Defence Minister General Tea Banh yesterday renewed criticism over the use of the word invasion when describing the Vietnamese liberation of Cambodia in the 1970s and 80s, calling those who use the word unforgivable.
Earlier this month, Gen Banh criticised Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong for using the word invasion during a security summit in the island nation, which Gen Banh was attending.
Gen Banh renewed his criticism over the use of the word yesterday during the 42nd anniversary of the Commemoration Day of the Historical Journey Leading to the Overthrow of Pol Pot’s Genocide Regime, where thousands of citizens were in attendance.
“Someone who does not know the real story said we were invaded by Vietnam,” he said. “For this accusation, we cannot forgive them […] because it was not a reflection of real history and the term is not just.”
“I was really dissatisfied because some people continue to say that Vietnamese troops invaded Cambodia,” Gen Banh added. “Actually, they came to liberate us.”
He said that Vietnamese troops came to intervene after a request by Mr Hun Sen and his allies.
“Are we living in a prison without walls? Are we appealing for someone to help us?” Gen Banh said. “Is January 7 [Victory Day] our second birthday?”
“The people who are against [Victory Day] always refer to Vietnamese troops as invaders, but most people living recognise the truth and express gratitude towards Vietnamese volunteer troops who came to rescue our nation and people,” he added.
Mr Hun Sen on Facebook yesterday said he used his “life as capital” when he crossed the Vietnamese border to seek assistance from Vietnam.
“June 20, 2019, is the 42nd anniversary of the day I made a painful decision to use my life as capital in the struggle to liberate Cambodians from Pol Pot’s genocidal regime,” he said. “Even though my people and I are living in peace now, I have never forgotten the million tear drops when I departed my motherland, leaving behind suffering Cambodian people […] and my pregnant wife.”
“I had no choice except that one because we could not ask for mercy from Pol Pot,” Mr Hun Sen added. “The dangerous and tearful choice has brought us peace and development until today.”
Mr Lee was not the only person who has used the word. Former opposition leader Sam Rainsy has also used the word in the past to rally his base.
Former opposition lawmaker Ou Chanrath yesterday said June 20 is a day of remembrance for those who struggled to liberate the Kingdom.
“I think of history issues and it always has value for those who struggled,” Mr Chanrath said. “But I don’t support [Gen Banh’s] statement that anyone who continues to use the word invaders when describing Vietnamese troops cannot be forgiven.”
“Some academics believe it was an invasion and the ones who struggled believe it was liberation,” he added.