Opinion: Vietnamese Meddling Helped The Khmer Rouge Take Power

In “PM Nixes Ban on Dual-National Party Leaders” (January 8), you also exposed the lingering controversy surrounding the historical and political meaning for Cambodia of the January 7, 1979 event: liberation from the Khmer Rouge, or invasion and occupation of our country by the Vietnamese army, or both?


On this specific point I have a clarification to make.

My interpretation of the event did not—as you wrote—“resuscitate an old trope espoused by the remaining Khmer Rouge in the years after their downfall, claiming that much of the death under their regime were driven by Vietnamese agents.”

In fact, when I wrote on my Facebook page, “If there were no communist Vietnamese in the first place there would be no Khmer Rouge either,” I only referred to the historical fact that, immediately after the March 18, 1970 coup by General Lon Nol, the communist Vietnamese—made up of North Vietnamese regular troops and Viet Cong guerrillas—invaded Cambodia, dealing severe blows to Lon Nol’s army and giving the fledgling Khmer Rouge a decisive boost without which the latter would not have been able to seize power in Cambodia five years later.

Until the spring of 1975, both the communist Vietnamese and the Khmer Rouge jointly fought to “liberate” their countries from the “American imperialists” and their “puppets.” They were brothers in arms, and the simultaneous collapse of the pro-U.S. regimes in Vietnam and Cambodia was their common victory from a historical and geopolitical perspective.

Therefore, given the relative sizes of the two groups, it does make sense to assert that, without the initial and crucial support from the communist Vietnamese in the context of the Vietnam War, the Khmer Rouge would not have been able to come to power and to commit their crimes.

Sam Rainsy is president of the opposition CNRP.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Cambodia Daily.

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