In the face of the tension, the General Staff of the Vietnam People’s Army attached Division 341 of Army Corps 4 to Military Region 9, ready for combat. All units along the whole borderline heightened vigilance and stayed in active defensive to support the Party’s and State’s activities in the political and diplomatic fronts.

On February 5, 1978, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam announced to cease all military activities and withdraw its troops five kilometers from the borderline, while getting ready to hold and sign a non-invasion and border agreement with Cambodia and striving to find an appropriate method to ensure international norms and supervision.

Despite Vietnam’s goodwill, the Pol Pot regime continued to maneuver troops to and invaded a number of border areas of Vietnam. Vietnam’s troops resolutely fought back and recaptured the occupied land.

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From March 26, 1978, Vietnam’s troops shifted from defensive to offensive operations, pushing back the enemy and forcing them to counter in a passive way. The resolute actions of Vietnam in military, political and diplomatic fronts placed the Pol Pot regime in a difficulty and largely impacted the genocidal regime’s internal political situation, while supporting the uprising of the Cambodian people and wearing out part of Pol Pot forces. The revolutionary forces of Cambodia gathered and established various bases, initially shaping a united leadership.

On June 15, 1978, the Politburo and the Central Military Commission of Vietnam discussed the invasion war of Pol Pot troops and the tension in the Southwestern border of Vietnam. High consensus was then reached to resolutely and proactively push back the enemy by all forces and on all scales, attacking the enemy both inside and outside the territory of Vietnam to wear out their forces.

After the uprising of the Cambodian revolutionary forces in the Eastern Military Region on May 26, 1978, the Pol Pot regime conducted internal cleansing fiercely and at the same time responded to the growth of the Cambodian revolutionary forces. To support the Cambodian revolutionary forces and create a firm foundation for Vietnamese forces, from June 14 to September 30, 1978, Army Corps 3, Army Corps 4, two divisions of Military Region 5 and two divisions of Military Region 7 opened major attacks along Roads No.1 and No.7, areas adjacent to the borderline of the Vietnamese Southwestern province of Tay Ninh and the extended Road No.19 in order to destroy an important part of the enemy’s forces.

Surprise attacks of the Vietnamese troops caused Pol Pot troops major losses. The offensive promptly supported the Cambodian revolutionary forces in the Eastern Military Region and forced Pol Pot troops to passively resist in both the border areas and inside the country. In important areas, uprising forces built bases and relied on locals to develop. Vietnamese and Cambodian revolutionary forces then wiped out six Pol Pot divisions, largely wore out regular forces of the Pol Pot regime and pushed almost all Pol Pot troops out of the territory of Vietnam.

From May to November 1978, Vietnam helped the Cambodian revolutionary forces set up 15 battalions, build the organizational structures for five battalions, 24 working missions and Party cells, ready to establish the united front for national salvation and its leadership. With the support of Vietnam, on December 2, 1978, in the liberated areas of Chong Th’nu commune, Snuol district of Kratie province (Cambodia), the Kampuchean United Front for National Salvation came into being, with a strong determination to overthrow the Pol Pot genocidal regime, establish a democratic political system of the people, affirm solidarity with Vietnam and people of the world, and call on governments and international organizations to provide support for the legitimate struggle of the Cambodian people.

Learning that Pol Pot troops intended to expand their invasion of Vietnam, on December 6 and 7, 1978, the Politburo and the Central Military Commission approved a strategic attack and counter-attack plan with the aim of completing the national protection war in the Southwestern border and supporting the Cambodian revolutionary forces to overthrow the genocidal regime.

The Pol Pot genocidal regime, on realizing Vietnam’s intention, gathered most of its military forces along the borderline with Vietnam, leaving areas in its back empty. On December 23, 1978, 10 out of 19 divisions of Pol Pot opened fire along the shared Southwestern borderline with Vietnam.

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In response to the invasion by Pol Pot troops and answering the call for help from the Kampuchean United Front for National Salvation, on December 23, 1978, volunteer soldiers of Vietnam and Cambodian revolutionary armed forces opened general counter-attack and offensive operations along the whole borderline. On December 26, 1978, the outer defensive line of the Pol Pot force was breached. By December 31, 1978, Vietnamese troops and people had completed the operations and recaptured all areas occupied previously by Pol Pot troops. On January 2, 1979, three major regular groups of Pol Pot troops, consisting of five divisions each, were neutralized. On January 5-6, 1979, Vietnamese volunteer soldiers and forces of the Kampuchean United Front for National Salvation started the general offensive operations on Phnom Penh. Two days later, on January 7, 1979, Phnom Penh was completely liberated. On January 8, 1979, the Cambodian Revolutionary People’s Council was formed and issued an announcement on the total abolishment of the Pol Pot genocidal regime and the establishment of the People’s Republic of Kampuchea, which was soon recognized by Vietnam and various other countries. On January 17, 1979, the whole Cambodia was liberated. Most of the Pol Pot forces were destroyed and disintegrated; the rest fled to forests in the Western and Northwestern regions of Cambodia. 

From December 23, 1978 to January 17, 1979, Vietnamese volunteer soldiers and Cambodian revolutionary forces destroyed and disintegrated 18 Pol Pot divisions, killing 12,000 enemy troops, capturing alive 8,800 others and calling on 3,200 Pol Pot troops to surrender, disintegrating 44,000 troops, saving more than four million Cambodians from the genocidal regime, breaking down the whole political system of Pol Pot from the central to the local levels.

In general, during the three years of war, Pol Pot troops killed and captured more than 30,000 Vietnamese civilians, making 400,000 Vietnamese people homeless and burning down thousands of houses, schools, pagodas… in border communes of Vietnam.

The victory over the Pol Pot genocidal regime was of great significance, as it once more reaffirmed Vietnam’s strong will to foil any plots aiming to sabotage the independence, self-resilience, national unity and international solidarity of Vietnam. The country resolutely protected its national sovereignty and territorial integrity while fostering the traditional relationship between the Vietnamese Party, State, military and people and the Cambodian people.

The victory is also historically-significant, as it ended the Pol Pot genocidal regime, helped establish the People’s Republic of Kampuchea, and saved the Cambodian people from the genocide.

The great victory on January 7, 1979 was the joint victory of the Vietnamese and Cambodian people, showing the power of international solidarity and the two countries’ faithfulness. The victory opened a new era for the Vietnam-Cambodia relations to develop, contributing to the maintenance of peace and stability in the Southeast Asian region and the world.

(to be continued)

Translated by Huu Duong