. The story went on to involve more and more people and our love story became everyone’s knowledge. My wife then sent for me to go see her to resolve the matter.
I then went to see Sok Saroeun, a live witness and he then was my senior in command. In March 1974, Saroeun and I went to see her to resolve personal concern. We arrived at the hospital in the district of Kroch Chhmar (Kompong Cham). After being fed together with medical staffs, I looked around for Rani as I never have chance to see her in the fresh. I asked permission from Saroeun to visit Prek Jam from where I came back with a bunch of fried banana. The sunlight already faded. In lack of light, seeing a woman, who sat and worked on prescription (it was her in fact), I asked where Saroeun was and which one was Rani. She said Rani went to fetch water. I learned from Mong, a medical staff I met when I came down from the house, that the one I asked was Rani.
It took us till about eight o’clock at night to sit down and resolve the matter of our concern. We went on till about ten o’clock at night. We decided to spend the night there. Because we had not got any sleeping kit with us, the hospital staff brought us the blankets. Coincidentally, Rani’s blanket came to me. I would tell that because later on I found out it was the same blanket with a peacock embodiment. After that mission to resolve matter of our concern, we then go on to meeting each other three more times – once on Khmer New Year 1974, again during a heavy rain at the market of Piem Jilang and again at the hospital at Tchouk.
My First Child Could Have Been 34 Years Old
About one month before delivery, I requested to take my wife to the regiment command headquarters at Anchan Koh Thmor in the commune of Ta Lu as I was so concerned of her first delivery and I needed to be close by. It turned out that if I were to let her labor be handled by local midwife, we would not have suffered ill fate. It was November 10, 1976 that my wife gave birth to our first child. And it is 34 years and 55 days today if he were to be alive.
On my way from a trip to Piem Jilang, a mission sent by then commander, I hurriedly stopped at the hospital to see my wife and child. As I propped the motorbike, nurse and midwife assistants came telling me my child was dead. My child felt off the medical staff’s hands breaking his backbone with pale blood coming out of his mouth. For one I have to face with shock of losing my first child, but for worse my request to bury him was bluntly denied. I was not permitted to stay even for a short while to console my wife. I was ordered to leave. They rebuked me that staying would not bring back my son’s life and my wife’s health would be taken care by medical staff.
It was painful to have heard such a response for a morally decent request. With two pistols I have with me I could have shot that commander for that. But I held it tight. The decision was correct or I would not be here with all of you today. Is this a society that the opposition (in Cambodia) would want? I lost my first born child but many Cambodians lost their parents, grandparents, husbands, wives, relatives, etc. I respected the order of Angkar. I laid my scarf over my son’s body. Because of inappropriate medical care, my wife conditions worsened. I decided to take her out of the hospital and brought her to traditional midwife to take care of, no matter what I have to face with. As one of the commanders I had to suffer this fate, what would you expect for people in general?
Left for National Liberation
Again, on June 20, 1977, I made a correct decision once more. Though I was entitled to take command on a part of battalion that includes artillery, military intelligence and special force units, or, as far as infantry is concerned, battalion 75-55, I did not order a fight. If I were to set off the fight that day, the liberation movement of the country would not have similar strength. If we were to take Memot district by military means that day, I could predict that we could have occupied for about two days the most. I decided to keep clam and together with some of the people here like General Nhoek Huon, we escaped.
In fact Memot is one of the most important districts. I crossed the border to Vietnam on June 20, 1977. We took a rest after we were about two hundred meters into Vietnamese territory. That day I sent a letter to my wife with one of our best soldiers, Mr Noeun, who might be here as well today. I had only two points to make in the letter. I told her that as she had the letter in her hand, I was already far away that I myself also did not know where I was. I ended my letter saying good bye to my wife and hopelessly assured her to meet again when only God knows.
Though my wife failed to keep the letter, I have the confirmation from my wife that she had received everything that I sent for her – honey in rice wine for post-delivery woman – as she was about to give birth to our second child, a hammock and a letter. If the soldier was not that faithful to me, he could either report to the Pol Pot’s Angkar and had my wife killed, or confiscate everything as nobody would care or know about it.
A Brief Return
Along with the Vietnamese attack in retaliation for Pol Pot’s offensive, I came to the district of Memot. I arrived at the market of Memot. On National Road 7 I went all the way to Samraong military regional headquarters, and I went through to the hospital at Samraong. I found only a book that belonged to my wife. I then concluded that my son had been born but I could not find them. We fought with fortitude but we then did not have a political and military organization. On the same day Khieu Samphan declared severing diplomatic relations with Vietnam. In the evening of the same day, Vietnam told us to leave. I asked Vietnam to prolong the stay so I could bring along our people to the area librated since November and December.
Tears came into my eyes when Vietnam responded that their fight was for self-defense only. We could not force Vietnam to do what they did not plan to or Vietnam would be named invaders. Cambodian struggle movements in those days were small and in separation. Spending two nights with those people, I was certain that Pol Pot would avenge for their lives so I asked to evacuate them to Vietnam. The Vietnamese commanders approved my request. Mr. Meas Kroch and a Vietnamese colonel were appointed to take care of this and they were in two different jeeps. The Vietnamese colonel’s jeep that ran before was blown into pieces by a mine.
The incident prompted the Polpotists to think that ‘the Vietnamese Head with a Khmer Body’ (Hun Sen) was dead. First they made it loud propaganda that they killed me on June 20, 1977, at the border. As they knew I was in Memot and because there was this mine explosion, they again fooled people that Hun Sen was dead in the blast at the Khjiey rubber plantation. As you can see now that Memot had been a place of engagements (between the Pol Pot authority and national liberation movement) since November 1977. My army came in and used the Memot territory in between here and Kratie.
Memot District – Base of Two Revolutions
A year later, we had this resistance movement in eastern region led by Samdech Heng Samrin and Samdech Chea Sim. Memot then became a base for them. Memot could be understood to have provided me with two opportunities. First, I took Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk’s appeal to the Marquis. It was here at the village of Kdol in Memot that I joined the liberation movement. Second, I started the resistance movement against the Pol Pot regime from the village of Ta Long, also in the district of Memot. In fact the districts of Memot of Kompong Cham and Snuol of Kratie have been significant bases for our movements.
At the moment we had gathered over ten thousand troops of which I had 28 companies. HE Bou Thang had about two companies of ethnic forces and from Koh Kong there had been some but in hiding. It was because of this limited number that after the liberation, in Phnom Penh we had only three companies, which later increased to four companies. We had two companies in Kompong Cham because it is a big province. If it were not for the Vietnamese army’s assistance, we could not liberate our country in such a short time.
According to my plan, without help from the Vietnamese army, we were aiming for liberation in between three to five years. We would widen our liberation zone in the eastern part of the country. From there we would go to western part of the country. However, if we were to leave Pol Pot in power from 1979 through to 1984 or 1985, we may as well ask a question as to how many more would die. The longer we prolong the time for liberation, the more would die.
Achievements and More Developmental Projects
So far it has been a reminiscence of my life here in Memot district and a clarification to you all as to how Memot had been to the revolutions in 1970s – the Marquis, or resistance base, and the liberation of the country from the Pol Pot’s genocide. I would like to take this moment to express my sincere thank to our people in the district of Memot for their support and cordial assistance for me personally and for the liberation army as a whole in the fights against the US army and the Pol Pot organization. Along this part of the national road 7, there had been so little time that I could walk. Most often than not I had to run and flee.
We have here today the Red Cross youth and the scout teams that are coming from three secondary schools in Memot. This Secondary School of Memot is the biggest, which was constructed at the cost of close to one million USD. I would like to take this opportune moment to declare opening officially a two storey building with twelve classrooms and a building for sewing class in the Bun Rani-Hun Sen Dar School in the Memot commune as of this moment. Memot has become a model district as far as my vision of one secondary school in one commune is concerned. Memot now has one junior secondary school for every commune in addition to three senior secondary schools.
I also announce new development projects to be administered by the Ministry of Rural Development to build a 43 km laterite road that will run through five communes – Mehmong, Kampoan, Korki, Rumjek and Seda – to national road 73 which links Dambe and Memot districts together, to build a 36 meter by 7 meter concrete bridge in the commune of Kompong Trea, Kroch Tchmar district of Kompong Cham province, and to build a 107 meter by 7 meter concrete bridge in the commune of Peam Jilang. /.