Cambodia PM Hun Sen: PM Lee's comments 'an insult' to sacrifice of Vietnam's military volunteers

Staff Writer, Singapore
·Editorial Team
Cambodia Prime Minister Hun Sen (left) and Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (PHOTOS: Getty Image)
Cambodia Prime Minister Hun Sen (left) and Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (PHOTOS: Getty Image)

SINGAPORE — Cambodia Prime Minister (PM) Hun Sen has criticised recent comments by Singapore PM Lee Hsien Loong, who had described the 1978-1989 Indochina conflict as an “invasion”.

In a post on his Facebook page on Thursday (6 June), the 66-year-old said that Lee’s comments are “an insult” to the sacrifice of the Vietnamese military volunteers who helped liberate Cambodia from the Khmer Rouge regime under Pol Pot, which ruled the nation from 1975 to 1979.

Lee wrote a Facebook post on 31 May to pay tribute to the late former Thai PM General Prem Tinsulanonda, who passed away on 26 May. He said, among other things, that General Prem was PM in 1978 when the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) opposed “Vietnam’s invasion of Cambodia and the Cambodian government that replaced the Khmer Rouge”.

However, Vietnam and Cambodia have long maintained that the conflict was to “liberate” Cambodians from the massacres carried out by the Khmer Rouge. Up to 3 million Cambodians were estimated to have died under Pol Pot’s brutal rule.

Rebuttal in Facebook post

Hun Sen wrote in his Facebook post, which was translated from Khmer, “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, ‘(General Prem’s) 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.’

“His statement reflects Singapore’s position then in support of the genocidal regime and the wish for its return to Cambodia.”

The long-time Cambodian leader noted that Singapore hosted a tripartite meeting that led to the formation of a Cambodian coalition government. Calling it “an act against the survival of the Cambodian people”, he said Singapore’s actions had prolonged the war and the suffering of Cambodian people for another decade.

Hun Sen added, “His statement is also an insult to the sacrifice of the Vietnamese military volunteers who helped to liberate Cambodia from the genocidal regime. His statement reveals to the Singaporean people and the world that (the) leader of Singapore had indeed contributed to the massacre of Cambodian people.

“Finally, I shall ask whether H.E. Lee Hsien Loong considers the trial of Khmer Rouge leaders legitimate?”

Isolation of Vietnam, Cambodia

Hun Sen was a member of the Khmer Rouge who later left the group and fled to Vietnam. He joined the efforts by the Vietnamese army to overthrow the Khmer Rouge and rose to power in the Cambodian government backed by Hanoi.

Led by Asean, with the support of the United States and China, the international community isolated Vietnam and the Cambodian government during the Indochina conflict.

Asean, Vietnam and Cambodia began mending fences after the end of the conflict. Vietnam joined the grouping in 1995, followed by Cambodia in 1999.

Related stories:

Vietnam's objection to PM Lee's remarks doesn't change past as many view it: Tan Chuan-Jin

Vietnam and Cambodia object to PM Lee’s remarks on conflict against Khmer Rouge as ‘invasion’

Cambodia's Hun Sen says Singapore supported genocide