A tribute to Vietnam’s ‘Buddha’s army’ that fought and died for Cambodians

‘It was when Cambodians were closest to death that volunteer Vietnamese soldiers came as if in answer to our prayers to the Buddha’

Cambodian students give flowers to Vietnamese soldiers on a truck heading back to Vietnam in this file photo.

As Cambodia commemorates on Saturday its liberation from the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime, it is fitting to pay tribute to volunteer Vietnamese soldiers who came to the Cambodian people’s rescue when help was most needed.

When Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen visited the southern Vietnamese province of Dong Nai on January 2, 2012 to inaugurate a historical relic commemorating Division 125, the predecessor of the Kampuchean United Front for National Salvation (FUNSK) which fought to topple the Khmer Rouge regime, he dubbed Vietnamese soldiers who helped Cambodia “the Buddha’s army.”

“We may have asked if any country in the world would lend a hand to help the Cambodian people from the grip of Pol Pot’s genocidal regime and prevent them from ever coming back,” Hun Sen said. “The answer was the Vietnamese people and soldiers!”

“We Cambodians believe that only the Buddha would care to help the most miserable and desperate of men. It was when Cambodians were closest to death that volunteer Vietnamese soldiers came as if in answer to our prayers to the Buddha,” the Cambodian premier said. “Vietnamese soldiers were indeed the Buddha’s army.”

A year later, in a visit to Vietnam in December 2013, Hun Sen continued to stress how tens of thousands of Vietnamese lives were lost in Cambodia in the fight for the liberation of the Cambodian people from the Khmer Rouge. “That is unforgettable,” he said.

During the brutal rule of the China-backed genocidal Khmer Rouge regime from 1975 to 1979, nearly three million Cambodian civilians were killed, according to Chairman of Cambodia’s lawmaking National Assembly Samdech Heng Samrin.

With the help from volunteer Vietnamese soldiers, Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper pays tribute to those soldiers who shed their sweat and blood on Cambodian soil with the following file photos.

Vietnamese troops depart for home in 1989 after ten years of helping the Cambodian people rebuild their country.

Cambodian girls say goodbye to Vietnamese soldiers.

Volunteer Vietnamese soldiers

A Vietnamese soldier (L) sits for a meal with a Cambodian family.

A Cambodian woman cries as she bids farewell to Vietnamese soldiers.

A group of Vietnamese volunteers transport ammo to the battlefront during the war against the Khmer Rouge regime.

Young recruits tend the graves of Vietnamese soldiers who died in the war against the Khmer Rouge regime.

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