November 12, 2020
Cambodian Independence Day

On Monday, November 9, Cambodia celebrated their 67th year of independence from French Colonial rule. Every year on this date, the country celebrates their freedom from nearly a century of French colonization which began in 1863. During the formal ceremony that takes place in the morning, all the leaders and representatives from the country are expected to celebrate in the nation’s capital.

During the 19th century, the kingdom of Cambodia had been reduced to a vassal state of the kingdom of Siam in some western provinces, while the eastern portion of the country was threatened by growing influence from Vietnam via the Nguyen Dynasty. On August 11, 1863, King Norodom signed a treaty which would acknowledge a French Protectorate over the kingdom of Cambodia. This protectorate lasted for close to 100 years and gave France control over Cambodia’s foreign and trade relations, forming a major part of the French Colonial Empire in Southeast Asia, along with their holds over Vietnam and Laos.

Following an intensive campaign mounted by King Sihanouk in 1949, Cambodia was eventually granted its full independence by France in 1953. This independence included full control of national defense, police, courts and financial matters. Upon his return to Cambodia, King Sihanouk was viewed as the Father of Independence by his people and this day has been celebrated since. 
Current day festivities are held at Independence Monument in the capital city of Phnom Penh. Although the main celebration happens in the capital, there are other celebrations that take place throughout the country’s other provinces. The Independence Monument itself was built in 1958 to commemorate and memorialize Cambodia gaining its freedom. The structure stands 37 meters tall and was designed in the form of a lotus shaped stupa (shrine).
The stupa was designed by Cambodian architect Vann Molyvann. Molyvann was personally selected and instructed by Prince Norodom. The architecture was to combine a mix of the religious and secular.

In order to commemorate the event, each year the King lays down a wreath and lights a ceremonial fire inside the Independence Monument in the capital city. This is a tradition that has been happening since the Southeast Asian country won its independence and is a special day for the entire nation. The monument has been the center of the celebration since its completion.
Aside from the fire lighting ceremony, there are also fireworks in front of the Royal Palace at night, and every other state palace is decorated with lights and signs related to Cambodian independence. The celebrations also include cultural activities and parades down Norodom Boulevard. Unfortunately, due to Covid-19, there were restrictions in the country this year, as many entertainment venues where residents usually celebrate were closed down due to the virus.

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