After taking control of Cambodia in April, 1975, Pol Pot’s regime conducted barbaric policies against its own nation and hatred actions against Vietnam. It turned Cambodia from a beautiful country to a massive labour camp with extremely harsh conditions. Schools were destroyed, large-scale prisons with graves were built to torture and kill the opposition. In its controlling term (3 years, 8 months and 20 days), Pol Pot – Ieng Sary clique killed nearly 3 million Cambodians, ruined social infrastructure and almost pushed Cambodian to the brink of extinction. At the difficult time, the Cambodian people stood up to make a revolution against Pol Pot, including the formation of the Kampuchean United Front for National Salvation (KUFNS) – which was founded on Dec 2, 1978.
In addition, the Pol Pot regime implemented a hatred policy against Vietnam, intended to destroy precious bilateral relationships when it specified Vietnam as an “enemy” of Cambodia. It conducted numerous provocative actions against Vietnam. Pol Pot’s regime deployed troops to invade Vietnamese territory, massacred Vietnamese in Tan Lap (Tay Ninh), Ba Chuc (An Giang), harassed Vietnamese border guard, relocated border markers in some cities such as Tay Ninh, Kon Tum, Dak Lak. Vietnamese Party and State took peaceful diplomatic measures in order to pursue united policy. However, Pol Pot – Ieng Sary levelled up its action, on April 30, 1977, Pol Pot officially opened up the invasion to Vietnam’s territory in the southwest border. Because of taking defence rights and fulfilling the international responsibility, Vietnamese had to take self-defence measures to re-counter the attack from Pol Pot regime.
With the strong support from Vietnamese army, KFNUS took back the independence for Cambodia.
From April 30, 1977, to May 1, 1978, Pol Pot’s army conducted massive invasions of Vietnam territory. On one hand, the Vietnamese Party and state took diplomatic measures to seek a peaceful solution; on the other hand, it prepared troops to retaliate against Pol Pot’s invasion. On Dec 31, 1977, the Vietnamese State issued a statement about the border issue, which stressed that Vietnam determined to protect its independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and respected the independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity of Cambodia. It also reaffirmed that Vietnam would do the best to protect the traditional friendship between the two nations. Despite diplomatic efforts and goodwill from Vietnam, Pol Pot kept expanding its invasion campaign in the southwest border region of Vietnam.
From March, 26, 1978, the Vietnamese Army shifted from defence to attack against Khmer Rouge troops, which pushed the Khmer Rouge army refrain attacks on the Vietnam-Cambodia border. The strong re-counter action from the Vietnamese army had positive impacts to Cambodia internal political situation and also helped the Cambodian revolution, which led to an uprising on May 26, 1978, in the Eastern Military Region. From May to November 1978, the Vietnamese army helped the Cambodian revolution build 15 battalions, 24 working teams, Party structural bodies and laid a foundation for a united front for national salvation. In order to counter Pol Pot’s invasion and to answer the call for support from KUFNS, the volunteer soldiers of Vietnam, together with Cambodian revolution army conducted a joint campaign along the whole borderline. With the strength from the solidarity of two nations, Phnom Penh was liberated on Jan 7, 1979, and 10 days later, the whole country was completely freed.
The joint victory over the Khmer Rouge once again reaffirmed the pure goodwill from Vietnam, as well as the solidarity, faithfulness between two nations and marks a milestone in the bilateral relations. The victory opened a new era for development and prosperity in Cambodia.
Bilateral relation is development
After 41 years since the joint victory, under the reign of the Cambodian King, the leadership of Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) and the management of Prime Minister Hun Sen, Cambodia has achieved several profound accomplishments. Now, Cambodia has one of the fastest economic growth in the world, as well as political security, social order, solidarity, prosperity and stability. The position of Cambodia in the international stage has been improved steadily.
Moreover, Vietnam – Cambodia relation keeps a strong momentum. Two countries have constantly tightened bilateral relations in various fields. For example in the political area, Vietnam and Cambodia are promoting their relationship under the principle of “good neighbours, traditional friendship, comprehensive cooperation and long-term sustainability”. The top leaders from the two countries acknowledged the ties between Vietnam and Cambodia were “brotherly” and “inseparable”. Recently, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen signed two legal documents recognising the completion of 84 percent of land demarcation and marker planting, which is an historic milestone in the settlement of border issues. In terms of economy, Cambodia ranked third among countries and territories that received investment from Vietnam and bilateral trade is expected to reach $5 billion in 2020. During the first nine month of 2019, Vietnam’s investment in Cambodia has increased 49,5 percent (compared with 2018) and reached $50.4 million, mainly in agriculture, banking, telecommunications.Two countries also witnessed several developments in other sectors such as tourism, people-to-people exchange and culture, education-training and health collaboration. With a long-time cozy bilateral relation in the history and the goodwill from both countries, bilateral relations will continue to develop and reach a new high level in the future.
Uch Leang is a senior researcher on Asian Africa of International Relations at the Institute of Cambodia.Associate professor is from Ho Chi Minh City of Social Sciences and Humanities University in Vietnam