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Cambodian PM leads huge rally on anniversary of Khmer Rouge's

AFP  |  Phnom Penh 

Cambodian led a huge rally today marking the anniversary of the fall of the genocidal regime, seizing the opportunity to burnish his reputation as saviour of the nation.

Tens of thousands of people attended the event organised by Hun Sen's ruling People's Party (CPP), which has dominated the country since it was installed by the Vietnamese forces which toppled on January 7, 1979.

The gathering -- which had a much larger turnout than in previous years -- comes as Hun Sen's control over is firmer than ever following the systematic removal of his rivals before a July

The crackdown culminated in the dissolution of the main opposition party in November -- a move lambasted by Western democracies as a naked power grab by the strongman, who is determined to extend his 32-year rule.

Speaking before a sea of supporters today, took credit for the stability and growth his has overseen since the era. At least 1.7 million Cambodians died during the regime's fanatical Maoist rule from 1975-79.

Most died through execution, or overwork during the group's attempts to transform the country into an agrarian utopia.

Hun Sen, a former Khmer Rouge cadre who later defected and joined the resistance, frequently reminds the public of Cambodia's horrific past and warns that fresh unrest could break out if his is ousted.

In the lengthy address also cheered the recent crushing of the opposition, saying it "evaded a new disaster for the nation, and will ensure the growth of democracy, human rights and rule of law in Cambodia".

Rights groups strongly disagree, saying the move plunged Cambodia's fragile democracy into peril.

The US and EU have withdrawn support for the July due to the ruling, saying the vote would not be legitimate without the now dissolved National Rescue Party (CNRP), which enjoyed significant public support.

Hun Sen has responded by ramping up his ultra-nationalist rhetoric, reiterating today that "Cambodia does not bow to external pressure".

His self-styled reputation as rescuer of the impoverished kingdom was also on display in the past week in a new documentary recording his role in the toppling of the Khmer Rouge.

But while the boasts about the stability and economic growth nurtured during his time in office, critics point out the myriad rights abuses and endemic corruption that have flourished under his watch.

Some Cambodians have also criticised the celebration of the January 7 anniversary, saying it represents the start of a decade-long occupation by rather than a day of liberation.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Sun, January 07 2018. 14:20 IST