According to Pha, after the joint victory of the Vietnamese and Cambodian revolutionary armed forces over the Pol Pot genocidal regime on January 7, 1979, the Vietnamese Party Central Committee’s delegation of advisors (Committee B68 in short) and Mission 478 of the military advisors had many busy days helping Cambodia build its armed forces and political system and recover its economy. His B68 Committee was assigned to help Cambodia transfer its People’s Party Central Committee to Phnom Penh and the Party Civil Affairs Committee to its provinces.

Vice President of the Central Committee of the Vietnam-Cambodia Friendship Association Trinh Vinh Pha (left) and Cambodian Deputy Defense Minister Chhaixangdun on March, 2019

Pha recalled that a fortnight after the victory, members of B68 Committee arrived in Phnom Penh. Knowing the urgency and importance of the mission, all members of the committee exerted all-out efforts to effectively complete the task. Everyone worked so hard that they did not realize the Lunar New Year was coming. 

Two weeks before the Lunar New Year Festival (Tet), Pha returned to Vietnam for a business trip and took a visit to Chief of the General Staff of the Kampuchean Revolutionary People's Armed Forces Soi Keo who was under treatment at a hospital in Ho Chi Minh City. After learning that his friend was worried that his Vietnamese wife and children would not have enough traditional Vietnamese food for Tet in Cambodia, Pha rushed to a local market to buy sticky rice, mung bean, dried bamboo shoots, wood ear mushrooms, mushrooms, pepper, onion, garlic, B’lao tea, and sugar-coated fruits as gifts for Soi Keo’s family.

According to the committee’s regulations at the time, on the Lunar New Year, each expert and serving staff were provided with half of a chung cake (traditional Vietnamese rice cake), three packets of Vam Co cigarettes, and some candies and sugar-coated fruit. Due to the difficult conditions, all members of the committee had sorghum seeds and fish paste for all three days of the Lunar New Year Festival instead of traditional food.

Vice President of the Central Committee of the Vietnam-Cambodia Friendship Association Trinh Vinh Pha recalled that learning about the difficult situation of the committee, his old unit’s leaders decided to present two bags of rice and 10kg of canned meat to help the team have a happier New Year’s holiday. 

On the Lunar New Year’s holiday, Deputy Defense Minister and Head of Committee 68 Major General Hoang The Thien led a mission of advisors to visit and extend New Year’s greetings to volunteer troops and advisors in Siem Riep, Battambang, and Kampong Speu provinces. During the trip, the mission had a chance to learn more about the hardships and sacrifices of Vietnamese volunteer troops and advisors in Cambodia’s localities as well as their determination to fulfil their assigned missions. 

After having a New Year’s Eve party with advisors in Siem Reap, the mission left the province to encourage volunteer troops in Battambang. At dusk and due to a dangerous road, the mission decided to stay overnight at a unit of Vietnamese troops. In spite of facing difficulties and inadequate food and facilities, the unit treated the mission well. Everyone was impressed by the hospitality of the unit’s troops. 

On the occasion, the mission also visited and extended New Year’s greetings to Vietnamese volunteer troops and military advisors along the Cambodia-Thailand borderline. Even though they were carrying out missions in a strange country, all Vietnamese troops showed their firm stance and determination to fulfil their assigned missions. 

After one year of working in Cambodia, Committee B68’s members figured out measures to help Cambodia strengthen its political system and raise its capabilities to safeguard the nation and revive the economy. “We had a sound policy that helped the Cambodian people recover their country,” said Vice President of the Central Committee of the Vietnam-Cambodia Friendship Association Trinh Vinh Pha.

Translated by Tran Hoai