As I am now at page 29 of the 65 pages speech, I think it is important for me to clarify for you what I mean by “three solutions with three aspects.”
At that time (of searching for a political solution for the Cambodian problem) we have studied the situation (of the State of Cambodia’s strength) that the Vietnamese soldiers would be completely withdrawn from Cambodia by 1989.
I have written that clearly in my book of “Ten Years of Cambodia’s March.” I am so glad that HE Aun Poan Munirath, in his Ph D thesis in the former Soviet Union, has based his analysis using arguments that I have listed in my book.
In fact, I have concluded that there was going to be an entire political solution owing to the fact that taking internal and international aspects of the problem would bring about at least three solutions:
a) a complete settlement of the issue in both internal and international aspects at the same time;
b) a solution in which the international aspect of the issue would be achieved first and then the internal aspects would be there after, and
c) there would not be any political solution, about which at least there would not be any more accusations of Vietnamese troops being present in Cambodia, prompting the Cambodian issue to be resolved itself.
Why did we come to this conclusion that the Vietnamese troops in Cambodia could be completely withdrawn?
To be exact, already in 1982, we had partially withdrawn the Vietnamese troops from Cambodia. The reason is, if I am not mistaken, the army of the State of Cambodia, formerly the People’s Republic of Kampuchea, had grown stronger.
The brigades of 196 and 286 had already been founded, whereas the battalion 179 was about to be formed up. We had three brigades — each with almost 10,000 soldiers whereas its combined transport means was almost the same number of what we have for one brigade at the present. Cambodia had gradually grown up, while Vietnam was reducing its size of voluntary troops.
In 1985 there was a meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the three countries – Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, and also I maintained my position of Foreign Minister, while I already became the Prime Minister.
The Foreign Minister of Vietnam, HE Nguyen Co Thach and I announced that the Vietnamese troops in Cambodia will phase out completely between 5 to ten years. Vietnam had the need to fix its economy and Cambodia also had to build up its forces. Cambodia had achieved a remarkable force building at the time.
Our troops reached 160,000 plus 40,000 policemen, which made it 200,000. We also had at time another 240,000 strong militia. These figures brought us to a conclusion that we were able to take over the job by then. This should help us secure internal aspect of the Cambodian issue.
There had been peace talk (some times many rounds) between Sihanouk and Hun Sen at Fere-en-Tardenois, Saint-Germain-en-Laye which were followed by JIM I (Jakarta Informal Meeting) and JIM II. I may disclosed a secret that I had made a covert contact with the former Thai Chief of General Staff – HE Chaovalit Yungchaiyuth in Vientiane, at the facilitation and organization provided by HE Sisovath Keo Bunphan, former Prime Minister of Laos. The person initiated such a meeting was HE Kaisan Phumviharn.
The meeting was so important that it opened the way for my visit to Thailand at the invitation of the late Prime Minister Chartichai Chunhavan – which many reporters said it was a shaking visit to Bangkok. About 400 men were to provide me with security and there were many reporters and it was reported in the Thai media that “the famous has come.” I have by then enhanced a neutralization of the Thai armed forces and Government, since when I had a meeting with HE Chaovalit Yongchaiyuth in Vientiane.
As well known to everyone, no other forces except Thailand, who provided shelters, could put pressure on the Tripartite Coalition. We have made a good use of the situation. We had taken a strong position based on our calculation that the Vietnamese troops would be completely withdrawn from Cambodia within five to ten years.
As it was announced in 1985, the timetable of ten years would have brought us to 1995. Now you see here that there is a mixture between internal and internal aspects of the issue, whereas the neutralization to a certain extent of the Thai army’s involvement and Government brought about a condition in which pulling out of the Vietnamese troops was possible and allowing me to declare in Paris whether or not there was going to be a political solution, and the Vietnamese troops would be pulled out of Cambodia by September 30, 1989.
That had brought us to comprehend another fact why I did not stay in Paris while I attended the first Paris conference, which lasted about a month. I told the French representative who posed me a question why I did not stay that “I am the incumbent Prime Minister, I could not forgo my duty for too long.”
In fact I came back in order to get ourselves prepared for the withdrawal of the Vietnamese troops from Cambodia. I traveled around Tonle Sap (lake) to check on the armed forces and their preparedness as it would be critical for such a withdrawal of the Vietnamese troops to happen.
A common duty had been clear but there was that need to go into detail as to figure out each and everyone’s duty after the withdrawal.
In addition to my responsibility to oversee the whole situation, I was also given the task to look after military region 4 and 5, which were the frontline regions. Samdech Chea Sim and Samdech Heng Samrin took care of military region 2 and 3 respectively. Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk said on June 2 and 4, 1991, that Khieu Samphan promised that “once the Vietnamese troops are completely withdrawn, Your Excellency’s Government would fall in no time.”
Reviewing his statement at the Paris Conference, Kheiu Samphan said: “once the Vietnamese troops are out completely, the Hun Sen’s Government would be blown away like a sheet of paper.”
It was not a coincidence when my delegation traveled from Bangkok to Jakarta in a plane that was also carrying the delegations of Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk and of Khieu Samphan. When the plane was somewhere near Singapore, the protocol of Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk approached me and told that “HM would like to invite Your Excellency for a meal.” I thanked her.
Once we arrived at Jakarta, the French and Indonesian representatives, who co-hosted the event, asked a rhetorical question that “Have you heard there seems to be a high level dining tomorrow?”
It was in that high-level dining that Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk told me a truth that he was waiting for the Khmer Rouge’s promise of toppling the Hun Sen’s Government. He went on to say that not that they could topple the Government of Hun Sen but Excellency had fought and taken back almost all their (occupied) land.
It was at that dining event that I offered to the then Neak Mneang Monineath Sihanouk if she wished to return her mother’s remains back to Phnom Penh. Samdech Preah Norodom then said “No, I also will go with Your Excellency.” At that time we had our country name changed already from People’s Republic of Kampuchea to the State of Cambodia, so did our flag and national symbol.
On June 4, there was another round of meeting, which clarified every detail. Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk decided to walk off the tripartite coalition.
Samdech Preah Norodom decided to return and would like to keep Samdech Heng Samrin as the Head of State, Samdech Chea Sim as the President of the National Assembly and I as the Prime Minister, but also to propose an establishment of the National Presidium Committee, in which Samdech would chair the committee, whereas I am the Prime Minister and would be second in it.
The work to fix the Royal Palace was indeed so fast. The whole thing was not a secret anymore once I reached Bangkok.
Anand Pannharachun, Suchenda Kraprayun, Kasarn Kasemsri, etc. flocked to see me and probed me in their words that they heard that Samdech Sihanouk would return to the country.
I said “Yes, he would.” They seemed undecided and said “returning is good but what would happen to the groups of Khmer Rouge and Son San?” I replied “that I would not know.”
We can see that the decision made by Samdech Preah Norodom Sohanouk was so powerful in propelling the situation. If they (the Khmer Rouge and Son San factions) do not agree with this decision, it would be up to them, as Samdech Preah Norodom already decided to return.
When it was first launched, the Supreme National Council did not have in its list the name of Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk but his representative Chao Sen Kosal. To get out of political saga, there needs to be a change from Samdech Chao Sen Kosal back to Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk. By the time the State of Cambodia’s value had increased.
Prior to this the State of Cambodia proposed to establish a Council of National Reconciliation, of which Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk had been proposed to be its Head with three Deputy Heads – Hun Sen, Khieu Samphan and Son San. The proposition was dismissed.
In light of eventual withdrawal of the Vietnamese troops from Cambodia, the tripartite seemed to have degraded the State of Cambodia’s value (strength) to nil and believed that there is no room for the State of Cambodia to bargain in political settlement.
We had then proposed to the Chairman of the meetings in Pattaya and Beijing, Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk, to take note of its bargaining chip – either 2+2+2 (two from State of Cambodia, two from the Khmer Rouge, and 2 from Son San faction) or 6+6 formula.
I refused the proposition to choose the thirteenth person as the President of the Supreme National Council.
As to the reason raised by Foreign Minsiter of Indonesia Ali Alatas of any consequences that could arise if in case Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk denies being in the composition of the Supreme National Council (SNC), we have accepted for that time being the listing of Samdech Chao Sen Kosal with a clause written that if the SNC sees the necessity for a thirteenth person to be its President …
All happened in a meeting at Beijing before meeting with Anand Pannharachun …
I sounded out my concern to Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk at that time about the Khmer Rouge’s faction denial of a ceasefire and reception of foreign assistance.
Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk then said they must be forced to do it. In the meeting between SNC and the Thai Cabinet, Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk told the Thai Cabinet that “we have agreed on a ceasefire.”
As we stepped out of the meeting, reporters threw in questions “whether the ceasefire also includes the Khmer Rouge faction.” Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk delegated the question to Khieu Samphan, who said “we follow.”
It is indeed a strong pressure on all factions to compete or else the State of Cambodia would go sky high. In his capacity as Chairman of the meeting in Pattaya and Beijing, Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk allowed me on my call to see him tete-á-tete.
Before leaving for the closed door discussion, Samdech said “I will see HE Hun Sen because after the meeting in Beijing, he would go on to North Korea’s Pyungyang as my guest.”
Once we were in the meeting, Samdech asked me if I had any issue to discuss. I said to Samdech “I think we should go with the selection of the Head of SNC.”
Reasoning that choosing Samdech Preah Norodom as the Head of SNC, and I being the second person, would be unacceptable by the Phnom Penh’s faction which is stronger by the day, I proposed three formulas to Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk:
1) a co-chairmanship between Samdech Preah Norodom and me;
2) a rotating chairmanship in which each members would take turn to chair the Council; and
3) Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk would chair the Council on the condition that Samdech would stay neutral and no longer represent the tripartite coalition and President of Funcinpec.
Samdech then said in return that “no, when I become the President I will be above everyone and am not affiliated to anyone.”
Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk then went on to instruct me to compose a declaration. Our process to compose the declaration at that time was a painstaking one. We did not use computer but typewriter.
After the text was drafted it had been intended for delivering to Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk at his residence in Beijing the following day but HE Chem Vidhya who had been assigned to deliver the letter got it to Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk thereof and it was signed right on that day. That was how thing had evolved.
I also take this opportune moment to recall a mistake, a serious one that the State of Cambodia had made in the military field.
HE Ke Kim Yan and HE Pol Saroen could remember also it. It caused us a severe damage to the military forces in Pailin – Brigades 196 and 95, and we then reshuffle the military leaders in which Hul Savoan was transferred to military region 5 and Long Sopheap to military region 4.
The mistake was in fact our strategy to stand the same ground that was under the control when Vietnam was with us. Once the withdrawal was complete, it was on Projum Ben Day, the tripartite launched assault.
After being told by HE Yim Chai Ly, then Minister of Health, that the coalition forces had attacked Banteay Mean Chey, I checked the map and it was certain that Thmor Puok had gone and I lost contact with Sisophon too.
It was because the battery was flat. Once the contact restored we came to the knowledge that so and so number of coalition forces had been arrested. Svay Chek had gone too at a later stage.
After the loss at Pailin, all of us who had stayed to keep abreast with the situation, except Samdech Chea Sim, who had to go back for rest at night, decided to reorganize our defense strategy by which Brigade 4 in Samloat was ordered to destroy weapons and tanks and move their forces to hold on to Treng.
Brigade 6 in Malai had to do the same and moved to station in Bovel, whereas the Brigade 179 had to concentrate in defending Sisophon, while 286 at Samraong Chongkal was to stay where they were.
It was in such a fragile situation that Kheiu Samphan had the courage to affirm with Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk that once the Vietnamese are out the Phnom Penh government would be melting.
We then had changed our strategy from holding on to a vast area to incapacitating their forces by opening up for intrusion, to which forces and arms had been mobilized and concentrated for targeted intrusion.
This had us indeed regained upper hand. (Captured) senior military officers — one from of KPNLF — did not know I was present in one of their interrogations and I asked about their military tactics like if the troop was defeated, what had been the instruction to withdraw them to or through?
He told me that there no such an instruction as they were told that they would get the victory.
Then Yim Chai Ly got me on radio communication again and told me about situation in Phnom Srok, where they took a great number of hostages between 300 and 400, despite of which I found it was hard to believe.
I told Samdech Krom Preah at Pattaya that as far as the 400 troops were concerned, they would be well taken care of and they would be released.
In the event that I had to sign, with Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk, the agreement to establish the Supreme National Council (SNC), from a hotel in Bangkok I radioed to our forces to get hold of Svai Chek before 15:00 hours and it was then taken by 14:00 hours.
HE Ke Kim Yan was then stationing at Banteay Mean Chey and I had come to visit from where I had a photo taken … holding on to triggering BM 21 (a kind of Soviet-made weapon with multiple canons).
BM 21 was acquired and forces were trained to use it in Longvek, Kompong Chhnang province.
They were purchased at that time to help with our strategy to neutralize the Khmer Rouge forces. Ee Chhean (former Khmer Rouge military strategist and currently Mayor of Pailin) was clever to have his troops dispersed so that BM 21 could not cause them damages.
They instead had been used to push out the Son San’s faction forces as their troops were sent in large number.
Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk, having noticed the situation and its development, decided to return to the country, thereby pressuring the concerned parties, especially the Khmer Rouge, to soften their positions resulting in negotiations for a political settlement that was reached in 1991.
As we approached October 23, I raised this matter today and I would warn people not to misinterpret the history. I am the one with so many partners in this process for peace so I am the one with the most facts on Cambodian issue. My partners are Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk and the late HE Son San. I did not negotiate with the Khmer Rouge.
In 1987, Mikhail Gorbachev, then the former Soviet leader, suggested that I should. He recommended that we should establish the triangular negotiation, from which he thought the negotiation between Hun Sen and Sihanouk could be a helpful pressure (for SoC side) should there be a direct negotiation between Hun Sen and the Khmer Rouge …
I hinted to Samdech Heng Samrin not to respond. On our way down, in the lift, I said to him that negotiation with the Khmer Rouge would be very dangerous.
Some of the historical facts have been quite mysterious. Take for instance, the Son San faction led by HE Son San himself asked me not to fight his troops.
I said that would be fine but he had to promise me not to cooperate with the Khmer Rouge and he had to give us the map of his military positions so that an eventual fighting with his troops could be averted.
I have so many negotiation partners – the US, Australia, Japan, France, Thailand, etc. which indeed resulted in I am the one who has the most facts and documents. I am waiting for the time to come so that I will compose them up. It is not the time yet.
I ask for an apology for having to mention some of the facts that are relating to Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk in this story telling. There is no other way to do when talking about history.
Some who were secretary at the time has now claimed a founder status and some during the cause of negotiation had challenged to continue a fight. I had a good response to such a move. It is a good thing because I would be only 57 if we continue to fight for twenty more years.
The response had silenced the person. That is how to conduct and engage in the war of words. If one decides to get involved, one has to be ready not to get angry. If one knows that anger is one’s weak point, one should not get to play with it.
History is history. I have my career as a soldier but turned out to be a negotiator, who in the last stage has ended the war through a concept of win-win policy.
If the country was not liberated in 1979, you may have listened to Duch’s hearing, everyone was to get killed. Vorn Vet was killed and so was Sor Phim (both were senior Khmer Rouge’s cadres).
Group after group would get to this fate. Look in 1997 Son Sen was slaughtered because Pol Pot suspected him to be Hun Sen’s spy, who, in his interview that was broadcast in some TV stations, confirmed his thought that Son Sen was Hun Sen’s spy.
How could I be so powerful that my spy was the Khmer Rouge’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defense?
There was an attempt to negotiate with the Khmer Rouge’s Khieu Samphan by Samdech Krom Preah at that time. HE Nhek Bun Chai was the one to lead the negotiation with Tep Khunnal.
The agreement was signed one one side by Khieu Samphan and Samdech Krom Preah on the other. Both HE Nhek Bun Chai and Tep Khunna are alive, so what had brought about armed clashes in Phnom Penh (July 1997) could be verified.
Why else do I need to fight? You could imagine that I would not choose to fight, but victory must be guaranteed if I had to.
This morning I saw in the Phnom Penh Post a plea that calls on Samdech Chea Sim, Samdech Heng Samrin, HE Keat Chhon, HE Hor Namhong, HE Sim Ka, HE Uk Bun Choen, who to my first impression, are the plaintiffs, the ones who toppled the Pol Pot regime and adopted the law to bring the Khmer Rouge to justice, to be witnesses for the defendants …
How could that be justice guaranteed? It is the court procedure, I have nothing to with it but if they, who are plaintiffs, to act as witnesses in this case, what would happen to the defendants?
That is about enough of the political speech. Having looked through the prepared speech, I could sense that most has been derived from my book “Ten Years of Cambodia’s March”, which is in fact an important base that records our way of getting the country on track.
Aside from this there is this “Thirteen Decades of Cambodia’s March”… I have an intention to go on writing another one “Thirty Years of Cambodia’s Journey.”
I may tell you all that I had to undertake reform under three pressuring conditions.
Firstly, there was clearly a lack of internal understanding of what could be a peace negotiation, a market economy … At that very moment fingers pointed at each other between China and the former Soviet Union for being revisionist.
Secondly, the Vietnamese troops were still present in Cambodia when I started on the path of reform and while Vietnam was not yet preparing for this. However, I would like to make clear with all foreign experts that Vietnamese experts’ mission was to defend the Cambodian people from falling again into Pol Pot’s hand, whereas deciding on political and economic issues is our rights.
In the present it is on the contrary, because the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF) and so and so country have put too much pressure on me to take their orders, more than when I was with the Vietnamese. But we had more rights and more independence. I have mentioned a couple of times in closed door meetings but today I am taking it out in the open. Despite the Vietnamese presence in Cambodia, we were able to start reform before Vietnam.
Thirdly, foreign assistance from the former Soviet Union and the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (CMEA) started to dry and as you can see how the former Soviet Union had intervened in Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Mongolia, Afghanistan …◉