HE Nguyen Tan Dung, Prime Minister of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, and Madame,
HE Le Kha Phieu, Former Secretary General of the Communist Party of Vietnam,
HE Le Duc Anh, Former President of the State Council of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, and Madame,
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
First of all my wife and I, the whole Cambodian delegation too, would like to express our deep gratitude to the Party, Government, Army and people of Vietnam, for the very warm hospitality. We specially thank Prime Minister HE Nguyen Tan Dung and Madame, HE Le Kha Phieu, HE Le Duc Anh and other leaders for taking time from their busy schedules to join with us to celebrate the anniversary of the January 7 victory and the commemorative service for the Cambodian veterans who fell for the cause of national and people’s revival through the victory on January 7, 1979, and to inaugurate historical site, and the residential area where the Cambodian patriots stayed and when the time is ripe returned to Cambodia to join with other forces to establish the United Front for National Salvation of Kampuchea on December 2, 1978 in the district of Snuol, Kratie province. It is the armed force of the United Front for National Salvation of Kampuchea, together with the Vietnamese voluntary army, who attacked and ousted the Pol Pot genocidal regime on January 7, 1979 – and was an important force of the Cambodian People’s Party, the Royal Government and people of Cambodia in national defense and development to the present.
I would like to thank leaders of the Royal Government, the National Assembly, the Senate and the Cambodian army for taking part in the celebrations and would seek an understanding from those leasers – whether used to be and never used to stay here – for not being able to come because of their busy work schedule in the country.
I would like to take this opportune moment to express my sincere thanks to the Party, Government, army and people of Vietnam, especially the military region 7 and the province of Dong Nai, for keeping pieces of land for the peaceful rests of 49 Cambodian soldiers from 33 years ago, whom we could not bring their remains to Cambodia because we could not discover their family identities. At the same moment, I would like to express my sincere thanks to efforts to help us build this memorial monument as an historical demonstration for generations to come.
In just five days time the people of Cambodia will celebrate the 33rd anniversary of the day when the country was liberated from the genocidal regime of Pol Pot, January 7, 1979 – January 7, 2012. Before talking about our joyous day after 33 years that the country was liberated and brought to revival, please allow me to recall taking-shape history of the armed forces of the United Front for National Salvation of Kampuchea in this major mobilized force area.
First of all it is essential to affirm that after the liberation on April 17, 1975, a regime of genocide took place in the whole country, where people were slaughtered, evacuated from urban to rural areas, ownerships were deprived; there were no schools, no markets, no money transactions, and people were forced to work and eat in a collective way, while seriously suffering day after day from torture and killing.
With danger hanging above the Cambodian nation and people, I personally had no other choices, except two. Firstly, to stand up and rebel against the regime of Pol Pot using some 2,000-strong force under my command to break in and occupy the district of Memot of Kompong Cham and the district of Snuol of Kratie as our armed resistant bases. I could sense, however, that it would be a dangerous option as such resistance could not last more than a month before it would be quelled in blood bath by the Pol Pot’s forces. Secondly, I must withdraw and escape to Vietnam to seek for assistance to organize national liberation resistance movement because then I got the information that a good number of Cambodian people had taken refuge in Vietnam.
Though the second option sounded better, still there were concerns of other risks as well because Pol Pot’s army had opened attacks on Vietnam in certain regions already. So many questions haunted in my head. Could I die from mines or clashes with the Vietnamese border guards? Would I be jailed for entering Vietnam illegally? Would Vietnam believe what I was going to tell them and would they agree to offer me assistance, while Vietnam still has diplomatic relations with the Democratic Kampuchea? And the last question was whether it was possible that Vietnam arrested and sent me back to Pol Pot. This brought me to a decision to bring along twelve needles for suicidal commitment in case the last question appeared to be true.
In tears and suffering, I left my five-month pregnant wife and native country at 21:00 hours on June 20, 1977 to trade my life, with four other cadres, for the national liberation resistance. We arrived at the border with Vietnam and crossed into Vietnam at 2 am on June 21, 1977. At around 14:00 hours on the same day we arrived at the village of Hoa Lu and met with the village militia and people. After some probes, the villagers of Hoa Lu cooked us rice. It was the first time in over one year that we had rice to eat as in Cambodia we had only porridge. On the night of June 21, 1977, we were sent to Loc Ninh and on the night of June 22, 1977, we were sent to the provincial town of Song Be.
Though we crossed the border illegally, and the Vietnamese side had no way to find out yet if our intention were good or otherwise, while Pol Pot considered Vietnam first enemy, and attacked and killed the Vietnamese people, Vietnam did not consider us their enemy. We were not cuffed, tied or chained. They did not even conduct search on our bodies or sacks. They never insulted or used strong terms on us. On the contrary, they offered us food, mosquito nets and blankets, mats, pillows, dresses, tobaccos, medicines irrespective of us being a different nationality, and wandering illegally into their territory. Though they could not verify yet if we were came in good intention or otherwise, they showed their humanism and respect human rights that I would consider it a model country that is different from Pol Pot and his people who secretly intruded into Vietnam to arrest the people, who worked along the border for interrogation and torture before killing them.
Issues that the Vietnamese side, from lower to higher authorities, wished to know was information on Cambodian politics, military, socio-economics from local to national level. That was corresponding to the wish I had about informing the Vietnamese leadership to know of dangers that had been happening in Cambodia, threatening not only Cambodian people’s lives but also security and territorial integrity of Vietnam. I did not show weariness in providing information whether in form of questioning or evaluation of the situation, in form of consultation between myself and the Vietnamese leaders of all levels because, knowing full well that only Vietnam could help the Cambodian people, I wanted the Vietnamese leaders to understand the Cambodian situation.
Aside from meeting and discussing several days with military leaders, majors and generals, on the night of July 8, 1977, I myself wrote two copies of the report and sent them to the Vietnamese leaders. On July 9, 1077, I wrote a letter to the Vietnamese leaders and I think they could have kept it as an historical document.
Our efforts were not in vain because the senior leaders of Vietnam, after reading my reports and letter, on September 27, 1977, allowed me to meet in Ho Chi Minh city with General Van Tien Dung, member of Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Vietnam and Chief of General Staff of the People’s Army of Vietnam for two hours and forty minutes – from 08:00 to 10:40. During the meeting he told me he already read my report and opinion. My meeting with General Van Tien Dung was very important for advancement of the Cambodian national cause. Though there was not yet particular solution but he said to me that I was very young, I had a bright future and had to keep secret so that my family would be safe and continue to keep abreast with the situation and studying. He finally said: “wish comrade good health and have confidence in the future.”
The recommendations and wishes of HE Van Tien Dung gave me hope to go on. Our problem now is timing. The Vietnamese leaders better understood the atrocity committed by the Pol Pot’s clique on Vietnamese people, especially in Tay Ninh province, where so many people were wounded and killed. The attacks by the Pol Pot’s clique upon the Vietnamese people were getting worse every day. Vietnam had been forced to return with the self-defense attack. It was at that time that I had the chance to return to Memot to look for my wife and child. It was in December 1977. Unfortunately, I could not find them and was not aware of any clue if they were dead or alive. I did not meet with my wife and child but I met with many people. I asked Vietnam to allow those people to take refuge in Vietnam. With the Vietnamese approval, the number of people taking refuge in Vietnam increased to tens of thousands, who mostly were people from Kompong Cham, Prey Veng and Svay Rieng provinces. They became a source of the armed forces development afterward.
In between December 1977 and January and/or February 1978, the Vietnamese friend allowed cadres who escaped to Vietnam to come and work with me. That enabled me to return to Cambodia briefly in March 1978 to review the situation.
What brought me to tears of excitement was when I and HE Meas Huon met in early April with General Tran Van Tra, commander and chief political commissar of the military region 7 in his commanding headquarters. HE Tran Van Tra told me and HE Meas Huon of the Vietnamese leaders’ decision to help Cambodian comrades build the armed forces for national liberation in which Vietnam helped train the soldiers, provided weapons and logistics, and the Cambodian comrades would be responsible for political leadership. That was what I was waiting for since when I arrived in Vietnam. It was the response to my request as well as those of other Cambodian people taking refuge in Vietnam and to the heartfelt aspiration of the whole Cambodian people, demanding for the people staying in Vietnam and creating condition for all resistance forces who had taken refuge to Vietnam to meet and strengthen the armed forces to carry out the national liberation resistance against the Pol Pot’s regime.
The gold and diamond opportunity has arrived for the advancement for national liberation. This heavy burden fell on a 26 years old and one-eyed man – Hun Sen.
It was a new mission and we had to fulfill whether it was heavy or light for the sake of Cambodian nation and people. We started writing documents to educate our armed forces on politics, ideology, organization and discipline, etc. With own efforts and all forms of assistance provided from Vietnam, we came to establishing an armed forces that was known officially as “the Kampuchean United Armed for Forces National Salvation” on May 12, 1978. We also set up the army command commission codenamed 578 in May 1978, for which I, Hun Sen, was the chief commander and chief political commissar, HE Nuch Than, second in command in charge of politics, HE Hem Samin, second in command in charge of logistics and finance. We established the first military unit 125 on May 12, with some 200 soldiers under the Leadership of HE Nhek Huon.
After the one-month training, the unit was divided in two, which the first had 12 squads, each consisted of between ten and fifteen soldiers conducting armed operation inside the country. The rest was called to Long Giao so as to join with the establishments of other military units. We later created battalion 246 on June 24 under the leadership of HE Nhek Huon and battalion 207 on July 20 under the leadership of HE Uong Phan and battalion 15 under the leadership of HE Nuch Than. The creations of the army units and the regenerated numbers in order brought us to twenty one battalion of men force, one battalion of women force, and 100 groups of armed operation. Placing under direct command were political commissars, logistics and finance, one regiment of special force, one regiment of medical force and a unit of traditional and modern artistic performance.
Moving speedily in the creation of these forces brought us to encountering with so many hardships on lack of human resources to fill in command posts at battalion, company and regiment. Aside from military officers and low-level officers selected from various other places for training by the Vietnamese, we opted for efforts to select and promote soldiers who had previous training to take command posts of new military units or groups, battalions, etc. We also sent 202 cadres for military officers training in the Ba Ria School for Military Officers so that after graduating they became leaders of the companies and regiments. We also opened a medical school in Long Giao to train our medical staff.
As we were building armed forces here, dispatching them inside the country and creating the armed forces at the Cambodian-Vietnamese border, we received exciting news of the rebellion of the army and people in the eastern zone of Cambodia under the leadership of Samdech Heng Samrin and Samdech Chea Sim. That brought about a chance for us to join hands together in fighting to occupy the district of Memot, the district of Snuol and various other villages along the border with Vietnam from the province of Kratie down to the provinces of Kompong Cham, Prey Veng and Svay Rieng, especially certain districts of Kompong Cham on the eastern side of the Mekong River since mid 1978.
The situation developed very fast. We only had armed forces but without political leadership organization. I urged the Vietnamese friends to allow me to meet with Samdech Heng Samrin and Samdech Chea Sim as well as leaders from other areas so as to unify our forces and create a political leadership organization for resistance forces.
On the evening of November 7, 1978, HE Le Duc Anh, commander and chief political commissar of the military region 7, who was the main actor in helping us build the armed forces, invited seven of us for a dinner in Ho Chi Minh City. HE Le Duc Anh told me on that night: “tomorrow (November 8, 1978) comrades would meet with HE Le Duc Tho, member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of Vietnam.” It was pleasant news that went well with the delicious food, wine and cigarette. I was taking all necessary preparations that very night for a discussion on tasks to be fulfilled in the time to come.
It was for the whole morning of November 8, 1978, all my seven leaders discussed and exchanged in frankness with the Vietnamese strategist HE Le Duc Tho. It was with that discussion that I had the feeling that Cambodia would be liberated soon.
On November 22, 1978, an historic moment happened. It was the meeting of all four resistance forces, out of five different groups met. The fifth group under the leadership of HE Say Phu Thang and HE Tia Banh could not reveal identity as their forces were on foreign territory. It was then that I lived and worked with other Cambodian leaders such as Samdech Heng Samrin and Samdech Chea Sim. We met day and night to organize political platform for the United Front for National Salvation of Kampuchea, a name corresponding to the Kampuchean United Armed Force for National Salvation, to make it easier to remember as well as to refrain from changing the way we call our armed forces in light of forthcoming establishment of the political organization.
Eight leaders from the four resistance movements, two for each of them, were assigned to organize political platform of the United Front for National Salvation of Kampuchea for the Front’s congress to adopt within four days from 27 through to 30 November, 1978. The Front finally made its official appearance on December 2, 1978 in the liberation zone of Snuol district in Kratie province. Samdech Heng Samrin, President of the Front, offered the Front’s banner to General Kien Savuth, then Commander of battalion 2 and currently Deputy Chief Commander of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces.
With successive assistance from Vietnamese voluntary army, on 7 January 1979, the Front’s army liberated Cambodia from the regime of Pol Pot’s genocide, in which the armed forces who were formed here took active participation in the fight and serving the fight, and in building local authorities, mass movements and helped people to solve their living needs. Through fighting, along with building our forces, the armed forces then grew to a new level of progress that we were able to spread our forces out to almost every provinces all over the country, except the province of Koh Kong, Ratanakiri and Mondulkiri, where there were already forces under the leaderships of HE Say Phu Thong, HE Tia Banh, HE Bun My, HE Bou Thang and HE Soeuy Keo.
Up to four battalions were dispatched for Phnom Penh, two battalions for the province of Kompong Cham as it is a big province and one battalion each for other province. These battalions are the bases for the construction of our armed forces at the regional level and regular forces such as division 196, 286, 179, 4, 5 and 6, etc. They also served as bases for the creation of other services – ground, navy and air forces, as well as other skilled forces such as tank, artillery, anti-aircraft, engineering, logistics, finance, etc. Some officers joined in civil institutions such as education, finance, trade, agriculture, industry, foreign affairs, etc. and later became ministers, vice ministers, secretaries of state, under-secretaries of state, ambassadors, members of the National Assembly, the Senate, governors and deputy governors of cities/provinces and some have been and are still in line of command and leadership of the army, military police and police.
I have talked a lot about the formation of the Kampuchean United Armed Force for National Salvation which is a crucial part in the national liberation movement from the Pol Pot’s regime. This is part of the unforgettable memory that the younger generations – both Cambodia and Vietnam – must be aware of.
I would like to take this opportune moment to express my sincere thanks to the Party, Government, and people of Vietnam as a whole, and especially HE Le Kha Phieu, HE Le Duc Anh, HE Tam Quang, Ba Kung, Ba Hen, Chau Ba and other Vietnamese leaders for sharing with us hardships and happiness and also provided us with assistance so that we have all that we have today. It has been an invaluable seed for Cambodia over the past 33 years. I would like to take this chance to seek forgiveness and understanding from the Vietnamese people who live along this region and other areas where we resided or crossed through for any wrongdoings that we might have in that time. We all bow in deep respect to the souls of the Vietnamese cadres and soldiers who died in the fight and would like to send our blessings to all who survived but could not take the time to join this ceremony.
My wife and I and all Cambodian guests would like to give our respect to the souls of all 49 soldiers who have rested in these tombs as well as those who are either dead or missing in action for the noble cause of national liberation. We all remember you always and promise with you that we will make further efforts to build the country into a prosperous one and foster faithful solidarity relations between Cambodia and Vietnam. We are determined to prevent return of the darkness of the past from reappearing in our country.
Finally, I would like to thank once again HE Nguyen Tan Dung and Madame, HE Le Duc Anh, HE Le Kha Phieu and other leaders for taking your time to attend this ceremony and to make it possible. Let’s wish for a long lasting friendship between Cambodia and Vietnam, good health and successes in all tasks./.