Vietnam Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has joined those criticising Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s recent remarks on the Khmer Rouge regime.
Criticism against the Singapore Head of Government mounted after he published a Facebook post last month, which described a letter he had sent to his Thai counterpart to express his condolences on the passing of former Thai PM General Prem Tinsulanonda. He wrote, in part:
“His leadership also benefited the region. His time as PM coincided with the ASEAN members (then five of us) coming together to oppose Vietnam’s invasion of Cambodia and the Cambodian government that replaced the Khmer Rouge. Thailand was on the frontline, facing Vietnamese forces across its border with Cambodia.
“General Prem was resolute in not accepting this fait accompli, and worked with ASEAN partners to oppose the Vietnamese occupation in international forums. This prevented the military invasion and regime change from being legitimised. It protected the security of other Southeast Asia countries, and decisively shaped the course of the region.”
Cambodian politicians and prominent academics subsequently lashed out at PM Lee’s remarks, asserting that the Vietnamese rescued Cambodians from the Khmer Rouge. A spokesperson for Vietnam’s Foreign Affairs Ministry said that Vietnam “regrets” that PM Lee’s statement did not reflect history objectively and caused negative public opinion.
Speaking to the press at the sidelines of the 34th ASEAN Summit in Bangkok, Thailand on Saturday, Vietnam PM Nguyen Xuan Phuc said that PM Lee’s comments were incorrect and offensive.
Expressing his unhappiness with his Singaporean counterpart, Mr Phuc said that history has proved that Mr Lee’s statement was inaccurate and that such views negatively impacts those in Vietnam and Cambodia – particularly the families of the voluntary soldiers from Vietnam who sacrificed themselves to help Cambodia end the Khmer Rouge genocide.
PM Lee has since reached out to Mr Phuc and Cambodian PM Hun Sen to discuss the matter. The national broadsheet quoted PM Lee as saying:
“I stated my position and explained why I had spoken about the period of the Cambodian war and Singapore’s perspective on the matter. He explained forthrightly Vietnam’s position on this matter.
“Naturally, the two positions are different and we do not expect to change their minds, and they do not expect us to change our minds on this matter.
“But both of us have moved beyond that to become friends and partners…The best way to move forward, in our view, is on the basis of candour and honesty about what has happened in the past, so that we can develop trust and we can work more closely together and trust one another.” -/TISG