Observers See Politics in Removal of Holidays

2 min read
Phnom Penh’s Water Festival in 2014. The Water Festival is among 22 public holidays set to remain on the calendar. (Flickr/PhotAsia)

Political analyst Lao Mong Hay would rather see the three international days for children, human rights and women lumped together into one than lose Paris Peace Agreements Day as a public holiday.

Opposition politician Mu Sochua, living abroad since legal actions were taken against her party two years ago, says the loss of that day — commemorating the end of civil war and restoration of democracy in 1991 — goes against “the wishes of the Cambodian people.”

Unionist Moeun Tola, meanwhile, laments the loss of International Human Rights Day — the removal of which, he says, makes Cambodia’s so-called democracy resemble communism.

In a sub-decree dated August 2, the government announced the removal of six public holidays to appease investors’ concerns over Cambodia’s famously numerous days of commemoration.

Receiving the ax are the National Day of Remembrance (formerly the National Day of Hatred, commemorating the Khmer Rouge years) on May 20, International Children’s Day on June 1, Paris Peace Agreements Day on October 23, International Human Rights Day on December 10, and two of three days celebrating the king’s birthday.

“All decisions are based on the requests from investors who have complained that we have too many holidays,” said government spokesman Ek Tha.

From 2020, Cambodia’s catalog of national holidays will number just 22, down from 28.

Am Sam Ath, monitoring manager at rights group Licadho, said he would especially miss Paris Peace Agreements Day.

Losing the holiday would accelerate the forgetting of the past, he cautioned, saying it had “helped Cambodia survive from the communist regimes of the past.”

The Paris Peace Agreements of October 23, 1991 were signed and supported by 18 foreign states, including China, Russia, France and the U.S., and has been a foundation for Cambodia’s developing constitutional democracy as well as its foreign relations.

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated there were two days commemorating the king’s father that would be removed as public holidays.

(Translated by Kang Sothear and edited from the original article on VOD Khmer)

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