Cambodia is grateful to Vietnamese soldiers for getting rid of the Pol Pot regime, allowing the country's revival until today, Prime Minister Hun Sen told the press on January 7. Cambodia is celebrating the 33rd anniversary of the country's liberation.
At the recent UN-endorsed trial of former Khmer Rouge leaders, one of them made a statement distorting history and the contribution of Vietnamese soldiers. Would you care to comment?
PM Hun Sen: I heard about Noun Chea, a former Khmer Rouge leader, lying at the court. They do not admit their mistakes and turn to accuse other people, even suggesting an invasion by Vietnamese soldiers. That's just their logic, the defense of the murderers. They say this to lighten their sins. If they're right, why do we need an international trial for them today? Everyone knows that Cambodia had a genocidal regime and our country has used global support to set up the hearings to punish those committing the crime. We do not need to respond to their lies or defense.
Harish and Julie Mehta, authors of your biography, said you had expressed anger when asked about the invasion of Cambodia by Vietnam.
PM Hun Sen: Not only the Mehtas but several people have also told me that the contribution of Vietnam's military forces to Cambodia was huge, but considered it an invasion. I strongly reject anyone saying that Vietnam invaded Cambodia. The presence of Vietnam's military in Cambodia was for the sake of the Cambodian people. That presence has led to the revival of Cambodia today.
Is there any country that has helped Cambodian people as much as Vietnam? No. Only Vietnam helped Cambodia during its hardest time.
Of course I reacted when the Mehtas mentioned the presence of Vietnam's military in Cambodia over ten years from 1979 to 1989 as an invasion. That I totally could not accept, since the presence of Vietnam's military was to liberate Cambodia people from the genocidal regime led by Pol Pot and to prevent the return of the regime. The presence of Vietnam's military in our country was no surprise. Many people of our country had been killed by Pol Pot, why wouldn't we ask Vietnam for help? Vietnam would withdraw once Cambodia was strong enough. And the fact is Vietnam's military withdrew from Cambodia in 1989. And they have not returned for more than 20 years now.
Do you have a message for Vietnamese veterans and families of the soldiers killed in the war in Cambodia?
PM Hun Sen: I'd like to send my regards and gratitude to all Vietnamese people, Vietnamese veterans, and those who died in the war for the sake of Cambodian people. We will forever remember the Vietnamese soldiers who sacrificed their lives for Cambodia.
I cannot express how meaningful the word "Vietnam" is. But I can put it simply this way: Vietnam means the revival and development of Cambodia.