Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his Cambodian counterpart Hun Sen have agreed to cease revisiting past issues in the spirit of preserving diplomatic relations between the two nations at this year’s Asean Summit, which took place in Bangkok last weekend.
The prime ministers’ move took place in the aftermath of the diplomatic rift surrounding Mr Lee’s remarks regarding the “invasion” of Cambodia by the Vietnamese military in its bid to oust the Khmer Rouge regime in 1979, which invited criticisms from Cambodia’s Defence Minister Tea Banh and Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc.
Khmer Times reported Cambodia’s Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn as saying that both Prime Ministers view the tensions as “a nightmare in a bilateral relationship”, as both Singapore and Cambodia have had “good” ties “since the beginning”.
Cambodia, according to Mr Sokhonn, was also the first country to recognise Singapore’s independence after the island republic’s separation from Malaysia.
“Both leaders recognised there are differing views on events that happened in the past and none can correct things that happened in the past,” said Mr Sokhonn, who had participated in talks with his Singaporean counterpart Vivian Balakrishnan at the summit over the issue.
“However, it is very important that we consider the past as an ‘old wound’ and do not scratch it and make it painful,” he added.
Speaking to reporters at the summit on Sun (23 Jun), Mr Lee revealed that he had discussed the issue with Mr Hun Sen and Mr Phuc.
The Straits Times reported him as saying: “I stated my position and explained why I had spoken about the period of the Cambodian war and Singapore’s perspective on the matter. He explained forthrightly Vietnam’s position on this matter.
“He [Hun Sen] had the same view that ‘you are not going to convince me of your perspective, I am not going to convince you of my perspective, but we should move forward’.
“I think we have a mutual understanding. It is helpful for us to understand where each other stands, rather than to gloss over and pretend that there is no issue whatsoever,” he added.
Reuters previously reported Mr Hun Sen as saying earlier this month that Mr Lee’s statement “reflects Singapore’s position then in support of the genocidal regime and the wish for its return to Cambodia”, adding that Singapore “had indeed contributed to the massacre of the Cambodian people”.