Defence Minister General Tea Banh and a CPP lawmaker have lashed out at Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong for accusing the Vietnamese troops of invading Cambodia to topple the Khmer Rouge regime in 1979.
In his letter posted on his official Facebook page on May 31 and sent to Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, Mr Lee expressed his condolences on the passing of former Thai prime minister and President of the Privy Council, General Prem Tinsulanonda.
In the letter, Mr Lee said that he and Gen Prem opposed Vietnamese invasion and denied legitimacy to Heng Samrin’s government in the 1980s.
“His leadership also benefited the region. His 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.” Mr Lee said.
“Thailand was on the frontline, facing Vietnamese forces across its border with Cambodia. General Prem was resolute in not accepting this fait accompli, and worked with ASEAN partners to oppose the Vietnamese occupation in international forums,” Mr Lee said. “This prevented the military invasion and regime change from being legitimised. It protected the security of other Southeast Asia countries, and decisively shaped the course of the region.”
In respond, Gen Banh brought up the issue with his counterpart, Singapore’s Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen while attending the 18th Asia Security Summit’s IISS Shangri-La Dialogue 2019 in Singapore last weekend.
Speaking to reporters upon his arrival at Phnom Penh International Airport on Monday night, Gen Banh said that he has asked Mr Ng Eng Hen to inform Mr Lee to make correction on his remark.
“His [Mr Lee’s] remark was not true and not reflective of the history,” Gen Banh said. “It is not true at all because he said that Vietnamese troops invaded Cambodia. We want him to make a correction.”
“We cannot accept what he said. We have already clarified that Vietnamese volunteer troops came to liberate our people,” Gen Banh said. “We still consider that they came to save our people’s lives. It has been enormously meaningful for us.”
With Mr Lee’s letter on screenshot posted on his Facebook on Friday, CPP lawmaker Hun Many said that people should not forget the atrocities and crimes committed by the Khmer Rouge.
“Whether it was a realist geopolitical or national interest perspective of the moment, one should not overlook nor forget the atrocities and crimes against humanity, especially the genocide committed by the Khmer Rouge regime.” Mr Many said.
“By the same token, the world should not forget how much Cambodians suffered then. Within the timespan of 3 years 8 months and 20 days and because the world turned the blind eyes on us “Khmer” that close to 3 million innocent victims died at the hands of the Khmer Rouge,” he said.
“While everyone was playing politics, Cambodians prayed that it did not matter who and from where the help would come from, but we wanted to be saved from the Genocidal regime of the Khmer Rouge. The help came in form of the CPP with the assistance of our neighboring country, Vietnam,” Mr Many said.