Forty years have elapsed since the Pol Pot genocidal regime was overthrown on January 7, 1979, and generations of Cambodian people have since been keeping in their mind the day as a most important historical moment of the nation. Cambodia and its people have rebuilt the country from the ashes to achieve national reconciliation, national concord, socio-economic development, political stability, and integration into regional and international communities.
Pol Pot genocidal regime – a brutal genocidal regime
On April 17, 1975, Cambodia successfully finished its resistance against the US. However, when the Cambodian people were yet to have time to celebrate the victory did the country fall into a genocidal tragedy innitiated by the Pol Pot genocidal regime gang under the leadership of Pol Pot, Ieng Sary and Khieu Samphan, who drove the Cambodian nation to the brink of extinction.
Holding power in only 3 years, 8 months and 20 days from 1975-1979, yet the genocidal regime turned Cambodia into a hell on earth with its brutal policy of forced labour, torture and murder. Killing fields and mass graves were everywhere, and schools and pagodas turned into prisons detaining millions of innocent people. More than 3 million innocent Cambodians were killed, the Cambodian nation driven to the danger of extinction, and hundreds of thousands others forced to flee their homeland to seek refuge in Vietnam.
Not only pursuing the genocide policy in Cambodia and betraying the revolultionary cause of the Cambodian people, the Pol Pot gang also sabotaged the Vietnam – Cambodia solidarity and friendship and invaded the southwestern border of Vietnam. During the last years of the resistance war against the US (1970-1975), Pol Pot troops conducted attacks and kidnappings targeting Vietnamese officiers and soldiers operating in the Cambodian battlefield and, at the same time, sowed internal division among the Cambodian communists.
In 1975, as soon as Vietnam was unified, Pol Pot sent troops to invade the country’s southwestern islands and border areas, detaining and killing hundreds of ordinary people in Phu Quoc and Tho Chu islands. At the end of 1975 and in early 1976, the Pol Pot army suddenly conducted a series of intrusions deep into Vietnam’s territorial land, committing crimes against Vietnamese people.
In January 1976, the fourth congress of the Cambodian Communist Party, with Pol Pot as Secretary, defined Vietnam as the biggest danger that needs attention. During this time, with support from outside, Pol Pot further intensified military activities to sabotage and encroach into the Vietnamese southwestern border. In 1976, in the area under the charge of Military Region 7, the regime caused 280 incidents over and encroachments of 20 points along the border. In addition, the Pol Pot gang focused on tainting Vietnam’s image and inciting anti-Vietnam campaigns, taking Vietnam as its “arch-rival” and “Number 1 foe”. Turning a blind eye to Vietnam’s diplomatic efforts for peace, the Pol Pot gang spared no efforts in its propaganda wok of distorting the history, proactively caused conflicts along and encroached into Vietnam’s southwestern border. It deployed most of its military strength with tens of regular divisions and many local regiments to wage a war for invasion of Vietnam’s southwestern border. Everywhere they intruded in, they burned down villages and killed villagers, including the elderly, women and children.
In nearly two years, Pol Pot troops killed and detained more than 30,000 civilians in Vietnam’s border communes. Besides, 400,000 people were rendered homeless, over 3,000 houses abandoned, and many churches, schools and pagodas burned to the ground.
On the night of April 30, 1977, when the Vietnamese army and people were celebrating the country’s 2nd anniversary of the liberation of the south and national reunification, the Pol Pot gang launched an offensive along the whole borderline of An Giang province, officially kicking off its war of invasion of Vietnam’s southwestern border.
In face of the blatant aggression by the Pol Pot gang and barbarous crimes they committed against our people, the Party, State, army and people of Vietnam stood up in their legitimate and sacred rights to safeguarding national sovereignty, territorial integrity and human lives and assets.
In mid-June 1978, the Politburo and the Central Military Commission decided to launch a people’s war, resolutely counterattacking and attacking the enemy in a proactive and continuous manner with all forces, on small, medium and large scales, fighting the enemy both inside and outside the border, annihilating and paralyzing an important part of the enemy’s strength.
In early 1978, the Politburo and the Central Military Commission passed the determination to stage a general and strategic counterattack and offensive aimed at completing the southwestern border safeguarding war while standing ready to help Cambodia’s revolutionary armed forces rise up to overthrow the genocidal Pol Pot gang and to wrest back power to the people.
From May – November 1978, Vietnam helped Cambodia’s revolutionary armed forces develop 15 battalions and five battalion frames. With the support from Vietnam, the Kampuchean United Front for National Salvation made its first public appearance on December 2, 1978 and announced a revolutionary platform which clearly stated the determination to unite and pool patriotic forces to topple the Pol Pot reactionary group, wipe out the brutal genocidal regime, establish the people’s democratic regime, resolve to strengthen solidarity with Vietnamese people and other peace lovers worldwide, and call on other governments and international organisations to provide support for the Cambodian people’s just fight.
On December 23, 1978, Vietnamese voluntary soldiers and Cambodian revolutionary armed forces launched a general counterattack and offensive along the whole borderline. Three days later, all of the Pol Pot gang’s perimeter defence system was smashed. On December 31, 1978, our forces and people accomplished the task of driving out the Pol Pot troops and reclaiming all territorial sovereignty of the Matherland encroached by the enemy.
In response to the urgent call by the Kampuchean United Front for National Salvation, on January 6, 1979, Vietnamese voluntary soldiers coordinated with armed forces of the Front to launch a general attack on Phnom Penh capital. On January 7, 1979 noon, Cambodian revolutionary army units and Vietnamese volunteer soldiers liberated Phnom Penh, marking the end of the Pol Pot genocidal regime.
It was the inevitable conclusion of miscalculation and inhumane policies of the Pol Pot gang when it invaded Vietnam and conducted genocide in Cambodia.
January 7, 1979 will forever go down to the history of Cambodia as a briliant milestone. It is the watershed between life and death, not the life and death of a single individual or of a small group of people, but the life and death of an entire nation.
That is to say that in the spirit of sharing and the efforts for the sake of ourselves and of our friend, with blood and tears, the Vietnamese voluntary soldiers joined with armed forces and people of Cambodia to topple the Pol Pot gang, regain sovereignty and territorial integrity of our country while helping the Cambodia people get out of genocide, bringing freedom and smiles to the Cambodian people.
The victory holds great significance, once again affirming that the Vietnamese people, with the spirit of independence, self-reliance, great national solidarity and pure international solidarity, stand ready to thwart any sabotage plot and act by reactionary forces, firmly safeguarding national independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity. It also manifests the noble international spirit, the traditional and long-lasting relationship of loyalty, the pure and wholehearted support from the Vietnamese Party, State, army and people to the Cambodian people.
A Cambodian journalist, himself a victim of the Pol Pot genocidal regime, said: “One must be an insider, who was directly oppressed under the Pol Pot regime and waiting for his death to come, to understand the authentic value and the vital significance of the historic day (January 7. 1979)”.
On the celebration of the historical day in 2017, Procheachol newspaper of the ruling Cambodia People’s Party (CPP) published an editorial affirming that this was an indelible victory in the history of Cambodia, which created a foundation for the country’s accomplishments over the past years.
In a recent interview granted to the Vietnam News Agency’s correspondents in Phnom Penh, Director of Cambodia’s Documentation Centre Youk Chhang said the presence of Vietnamese volunteer soldiers had changed the history of Cambodia, helping Cambodian people revive.
According to Youk Chhang, the help of the Vietnamese army inevitably came at a special time of history and geopolitics when Pol Pot massacred barbarously Cambodian people.
The presence of the Vietnamese army was important as it “untied the knot” to put an end to the Pol Pot genocidal regime as the work could impossibly be dealt with by negotiations, but by military measures, he said.
Journalist Keo Chandara, Deputy General Director of the Agence Kampuchea Presse (AKP) – Cambodia’s news agency, said the people of Cambodia and the world all acknowledged that the Cambodian people and nation could not have been revived without the victory on January 7, 1979.
And, without the assistance of Vietnamese brothers and comrades, Cambodia could not have gained the final victory and achievements today, he said. “This is an indisputable truth.”
Regarding the role of volunteer Vietnamese soldiers in the victory on January 7, 1979, Teav Sarak Mony, Editor-in-Chief of Rasmei Kampuchea Daily, quoted Cambodian Prime Minister Samdech Techo Hun Sen in his recent official visit to Vietnam as saying that the decisive role of Vietnam in helping Cambodia is an undeniable truth.
According to Sarak, who was a victim of the Pol Pot regime, without the victory on January 7, 1979 and the assistance and support from volunteer Vietnamese soldiers as well as the Vietnamese Party, State, Government and people during the 1979-1989 period, the Cambodian nation could not have revived and developed as today.
For his part, Australian journalist Peter Starr, a communication advisor of Cambodia’s National Assembly Office, said the January 7, 1979 event was considered the most important day of all Cambodian people as it marked their freedom and escape from the genocidal regime.
He added that without the help of volunteer Vietnamese soldiers, dozens or even hundreds of thousands more of Cambodian people would have been killed under the Pol Pot regime.
Reviving and Thriving
The victory on January 7, 1979, marked the beginning of a reviving journey of the Cambodian people and nation under the leadership of the CPP. They have spared no efforts to weather numerous difficulties and challenges to rebuild their country from the ashes of the war and the Pol Pot genocidal regime.
Over the past four decades, Cambodia has gained immense achievements in the nation building and defence, becoming a peaceful nation having stable development and friendly relations with countries around the world. In recent years, Cambodia has always maintained its economic growth of 7 percent, being ranked among countries with record growth by the World Bank.
The country has worked to ensure macroeconomic stability, especially stabilising exchange rates and controlling inflation at a low level.
The gross domestic product (GDP) increased to 22.16 billion USD in 2017 from 10.35 billion USD in 2008. It was projected to reach 24.37 billion USD in 2018.
Cambodia has been shifting its economy towards industry and services from the agricultural background. The growth of the construction sector is one of the main drivers of the nation’s economic growth, generating many jobs for people.
In 2017, Cambodia accelerated the building of shopping malls, restaurants, hotels, and new urban areas in major cities, including Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. Construction of more than 3,050 projects was licensed, while 275 new construction companies were set up in the year.
According to Cambodia’s Ministry of Tourism, the country welcomed more than 2.2 million foreign visitors in the first four months of 2018, a year-on-year rise of 13.5 percent.
Tourism was also a highlight in the economic panorama of Cambodia.
Boasting various tourist attractions, the Southeast Asian nation has been a choice of many international tourists over the years.
The positive economic outlook of Cambodia proved the triumphant implementation of the Political Platform and the Rectangular Strategy Phase III of the Royal Government under leadership of Prime Minister Samdech Techo Hun Sen. Secured peace and political and security stability have allowed Cambodia to continue obtaining new and significant socio-economic achievements.
In the coming time, the Cambodian Government will continue paying heed to the implementation of the Rectangular Strategy Phase III, focusing on the development of such sectors as industry, agriculture, trade and tourism, towards diversifying the economy and ensuring macro-economy stability.
It will also work to increase wage of civil servants, armed force members, workers, and develop and strengthen the social security system in a concerted, effective and sustainable manner.
In 2018, a highlight in the country’s political life was the successful organization of the sixth National Assembly election, with the overwhelming victory won by the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP). That victory reflected the aspirations of Cambodian people as they continued to put their trust in the CPP’s leadership.
Since it came to power in 1979, the CPP has been consistently pursuing its goal of serving the people and building a wealthy Cambodia. Socio-economic attainments made over the past time serve as a vivid proof of the CPP’s dedication to peace and development.
The CPP’s victory in the recent free and fair general election provides a source of encouragement for Cambodian leaders and the CPP in particular, to continue to work for country’s comprehensive stability and development in the coming time.
Amid changes occurring in regional and international situations, Cambodia still maintains its firm policy on bolstering international integration and being an active member in numerous regional cooperative mechanisms, including the Mekong River Commission (MRC), the Cambodia-Laos-Vietnam Development Triangle Area (CLV), the Cambodia-Laos-Myanmar-Vietnam Cooperation (CLMV) and the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS), and more.
To date, Cambodia has set up trade relations with about 150 countries and territories across the world and worked to expand its cooperative ties with powerful countries and development partners as well as boost cooperation with neighbouring nations.Cambodia is changing rapidly. Under the efficient leadership of the Government, Cambodian people will surely gain more greater achievements in the cause of national construction and development.-VNA