HÀ NỘI — Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Phạm Bình Minh yesterday held a telephone conversation with Singaporean Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan over controversial remarks made by Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong regarding Việt Nam’s war with Cambodia in the 1970s-80s.
During the talks, held at the request of the Singaporean side, the minister affirmed his country attaches great importance to the strategic partnership with Việt Nam and explained the context of the remarks, saying they are not meant to hurt Việt Nam and Cambodia.
Deputy PM, Minister Minh stressed that the remarks had caused a negative response, especially in the context that the Cambodian people recently celebrated the 40th anniversary of their liberation from the genocidal Pol Pot regime and the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) issued a verdict on the crime against humanity committed by the Khmer Rouge, making fair restitution to the victims and their families, a ruling that was welcomed by the international community and the United Nations.
The Vietnamese deputy PM affirmed that the justice and the huge contributions and sacrifices by the volunteer Vietnamese troops, who were described by the Cambodians as “Buddha’s army”, saved Cambodia from a bloody genocide and contributed to peace, stability and development of the region.
Minh also asked Singapore to make proper adjustment to the statement.
The two agreed to continue the close cooperation so as to consolidate and develop Việt Nam-Singapore relations as well as to strengthen the solidarity and unity of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
Singaporean PM Lee’s remarks, which twice refer to the Vietnamese military assistance to Cambodia in the Khmer Rouge-era as an “invasion” and an “occupation” at the 18th Shangri-La Dialogue and on his Facebook post expressing condolences to the late Thai premier Prem Tinsulanonda, drew ire from both Việt Nam and Cambodia.
Prime Minister of Cambodia Samdech Hun Sen last night took to Facebook to air his indignation over Singaporean PM Lee Hsien Loong’s statement on his Facebook page last night.
“I deeply regret to learn of the Facebook post of H.E. Lee Hsien Loong, Prime Minister of Singapore, on 31 May expressing his condolences on the passing of General Prem Tinsulanonda in which he said ‘His [General Prem’s] time as PM coincided with the ASEAN members (then five of us) coming together to oppose Việt Nam’s invasion of Cambodia and the Cambodian government that replaced the Khmer Rouge...’,” Hun Sen wrote.
“His statement reflects Singapore’s position then in support of the genocidal regime and the wish for its return to Cambodia,” the Cambodian PM said, recalling that Singapore was the host of the tripartite meeting that led to the formation of the coalition government of the Democratic Kampuchea, which had prolonged the war and the suffering of the Cambodian people for another 10 years.
“It’s an act against the survival of the Cambodian people. His statement is also an insult to the sacrifice of the Vietnamese military volunteers who helped to liberate Cambodia from the genocidal regime. His statement reveals to the Singaporean people and the world that leaders of Singapore had indeed contributed to the massacre of Cambodian people,” he added.
“Finally, I shall ask whether H.E. Lee Hsien Loong considers the trial of the Khmer Rouge leaders legitimate?” the PM concluded.
Earlier, Cambodian Deputy PM and Defence Minister Tea Banh, President of the Union of Youth Federations and National Assembly member Hun Many, and many scholars and analysts in Phnom Penh also rebuked PM Lee Hsien Loong for his statement. — VNS