Independence Square is a simple but very meaningful landmark in Sihanoukville. The square is a small park along the intersection of Ekareach Street (Independent Street) and Mittapheap Kampuchea Soviet Street (Cambodia/Soviet Friendship Street). Inside Independence Square is the Independence Monument (or Vimean Ekareach in Khmer) that was constructed in 1985 to annually remember Cambodian independence and honor soldiers and heroes who died in the war. Ceremonies are held on January 7th.
About the Cambodian Wars
As early as the 1500’s, the ancient Khmers were already warring and their conflicts were never resolved until the Western colonizers arrived. The French took control in 1863 until 1953. After sovereignty returned to Cambodia, King Sihanouk (after whom Sihanoukville was named) ruled the country but his dictatorial reign didn’t last long since civil war broke in the 1960’s. In 1975 things took a turn for the worse. The Khmer Rouge gained power and in their hands began the darkest years in the history of Cambodia, and perhaps of humanity. Helmed by the despotic Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge army executed anyone who stood in their path, especially the rich and learned. The best of Cambodia – both people and natural resources – were killed and wasted in just a matter of four years. Over 2 million people were murdered. Sihanoukville and its white-sand beaches were abandoned even years after Pol Pot’s rule ended.
In 1979, while the Vietnam War continued to rage, the Viet Cong reinforced its bases in Phnom Penh and eventually unseated Pol Pot, ending the bloody regime. But the wars, conflicts and political strife did not end until 1998 when finally the Cambodian government gained some sort of political and military stability. Slowly but steadily, Sihanoukville is now making a name for itself as one of the most important tourist spots in Cambodia, especially after roads leading to Sihanoukville were repaired, paved and reinforced.
Located along the southern coast of Cambodia, Sihanoukville is the country’s prime tourist city, although just a tiny town. It is known for its casinos, hotels, bars, and restaurants that are better than many establishments in the capital city of Phnom Penh. Sihanoukville is clearly the most progressive and commercialized provincial city in Cambodia and one of the best in Southeast Asia. It is widely popular for its beaches: the four most frequently visited are Sokha Beach, Independence Beach, Serendipity Beach and Ochheuteal Beach.
But perhaps the most important attraction is the over-all laid-back atmosphere in this city, a kind of tranquility that tells its visitors that they are about to experience the most unforgettable vacation ever. The sun, sand and water are perfect. Another top attraction is the nearby Bamboo Island, which is one of the most tranquil spots in Southeast Asia and perfect for scuba diving and snorkeling.
Along with the Golden Lions Monument, old port of Sihanoukville, and Ream National Park, Independence Square is a must-see attraction although humble and tiny. It symbolizes Cambodia’s triumph of finally getting away from foreign control and ending internal strife. It houses an open meeting hall, a small park, a shrine and the Independence Monument, symbolizing Cambodia’s independence. Most local and national events are held in this square.