In fact, the historical truth that the Vietnamese people and army played a decisive role in freeing the Cambodians from the genocidal regime of Pol Pot has always been recognized and appreciated by Cambodian leaders and people during all meetings between the two sides.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen publically asked, “Were there any countries in the world that supported the Cambodian people when we were in very urgent need and helped us liberate from and successfully prevented the genocidal regime of Pol Pot from returning to power?” The Prime Minister himself answered his own question: No countries did, except for the Vietnamese people and army. He stressed that the very Vietnamese volunteer soldiers came to save the nation at a time when the Cambodians were dying and praying Buddha for saving them. So the Vietnamese People’s Army is Buddha’s army.”

Cambodian people bidding farewell to Vietnamese volunteer soldiers in 1989

The Cambodian Prime Minister stated, “Without the event on January 7, 1979, when Vietnam sent its volunteer soldiers to Cambodia to join the Cambodian people and the Kampuchean People’s Revolutionary Armed Forces in the fight against the army of the genocidal regime of Pol Pot, there would have been no today’s Cambodia. Meanwhile, September 26, 1989 marked the Vietnamese volunteer soldiers’ successfully accomplishing their noble international service in Cambodia and returning to their home country.”

Expressing his sincere thanks to the Vietnamese volunteer soldiers for their great losses for the revival of the Cambodian nation, Prime Minister Hun Sen underscored, “If Vietnam had not helped the Cambodian people, no other countries would probably have assisted the Cambodian people in escaping from the genocide!”

During an official visit of Party General Secretary and State President Nguyen Phu Trong to Cambodia in February 2019 and recent visit of President of the Cambodian National Assembly Samdech Heng Samrin to Vietnam in late May 2019, Cambodian leaders all expressed their sincere thanks to Vietnam for its timely, great, valuable support and assistance for Cambodia in the country’s national liberation struggle against the genocidal regime of Pol Pot as well as in its current national development and defense.

Both Vietnamese and Cambodian peoples still remember that the Cambodian national newspaper of Pracheachon published an editorial on September 26, 2019 (the Vietnamese volunteer soldiers returned to their home country on the day), saying that “During the years of the genocidal regime of Pol Pot, when the Cambodians lived in an extreme tragedy, no powerful, rich countries in the world but our poor neighbor of Vietnam came and saved our lives.”

According to renowned Australian professor Carlyle Thayer, at that time, a large number of officers of the genocidal regime, including officer Hun Sen (the current Cambodian Prime Minister), who had realized Pol Pot’s genocidal policy and attempts, broke away from the genocidal army, and fled to Vietnam to seek Vietnam’s support and gathered in anti-Pol Pot forces to salvage their nation. He affirmed that without Vietnam’s support and assistance, today’s Kingdom and State of Cambodia might not exist.

The Canberra Times on March 19, 1989, noted that all had to admit that Vietnam’s sending its volunteer troops to Cambodia had brought about clear fruitful results in Cambodia. The arrival of the Vietnamese volunteer troops was welcomed by Cambodian people everywhere and regarded by local people as a good gesture. And few did not understand that the presence of the Vietnamese volunteer soldiers in Cambodia had successfully prevented remnants of Pol Pot’s defeated army from returning to power in the country.

Doctor Chhay Yi Heang, advisor to the Royal Cambodian Government, said, “The genocidal regime of Pol Pot is the enemy of not only the Cambodians but also all human beings. The support and assistance of the Vietnamese people, government and army for the Cambodian people in escaping from the genocidal tragedy and reviving the nation were a clear, noble and just cause in the 20th century.”

Paul Millar at the Cambodia-based Southeast Asia Globe Magazine published a moving article after meeting with Vietnamese war veterans engaging in battles along Vietnam’s Southern border and in Cambodia, writing that all Vietnamese volunteer soldiers were still very young but they heroically fought Pol Pot’s genocidal army to save their nation as well as the Cambodians. In his article, the reporter also told various stories about the close alliance of Vietnamese volunteer soldiers and Cambodian revolutionary troops and people in the fight against Pol Pot’s army as well as clear pieces of evidence of the genocidal crime committed by the Pol Pot regime. The article affirmed the good deed and sacrifice of the Vietnamese volunteer soldiers in Cambodia and the importance of the presence of the Vietnamese volunteer soldiers in the country until 1989.

The article also mentioned a special live witness – Advisor to the Cambodian Ministerial Council Sin Khin, born in Svay Rieng province bordering Vietnam, who eye-witnessed the brutality of the genocidal regime of Pol Pot. Under the genocidal regime of Pol Pot, Sin Khin had to experience hard labor for 15 months. He was lucky to be saved by Vietnamese volunteer soldiers when they came to his camp and defeated Pol Pol’s army there.

The article cited the historical witness as follows: He recalled, “Vietnamese volunteer soldiers gave me some bread when they saw me starving.” He went on to say, “I feel the collapse of the genocidal regime of Pol Pot when Vietnamese volunteer soldiers and Cambodian revolutionary troops came in. I was happy. All Cambodians were happy.” “…Many of us voluntarily joined the Kampuchean People’s Revolutionary Armed Forces. We, Cambodian troops, and Vietnamese volunteer soldiers fought side by side against Pol Pot’s troops. Vietnamese volunteer soldiers always fought the enemy in the frontier and undertook the most difficult and dangerous tasks.”

To conclude his article, Paul Millar wrote, Vietnam returned all Vietnamese volunteer soldiers to their home country in 1989 after they had successfully fulfilled their noble international mission of saving the Cambodian people from genocide, as well as strengthened the Cambodian revolutionary government and rebuilt the country.

Translated by Thu Nguyen