The People’s Army Newspaper would like to present former Party General Secretary Le Kha Phieu’s report in English.

40 years ago, the Vietnamese armed forces and people won the Southwestern border protection war against the Pol Pot forces, and together with the revolutionary Cambodian armed forces and people overthrew the genocidal regime in Cambodia (January 7, 1979). With this historic victory, Vietnamese troops and people defeated the invading Pol Pot forces, on the one hand to protect the national territorial integrity, and on the other hand to save the Cambodian people from the most savage genocidal regime in human history so that the country could then revive. As time passed by, historical events became clearer; we can once again proudly affirm that the war in Vietnam’s Southwestern border was a self-defense war, and the Vietnam-Cambodia joint struggle for the righteous cause symbolized the clear and faithful solidarity in combat between the Vietnamese people and Cambodian people.

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Shortly after the victory on April 17, 1975, the Pol Pot-Ieng Sary gang in Cambodia, took advantage of the revolutionary results, betraying the Cambodian people. They established the so-called “The Democratic Kampuchea,” exercised genocide, massacre, internal cleansing, killing millions of innocent people, destroying hundreds of thousands of schools, hospitals, and temples, to name but a few. Pol Pot's brutal policy towards dissidents was, “If it is needed to kill one more million people, kill them; an innocent person would rather be killed than leave an enemy; if a person goes to the forest to join the revolutionary forces, three generations of his family will be killed.” The revolutionary patriotic forces in Cambodia faced a very difficult situation, as Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen later said, “We have nothing but empty hands and are waiting for death.”

For Vietnam, the Pol Pot-Ieng Sary gang distorted history, incited national hatred, launched a war of aggression against Vietnam in the Southwestern border, infringing upon Vietnam's independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity and causing bloody crimes against innocent people. They trampled on the good values of the traditional friendship between the two countries, two peoples of Vietnam and Cambodia. They set out the so-called “new way of fighting,” defining, “The war against Vietnam is long-term. We should first wage the war, not to win it. We just need to kill a few dozens of Vietnamese people each day, a few thousands each month, a few tens of thousands each year, so we can win the war in 10-20 years. We can sacrifice one soldier to kill 30 Vietnamese and then need to sacrifice 2 million Cambodians to kill all 60 million Vietnamese,” the Le Monde (France) on January 8, 1978, cited Pol Pot’s announcement on Radio Phnom Penh.

In an attempt to realize that reactionary thought, as soon as South Vietnam was liberated, the Pol Pot-Ieng Sary gang sent troops to occupy Vietnam’s Phu Quoc (May 3, 1975) and Tho Chu islands (May 10, 1975). They then repeatedly encroached on many areas of Vietnam along the borderline from Ha Tien to Tay Ninh provinces in an extensive and intensive manner. The Pol Pot forces conducted many massacres against Vietnamese civilians, including the massacre in Ba Chuc commune (An Giang). Today, the Ba Chuc tomb house relics still showcases 1,159 skeletons of innocent Vietnamese people killed by Pol Pot troops, which can serve as an indictment, a testimony of intolerable crimes of the Pol Pot-Ieng Sary gang.

The Pol Pot-Ieng Sary force's actions clearly demonstrated their plots and acts of aggression and invasion, which cannot be justified. Although at that time Vietnam had the right to repay and be able to completely defeat the invaders to protect its national independence and sovereignty and its people, from the traditional solidarity and friendship between the two peoples and respect for independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Cambodia, the Party and the State of Vietnam retrained itself from resorting to the use of force and sought to save peace, repeatedly proposed negotiations to resolve disagreements. However, with their reactionary and hostile nature, supported by foreign reactionary forces, the Pol Pot-Ieng Sary gang rejected all Vietnamese goodwill, even intensified their border encroachment and destruction in Vietnam’s territory. In that case, the Party and the Government of Vietnam had no other choices but exercised its right of self-defense [in line with Article 51 of the UN Charter] to expel the invaders and protect the people and sacred territorial sovereignty of the country.

With the effective assistance of Vietnam and efforts to build the revolutionary forces of a number of officers, on 12 May 1978, the Kampuchean Solidarity and National Salvation Armed Forces, the predecessor of the Kampuchean Revolutionary People’s Armed Forces, were formed. On December 2, 1978, the Kampuchean United Front for National Salvation was officially founded. Those events marked the turning point of the Cambodian revolution.

On December 23, 1978, the Democratic Kampuchea led by Pol Pot mobilized 10 out of 19 divisions to position along the shared border and opened a general offensive on the entire Southwestern border of Vietnam. They again committed brutal crimes against innocent Vietnamese people. To protect the country's sovereignty, from December 23, 1978, the Vietnam People's Army opened a total counter-attack on Pol Pot-Ieng Sary invading troops along the whole borderline.

After exercising the right to self-defense, smashing Pol Pot-Ieng Sary's aggression, firmly protecting the Fatherland's territorial sovereignty, at the request of the Kampuchean United Front for National Salvation to save Cambodia and its people, Vietnam sent volunteer soldiers to join the revolutionary Cambodian Armed Forces in fighting Pol Pot troops, saving the nation from genocide, restoring peace and rebuilding the country. After years of living in the dark of genocide, the Cambodian people with great joy welcomed the arrival of Vietnamese volunteer troops. Many Cambodians considered it a miracle, taking them to life from the hell, and they all called the Vietnamese soldiers “Buddha's Army” or “Army of Buddha.”

The noble international mission, in which Vietnamese volunteer soldiers joined the Cambodian revolutionary forces to overthrow the genocidal regime of Pol Pot-Ieng Sary, should never be referred to an “act of aggression” like what hostile forces misinterpreted. In fact, what Vietnam did in Cambodia stemmed from the solidarity, friendship, long-term attachment between the peoples of the two neighboring countries, from the goodwill and empathy of a peace-loving nation, who had suffered from the tragedy of war, and also from President Ho Chi Minh’s viewpoint in international relations, which reads “To help friends is to help oneself.” Another fact is that Vietnam sent volunteer troops to Cambodia following an appeal for help of the Kampuchean United Front for National Salvation, the representative of the Cambodian people to save the country from the extreme tragedy of corruption, misery and genocide. In this case, Vietnam’s assistance must be seen as a very noble and absolutely righteous act.

The good deeds and sacrifices of Vietnamese volunteer soldiers in Cambodia have indeed been praised and honored by the Cambodian people. Chhay Yi Heang, Advisor to the Royal Government of Cambodia, wrote, “The Pol Pot genocidal regime is not only an enemy of the Cambodian people, but also an enemy of humanity. That the Vietnamese people, Government and Volunteer Soldiers saved the Cambodian people from the genocide of Pol Pot and revive the nation is a noble and brilliant cause in the 20th century.”

Written by former Party General Secretary Le Kha Phieu

Translated by Thu Nguyen