Independence Day ( បុណ្យឯករាជ្យជាតិ) is a national holiday observed annually in Cambodia on this date. The date celebrates Cambodia’s Declaration of Independence from France on 9th November 1953. I think of it as Be Careful What You Wish For Day. The country could not have foreseen the horrors of the Khmer Rouge and the Pol Pot regime, whose legacy is still with us, that independence from France unleashed. Independence from colonial power is certainly to be striven for, but the path must be trodden carefully and thoughtfully. I will celebrate today as I have done for the past 2 years, but mindful of the dangers inherent in unthinking “freedom.” (All the photos here are mine).
France started controlling Cambodia in 1863. After being colonized for around 80 years, king/prince Norodom Sihanouk began claiming independence from France in 1949. In 1953, he was successful in gaining full independence, and France agreed to decolonize the whole country. Due to this accomplishment, Cambodian citizens view him as “the father of independence (ព្រះមហាវីរបុរសជាតិ – ព្រះបិតាឯករាជ្យជាតិ).”
Every year, Independence Day is a very special and happy day for the whole nation celebrated around the country, but the absolutely crucial one takes place at Independence Monument (វិមានឯករាជ្យ) in Phnom Penh. On that day, all the leaders and representatives of state organizations and public departments must participate and celebrate at the formal ceremony in the morning.
Usually the roads around the Independence Monument are closed to provide the space for the ceremony (and people like me (i.e.foreigners) are prohibited from getting close). The whole ceremony is broadcast on national television and radio.
Every state palace is decorated with slogans related to the independence of Cambodia and with lights.
At night, there is a firework display in the Chatomuk River (ទន្លេចតុមុខ) located in front of the Royal Palace.
Here is a video for making pork belly and egg soup which is very popular in Cambodia – rather different from dishes you might find in a Cambodian restaurant. Very much home cooking.