Today, I like to touch on the aftermaths of January 7th, 1979 after 48 days. As you know, in the beginning there was a Declaration of Victory, followed by the Annual Celebrations in the capital of Phnom Penh, and later in the CPP Headquarters in Chamkar Mon, which was the site of the High School of Sangkum Reastr Niyum (former campus of the National School of Agriculture, Forestry, Fishery, and Veterinary). The events marked the successful support of the mighty army of Socialist Republic of Vietnam (SRV) helping the Kampuchean People’s Revolutionary Army in overthrow the army of Democratic Kampuchea (DK) of the Khmer Rouge regime. As we know during the Khmer Rouge regime, the entire population suffered so much with broken families, starvation, homeless, harsh imprisonment, torture, rape, beaten, and killings.
Chum Mey, a prisoner at Tuol Sleng S-21 said he had been formidably sentenced in the way as described above. He did not expect to survive, but only waiting for the day of death. However good luck came with the contingent of Vietnamese liberation army to enter Phnom Penh on January 7th, 1979; he survived; and he thought it was his second birthday. He thanked Vietnam for being rescuer and life saver, and he was so grateful since then. Some Cambodians think it is okay with Chum Mey’s declaration. This is about his deep suffering.
There were large controversy around “January 7th”, which caused heavy arguments, protests, and boycott among friends, family members, and news media. Besides, the SRV claimed that the invasion was based on the ground that the “DK attacked the SRV first.” This justification is just a means to throw hatred to the DK, and at the same time hold friendship firmer with the SRV. The propaganda message enhances the national disunity, as the controversy grows larger. This has been a psychological publicity.
However, majority of Cambodian has expressed that the SRV must not invade the DK in any way. If the SRV was friendly and nice enough, the SRV shall quickly ask or alert the world body, such as the United Nations, to prevent the crime from happening, ever since. Scholars and experts said that Vietnam told the world that it did not intend to invade the Democratic Kampuchea (DK), but to help rescue the Khmer from the killings. This is just a publicity to conceal its bad intention. For clarification, you will see the new development in the period of “48 days”, from January 7th, 1979 to February 18th, 1979.
Since the old time, Vietnamese (Dai Viet) maintain their belief in ancestry; those are “predecessor and follower.” Senior leaders have initiated strategy and tactics; then followers apply them. This system has been found in Cambodia since January 7th, 1979 as follows:
- 1. Military Conquest: The Dai Viet (Vietnam) had used farmer and guerilla forces to expand its territory since the 10th century. Then, Ho Chi Minh gave advice to take care of Indochina left behind by France. Younger leaders had followed the teachings of Ho Chi Minh. Then, January 7th, 1979, the SRV had successfully invaded the DK, and occupied the country until the Paris Peace Conference in 1991.
- 2. Administrative Arrangement: Starting with the establishment of new state of “People’s Republic of Kampuchea” (PRK), with its Kampuchea People’s Revolutionary Army (KPRA) in three echelons. That was organized with the help of the SRV while occupying the country. Administratively, village, commune, districts, and provinces were organized.
- 3. Diplomacy arrangement: -Traditionally, Vietnam has strong skill in diplomacy in Vietnam War. Vietnamese females make deal with person of authority to carry out important task. The SRV’s pro-Soviet-oriented political tactics had the ability to contain China from reaching the Indochinese area, a goal that is similar to that of the United States in Vietnam War’s period. With the same target, the Soviet Union was satisfied with the plan to contain China in Cambodia, and then supported the SRV plan to invade the Pol Pot regime of the DK.
- Legal tactics: – While the new state of People’s Republic of Kampuchea (PRK) was very busy with all kinds of needs, the SRV leadership took the opportunity to prepare a special treaty. That is the first bilateral treaty known as the “Treaty of Peace, Friendship, and Cooperation”, using sweet and attractive words of comfort and great relief. On February 18, 1979, representative of the “People’s Republic of Kampuchea” Heng Samrin was invited to sign the treaty, as counterpart of SRV’s leader Phan Van Dong.
The treaty of “Peace, Friendship, and Cooperation” is the leading treaty that covers any other treaties or agreements in regard to both politics and administration between the SRV (Vietnam) and the PRK. The SRV’s counterpart had introduced the treaty surely had more authority than that of the PRK, who initiated the term of the treaty to 25 years. Upon expiration of the 25-year period, the treaty will continue by itself for every 10 years, unless no other party applies for its termination, one year prior to the end of its last period. Up to 40 years, as the CNRP’s popularity grows much stronger in 2017’s election, Hun Sen was afraid of being a loser. Then, the ruling party CPP Hun Sen has used legal procedure to curb the CNRP’s popularity, starting in 2016, including the arrest of CNRP’s Kem Sokha on September 9, 2017 (3:00AM), and the dissolution of the CNRP on November 16, 2017, etc… Now, the incumbent Prime Minister Hun Sen who has been head of the CPP‘s ruling party has used the national court to serve his own party only. This is a very biased behavior; it not right at all. It is a serious violation of the Cambodian constitution.
In 40 years period of contract (1979 – 2019), great deals of national wealth and public property have been heavily deteriorated, depleted through the application of the treaty of Peace, Friendship, and Cooperation.
Referring to the term and conditions of the Paris Peace Agreements of October 23, 1991 on Cambodia, all bilateral treaties and agreements with the SRV (Vietnam) should have been ended. However, the Chef of Cambodian Government in the period of 1993 to present refused to abolish it. In 2000, in response to then King Norodom Sihanouk’s request, Prime Minister Hun Sen argued that as the relations between the two countries (Cambodia and Vietnam) have been excellent, Cambodia shall not terminate that treaty.
Mr. Hun Sen, who has been in power for 34 years, has been locked in the treaty of February 18, 1979. There are compound problems, and Hun Sen could not get unlocked. As a result, Cambodia has encountered tricky problems with the SRV (Vietnam) regarding big issues, such as territorial integrity, human rights, land concession, and economic issue. The problems of border demarcation have piled up high, and Prime Minister Hun Sen could not find solution. This problem causes social protest from the public, because there is so much phony application of the February 18, 1979 treaty: Cambodia has been “tricked and trapped” in the said treaty.
Recommendations: – First, Prime Minister has held power in Cambodia too long, 34 years. During those years, he has grabbed power in his own hands: “power grab”. Then, he takes totalitarian style that is not compatible with Paris Peace Agreement (PPA). To avoid dangers and chaos leader must respect national and international national treaties, staying on path of democracy with the PPA’s spirit. All leaders must adhere to the oaths of office, and oaths of allegiance to the country.
- Government leaders must terminate the treaty of February 18th, 1979, by sending a request letter to the SRV counterpart right on due dated of February 18th, 2023.
- Generally, Cambodians need to be united on national interest, especially sovereignty, national unity, and human rights issues.
- Up to present day, Cambodia necessary needs a new leader who respects the rule of laws, principle of democracy, and human rights in the current crisis. It is an easy way to live together as Khmer in a bright future.
– Marith Chhang