2 December has at least two important meanings for my life and/or for most of Cambodians.
First, 2 December 1978: it was the founding date of the National Front for Solidarity and Salvation of Kampuchea, a front led by Heng Samrin, Pen Sovann and Chea Sim, which was supported by the Communist Party and the Government of Vietnam to “liberate Cambodia” from the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime. The front was founded in Snuol district, Kratie province, along the Cambodian-Vietnamese border. Pol Pot was kicked out of Phnom Penh on January 7, 1979. Since then, the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) held the power in this country. Heng Samrin is currently Honorary President of the CPP and President of the Parliament. Pen Sovann was once Secretary General of the Party, Prime Minister and Minister of National Defense till 1981, when he was removed from office by the Vietnamese. He spent ten years in Jail in Hanoi before he was released after the Paris Peace Accord in 1991. He now is one of the leaders of the Human Rights Party (HRP), the opposition party, under Kem Sokha. Chea Sim was then Minister of Interior and is currently President of the CPP and of the Senate. Hun Sen was 26 years old, when the front was founded. Later, he becomes Foreign Minister of the People’s Republic of Kampuchea (PRK) and since 1985 Prime Minister.
Second, 2 December 1987: it was the first informal meeting between Prince Norodom Sihanouk, Head of Exile Government and H.E. Hun Sen, Prime Minister of the People’s Republic of Kampuchea in a small town 20km from Paris, France. It was the first meeting between the two warring factions which led to other informal meetings in Jakarta, Bangkok etc. The Paris Peace Accord was signed in 1991, which ended the “civil war” in Cambodia and led to the first general election organized by UNTAC in 1993. Negotiators from Phnom Penh were Hun Sen, Dith Munty and Cham Prasith. From Sihanouk’s side, there were Neak Mneang Monique and Prince Norodom Ranariddh.
Though it has different meanings for me, I am very grateful to these two dates. I could not imagine how it would look like if the Vietnamese did not come to help us (It also depends on with whom you talk to: liberate or invade or both?) and if the two Cambodian sides did not start to talk to each other. It is very simply stated above, but one should not forget the real fact of living in the killing fields (1975-78) which everyone was thinking on how to survive day in, day out only. I am not sure also with what the Americans are now doing in Irak either: did they invade or liberate Irak? There are also several cases around the world, where America acted as the world police and there was no condemnation likes the one towards the Vietnamese in Cambodia.