A recent statement by Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong accusing Vietnam of 'invading' Cambodia to overthrow the Khmer Rouge in 1979 is “an insult to the sacrifice of Vietnamese military volunteers” who helped liberate Cambodia from the genocidal regime, according to remarks posted by Cambodian premier Hun Sen to Facebook on Thursday.
In a Facebook post uploaded on May 31, PM Lee declared late Thai premier Prem Tinsulanonda’s time as PM “coincided with the ASEAN members (then five of us) coming together to oppose Vietnam’s invasion of Cambodia and the Cambodian government that replaced the Khmer Rouge.”
He had made the same statement in a speech at the Shangri-La Dialogue earlier the same day in Singapore, in the presence of defense officials from the U.S., China, Vietnam, Cambodia, and other countries.
ASEAN, or the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, was founded in 1967 by Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand.
“His [PM Lee’s] statement reflects Singapore’s position then in support of the genocidal regime and the wish for its return to Cambodia,” Cambodian PM Hun Sen wrote on his verified Facebook page late Thursday in both Khmer and English.
The post continued stating that “His [PM Lee’s] statement is also an insult to the sacrifice of the Vietnamese military volunteers who helped to liberate Cambodia from the genocidal regime.”
|A screen grab of a June 6, 2019 Facebook post by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen responding to his Singaporean counterpart Lee Hsien Loong’s May 31 remarks|
PM Lee wrote in his Facebook post that the ASEAN founding members worked together to “oppose the Vietnamese occupation in international forums,” which “prevented the military invasion and regime change from being legitimized.”
“His [PM Lee’s] statement reveals to the Singaporean people and the world that leader [sic] of Singapore indeed contributed to the massacre of Cambodian people,” Hun Sen said in the social media post.
"I should ask whether H.E. Lee Hsien Loong considers the trial of Khmer Rouge leaders legitimate.”
At least 1.7 million people died from starvation, torture, execution, and slave-like labor during the rule of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia from 1975 to 1979, according to the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC).
Khmer Rouge leaders are guilty of “crimes against humanity," the ECCC said in a verdict issued on November 16, 2018.
|Former Khmer Rouge leaders stand trial at a court in Cambodia in 2018. Photo: Reuters|
A joint military operation by the Cambodian People’s Party with assistance from Vietnamese military volunteers helped liberate Cambodia from the regime’s rule in 1979.
“We still consider them [Vietnamese military volunteers] as saviors – this means a lot for us,” Cambodian Defense Minister and Deputy PM Tea Banh said on Monday.
“We are grateful for what [Vietnam] did to help us,” he added.
Cambodia's foreign ministry said in an official statement released on Friday that "Singapore was the host of the tripartite meeting that led to the formation of the coalition government of the Democratic Kampuchea, which had prolonged the war and the suffering of Cambodian people for another 10 years."
“It was an act against the survival of the Cambodian people,” the statement reads.
|An official statement released by the Cambodian foreign ministry concerning Singaporean PM Lee Hsien Loong's remarks on Vietnam's 'invasion of Cambodia'|
Vietnam has expressed its “regret” that the Singaporean premier's remarks “do not objectively reflect the historical truth" and have caused negative impacts on public opinions, foreign ministry spokesperson Le Thi Thu Hang said in a statement sent to the press on Tuesday.
Vietnamese officials also wired a diplomatic note to the Singaporean Embassy in Hanoi concerning PM Lee’s statement, Hang said at a press briefing on Thursday.
“I believe that Singapore fully understands Vietnam’s message,” she told reporters in the Vietnamese capital.
|Vietnamese foreign ministry spokesperson Le Thi Thu Hang at a press briefing in Hanoi on June 6, 2019. Photo: Nhat Dang / Tuoi Tre News|