Cambodia marks 30 years since fall of Pol Pot


Thousands of Cambodian survivors of the Khmer Rouge "Killing Fields" marked 30 years today since the fall of Pol Pot's ultra-Maoist regime, blamed for the deaths of 1.7 million people.

Up to 80,000 people packed into the capital's Olympic stadium for a rally organised by the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP), descendant of the puppet government installed by Hanoi after its troops ousted Beijing-backed Pol Pot on January 7th, 1979.

"We have always remembered those who sacrificed their lives to save us from genocide," ageing CPP President and former guerrilla Chea Sim told the cheering crowd.

Despite international and domestic repugnance at the Khmer Rouge and their disastrous attempt to create an agrarian utopia, a significant minority of Cambodians mourn January 7th as the start of a 10-year occupation by their hated Vietnamese neighbours.

Political opponents of Prime Minister Hun Sen, a one-eyed former Khmer Rouge commander who has been in charge for the last 23 years, frequently label him a Vietnamese stooge, a charge he rebutted in typically blunt style this week.

"Whoever is against the day of victory is either Pol Pot or an animal," he told a crowd yesterday at the inauguration of a bridge south of Phnom Penh, a derelict ghost town in 1979 after four years under the Khmer Rouge.

Communist Vietnam also marked the anniversary, with official papers running a series of articles portraying the invasion as a mercy mission and the 10-year occupation as necessary to prevent a resurgence of the Khmer Rouge.

"Wherever our army went, it was welcomed by cheering and helpful Cambodian people," the Tin Tucdaily said.