They sought political support from foreign countries to force Vietnamese volunteer soldiers to leave Cambodia while the newly-founded Cambodian revolutionary forces remained under-equipped and under-trained. They deluded themselves with the hope to recapture the capital city of Phnom Penh and re-erect the genocidal regime.

On February 18, 1979, in Phnom Penh, Prime Minister of Vietnam Pham Van Dong and President Heng Samrin on behalf of the Cambodian Revolutionary People’s Council signed the Agreement on Peace, Friendship and Cooperation. The two sides agreed to provide whole-hearted support for each other in all aspects and by all means, aiming at enhancing the protection of independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and peace of each country.

Under the agreed contents, after the victory, the Party, State, military and people of Vietnam stood shoulder-by-shoulder with peace-loving forces and people of Cambodia to prevent the genocidal regime from resurrection and help reconstruct the country, for peace and stability of the region. This act was in line with international law and in accordance with the will of the Party, State and people of Cambodia, and at the same time showed the great international responsibility of the Party, State and people of Vietnam. All peace-loving people in the world could see and applaud Vietnam’s clear and noble goal.

Archived photo: Vietnamese volunteer soldiers pursuing Pol Pot troops in Cambodia

Thousands of Vietnamese advisors were sent to Cambodia and thousands of volunteer soldiers stayed on to help the revolution and people of Cambodia. From 1979 to 1982, Vietnamese volunteer soldiers helped Cambodian armed forces build up the country’s military power while pursuing the remnants of the Pol Pot forces in the Western and Northwestern border and other areas of Cambodia. Thanks to the support of Vietnam, the Cambodian revolutionary forces gradually grew stronger, and gradually became able to protect the reconstruction and revival of the country, creating grounds for Vietnam to gradually withdraw its volunteer soldiers from Cambodia.

In economic terms, Vietnam helped Cambodian people overcome the severe economic consequences of the Pol Pot regime after its four years in power. Although facing its own difficulties, Vietnam launched campaigns to mobilize food, rice seedlings, medicines, essential commodities, farming tools, and more for Cambodia. Vietnamese volunteer soldiers made use of all vehicles to transport millions of dislocated Cambodian people to their homeland, helped them rebuild houses, schools, clinics and provided them with farming materials to restore production and stabilize life. At the end of 1979, hunger was pushed back, as in some areas of Cambodia people could begin harvesting their own crops.

In terms of health services, Vietnam sent military medical staff and medical experts to support Cambodia to gradually restore its healthcare system, provide medical checkups, and prevent epidemic outbreaks. Vietnam also helped Cambodia reconstruct its education, culture, transport and communications, and monetary sectors. In March 1979, Vietnamese advisors and Cambodian officials started to rebuild the education system. Three months later, in June 1979, there were already more than 320,000 students and 7,000 teachers in Cambodia.

Apart from that, Vietnamese volunteer soldiers and advisors assisted Cambodia to build and revamp the administrative system, unions and organizations and opened training courses for officials at all levels.

During the course of 10 years of implementing the noble international mission in Cambodia, from 1979 to 1989, Vietnamese volunteer soldiers and advisors showed the resolute spirit and wholeheartedness for the revolutionary cause of the Cambodian people. They overcame all hardships to fulfill all assigned duties. Tens of thousands of Vietnamese volunteer soldiers and officials heroically sacrificed their lives while doing the noble international service in Cambodia.

On September 26, 1989, the international media witnessed the last Vietnamese volunteer soldiers withdrawing from Cambodia in the nostalgia of the Cambodian people.

Talking about the huge, timely and impartial support of Vietnam for Cambodia, President of the Cambodian National Assembly Heng Samrin affirmed, “When the people of Cambodia had to suffer numerous miseries, a lot of countries in the world, which often boasted that they were the protectors of justice, human rights and freedom to speech, did nothing to help the Cambodian people escape from this brutal regime. Only Vietnam, under the leadership of the Vietnam Communist Party, voluntarily sent their loved sons to Cambodia to help save our lives right at the time Cambodia was most in need.” Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen also said, “If there were no 7-January victory, there would not be everything we do today. This is the historic truth that no one person or force can sham or destroy.” “Without the support of Vietnam, there would be no Cambodia today, absolutely no…”

Forty years have gone by since the victory on January 7, 1979, and over the time the friendship and cooperation between Vietnam and Cambodia have been ever-fostered by leaders and people of the two countries, bringing substantial benefits to both nations.

The two countries regularly exchange visits at all levels and maintain people-to-people diplomatic activities. Bilateral economic, trade, investment and tourism cooperation has developed vigorously. The two-way trade value has been increasing by 30-40% year on year, reaching USD 3.8 billion in 2017. In the first seven months of last year, the trade turnover stood at USD 2.7 billion, up by 18.7% compared with 2017. At present, Vietnam is Cambodia third biggest trade partner and the fifth largest investor in the country.

Cooperation in the areas of defense, security, education, tourism… has also developed. The Cambodian side has actively supported Vietnam in searching for and repatriating remains of Vietnamese volunteer soldiers and advisors.

In the future, regardless of complicated and unpredictable developments in the world and regional situations, the two peoples of Vietnam and Cambodia will stand side-by-side to fight narrow-minded nationalism, foster and ever-develop the solidarity and traditional friendship and comprehensive cooperation, for the sake of their own people and for peace and development in the region and the world.

Translated by Huu Duong