Cambodia's Defence Minister General Tea Banh speaking to reporters at the Phnom Penh International Airport on Mon (3 Jun 2019). Source: General Tea Banh/Facebook

Cambodia’s Defence Minister, CPP lawmaker rebut PM Lee’s Vietnamese “invasion” remark

Cambodia’s Defence Minister Tea Banh and Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) legislator Hun Many have both openly rebutted Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s remarks regarding the “invasion” of Cambodia by the Vietnamese military in its bid to oust the Khmer Rouge regime in 1979.

Khmer Times reported General Banh as saying to the media upon arriving at the Phnom Penh International Airport on Mon (3 Jun) that he has made a request to his Singaporean counterpart, Ng Eng Hen, to notify Mr Lee to amend his statement earlier, as the prime minister’s remark “was not true and not reflective of the history [of the event]”.

“We cannot accept what he said. We have already clarified that Vietnamese volunteer troops came to liberate our people.

“We still consider that they came to save our people’s lives. It has been enormously meaningful for us,” Gen Banh was reported by Khmer Times as saying.

“It is not true at all because he said that Vietnamese troops invaded Cambodia. We want him to make a correction.”

General Banh raised the issue with Dr Ng at the 18th Asia Security Summit’s IISS Shangri-La Dialogue 2019 in Singapore last weekend.

Vietnam assisted CPP in saving Cambodians from the genocidal Khmer Rouge: CPP lawmaker Hun Many

Mr Many echoed General Banh’s sentiments, saying that Vietnam, contrary to the “invasion” claim made by Mr Lee, had instead assisted the CPP in overthrowing Khmer Rouge.

“While everyone was playing politics, Cambodians prayed that it did not matter who and from where the help would come from, but we wanted to be saved from the genocidal regime of the Khmer Rouge.

“The help came in form of the CPP with the assistance of our neighbouring country, Vietnam,” Mr Many told Khmer Times.

“Whether it was a realist geopolitical or national interest perspective of the moment, one should not overlook nor forget the atrocities and crimes against humanity, especially the genocide committed by the Khmer Rouge regime,” he added.

Former Thai PM General Prem Tinsulanonda worked together with other ASEAN Member States against Vietnam’s “invasion” of Cambodia: PM Lee Hsien Loong

In the wake of former Thai PM and President of the Privy Council Prem Tinsulanonda’s passing, Mr Lee said in a Facebook post on 31 May that he had written to Thai PM and junta leader Prayut Chan-o-Cha to express his condolences.

Calling the late General Tinsulanonda a “capable and immensely respected leader”, Mr Lee said that the General’s leadership “coincided with the ASEAN members coming together to oppose Vietnam’s invasion of Cambodia and the Cambodian government that replaced the Khmer Rouge”.

“Thailand was on the frontline, facing Vietnamese forces across its border with Cambodia,” wrote Mr Lee.

“General Prem was resolute in not accepting this fait accompli, and worked with ASEAN partners to oppose the Vietnamese occupation in international forums. This prevented the military invasion and regime change from being legitimised,” he added.