Vietnamese Troops Spook Kandal Villagers

Some of the villagers were sure they were seeing ghosts, watching the four wooden boats filled with soldiers motor up the Bas­sac river in Saturday’s pre-dawn darkness.

A few who saw the soldiers, who they thought were armed and wearing Vietnamese uniforms, began packing, convinced it was another invasion.

It was no invasion, but that didn’t stem the outrage of residents of Koh Thom and Sa’ang districts in Kandal province, who said Cambodian government officials should have told them Viet­namese soldiers were coming to look for the graves of their compatriots.

For several months, the Cam­bodian and Vietnamese governments have cooperated to allow Vietnamese soldiers to return to Cambodia in search of the re­mains of their fallen comrades.

The Vietnamese government last year acknowledged losing up to 10,000 soldiers in their decade-long operations in Cambodia that began in 1979. Some historians say the number of deaths was closer to 50,000.

Hundreds of Vietnamese re­mains have been sent home by Viet­namese recovery teams in recent months. At least three more bodies were recovered this past weekend.

“The villagers were very surprised and afraid, because we haven’t seen Vietnamese soldiers for many years,” Sa’ang district resident Kim Se said. “Why have they come right now?”

Commune and district chiefs were not informed, which added to the confusion.

“They said they didn’t know, and it made us more surprised and more worried,” one villager said.

The Vietnamese were looking for soldiers who died in the 1979 invasion that drove out the Khmer Rouge, Kandal province deputy police chief Tom Vai said.

Cambodian authorities accompanied the Vietnamese on Sat­urday, so no one should have panicked, Tom Vai said.

That didn’t make many of the Sa’ang district residents feel better. Some of whom ran to their pago­das for shelter because they were convinced another invasion was under way, Kim Se said.

The villagers were overreacting to the spectacle, Sa’ang district Gov­ernor Khem Chankiri said, de­nying the Vietnamese were armed.

“They were not carrying wea­pons,” Khem Chankiri said.“They came only to research and find their own dead soldiers.”

By Saing Soenthrith

the cambodia daily

Some of the villagers were sure they were seeing ghosts, watching the four wooden boats filled with soldiers motor up the Bassac River in Saturday’s pre-dawn darkness.

A few who saw the soldiers, who they thought were armed and wearing Vietnamese uniforms, began packing, convinced it was another invasion.

It was no invasion, but that didn’t stem the outrage of residents of Koh Thom and Sa’ ang districts in Kandal province, who said Cambodian government officials should have told them Vietnamese soldiers were coming to look for the graves of their compatriots.

For several months, the Cambodian and Vietnamese governments have cooperated to allow Vietnamese soldiers to return to Cambodia in search of the remains of their fallen comrades.

The Vietnamese government last year acknowledged losing up to 10,000 soldiers in their decade-long operations in Cambodia that began in 1979. Some historians say the number of deaths was closer to 50,000.

Hundreds of Vietnamese remains have been sent home by Vietnamese recovery teams in recent months. At least three more bodies were recovered this past weekend.

“The villagers were very surprised and afraid, because we haven’t seen Vietnamese soldiers for many years,” Sa’ ang district resident Kim Se said. “Why have they come right now?”

Commune and district chiefs were not informed, which  added to the confusion.  “They said they didn’t know, and it made us more surprised and more worried,” one villager said.

The Vietnamese were looking for soldiers who died in the 1979 invasion that drove out the Khmer Rouge, Kandal province deputy police chief Tom Vai said.

Cambodian authorities accompanied the Vietnamese on Saturday, so no one should have panicked, Tom Vai said.

That didn’t make many of the Sa’ ang district residents feel better. Some of whom ran to their pagodas for shelter because they were convinced another invasion was under way, Kim Se said.

The villagers were overreacting to the spectacle, Sa’ ang district Governor Khem Chankiri said, denying the Vietnamese were armed.

“They were not carrying weapons,” Khem Chankiri said. “They came only to research and find their own dead soldiers.”

 

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