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Singapore reaffirms commitment to Cambodia in response to furore over letter

Cheang Sokha / Khmer Times Share:
: Mr. Lee Hsien Loong, Prime Minister of Singapore. Supplied

Breaking News: Cambodian and Singaporean counterpart have telecon to end spat

Singapore’s Foreign Ministry in a statement released today clarified that remarks made by its Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong over the Vietnam invasion of  Cambodia which led to the toppling of the Khmer Rouge is history and that it is consistent with its long standing viewpoint which has also been made public for some time, including in the late Premier Lee Kuan Yew’s memoirs.

The statement came after Singapore’s Ambassador, Mr. Michael Tan had met with Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MFAIC)  Secretary of State, Ouch Borith for discussions  this afternoon.

Khmer Times has learned that both  parties had reaffirmed ties and  resolved to move forward by having  better understanding and also strengthening cooperation and collaboration in all  sectors.

Singapore’s foreign ministry statement said: “Singapore highly values its relations with Cambodia and Vietnam. Notwithstanding our differences in the past, we have always treated each other with respect and friendship. Singapore had no sympathy for the Khmer Rouge, and did not want to see the Khmer Rouge return to Cambodia.”

Opinion: Conflicting historical narratives are divisive

The comment came after days of criticism from Cambodia and Vietnam over the comments made by Mr. Lee Hsien Loong who said Vietnam had invaded Cambodia when they came to fight the Khmer Rouge in 1979.

Read More: Vietnam joins backlash against Singaporean PM’s Khmer Rouge remarks

“This is the context of Prime Minister Lee’s condolence letter and Shangri-La Dialogue speech. His references to this painful chapter of Indochina’s history are not new. They reflect Singapore’s longstanding viewpoint, which has been stated publicly before,” it said.

“Prime Minister Lee had made reference to this history to explain how statesmanship and foresight helped to end the tragic war that caused great suffering to the people of Indochina, and to bring about the peace and cooperation that the region enjoys today.” it added. “Singapore had no sympathy for the Khmer Rouge, and did not want to see the Khmer Rouge return to Cambodia.”

According to the statement, he [Mr Lee] also wanted to emphasise that regional stability and prosperity, as well as Asean unity, cannot be taken for granted. “The current geopolitical uncertainties makes it all the more important that Asean countries maintain our unity and cohesion, and strengthen cooperation.

The Foreign Ministry spokesman of Singapore also said that Minister for Foreign Affairs Dr Vivian Balakrishnan made separate phone calls to the Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Prak Sokhonn and Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Pham Binh Minh and on 7 June 2019.

“Minister Balakrishnan explained these points to his counterparts. They agreed that notwithstanding the serious differences in the past, we have taken the path of cooperation, dialogue and friendship,” it says.

Prime Minister Hun Sen has expressed his ‘regret’ over Mr Lee’s comment yesterday.

“I deeply regret to learn of the Facebook post of H.E. Lee Hsien Loong, Prime Minister of Singapore, on 31 May expressing his condolences on the passing of General Prem Tinsulanonda in which he said “His [General Prem] time as PM coincided with the ASEAN members (then five of us) coming together to oppose Vietnam’s invasion of Cambodia and the Cambodian government that replaced the Khmer Rouge…” Hun Sen said in Facebook page yesterday night.

Read More: Singaporean leader disrespects Cambodian massacre: Hun Sen

He said his [Lee Hsien Loong] statement reflects Singapore’s position then in support of the genocidal regime and the wish for its return to Cambodia. Singapore was the host of the tripartite meeting that led to the formation of the coalition government of the Democratic Kampuchea, which had prolonged the war and the suffering of Cambodian people for another 10 years.

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