BBS Logo
Post Response | Return to Index | Read Prev Msg | Read Next Msg


2.Soviet+Vietnamese=Double Murderous communists

Posted By: SLK < Murderous communists> (
Date: Thursday, 7 August 2003, at 4:35 p.m.

In 1966, the Soviet embassy in Phnom Penh began to receive messages that the Communist Party is preparing the masses for an armed revolt (Fund 5, inventory 58, file 009540, dossier 324, p. 340). In December 1966, the journal Somlenh polokor (Workers Voice) closely connected to the communist underground published an article stating: Brother Workers and peasants should be united by all means to destroy feudal and reactionary governors and their flunkeys in the territory of Cambodia. (RSAMH, Fund 5, inventory 58, file 009540, dossier 324, p. 341).

Anxious that the younger brother was actually getting out of control and putting North Vietnamese interests aside, Hanoi decided to act in two directions: the first one was to redeploy and introduce necessary people into the CPK; Khmer communists who had studied and lived in Vietnam. They should be introduced into Cambodian party organizations with the purposes of party personnel consolidation. According to the archival documents dated 1965 for the first time after many years the group of Cambodian communists was transferred to Southern Vietnam for outbreak of hostilities in Cambodia. (RSAMH, Fund 5, inventory 50, file 721, Document of the Soviet embassy to the DRV, April 1, 1965, p. 142).

The other direction was not to be involved in conflict with the new communist party administration in Phnom Penh, but to demonstrate a certain support to a ruling group in the CPK. Unlike previous years nothing was said about the progressive role of Sihanouk. The statement that the struggle of the Khmer communists will be victorious was also a surprise. (RSAMH, Fund 5, inventory 50, file 721. Documents of the Soviet embassy to the DRV, April 1, 1965, p. 142).

Hanoi faced a difficult dilemma: either to create a new communist organization in Cambodia with personnel trained in northern Vietnam, or to introduce necessary people in basic posts in the existing Communist Party and to recognize even temporarily a not very reliable Pol Pot as the legitimate communist leader of the fraternal party. The Vietnamese politicians chose the second, as their purpose was to strengthen communist forces in Cambodia, instead of making them weaker by an internal split.

Furthermore there were no warranties that the pro-Vietnamese organization led by Son Ngoc Minh -- a person compromised by full subordination to Hanoi --would be more powerful and numerous than Pol Potís party. One well-known episode shows how unpopular Son Ngoc Minh was among Khmer communists. Keo Meas, one of the veterans, publicly accused Son Ngoc Minh of becoming fat in safety while the party faithful were being liquidated (Peasants and Politics in Kampuchea, 1942-1981, ed. by Ben Kiernan and Chan Thou Boua, London, Zed, 1982, p. 194).

In addition to the above and as some further events have shown, the policy of a new party leadership evidently was supported by other authoritative veterans of the KPRP. Among them was So Phim, future chief of the Eastern Zone and the fourth-ranking person in the party, and Ta Mok, future chief of the Southwest Zone and one of the most severe and loyal Pol Pot supporters. So it became obvious that Hanoi did not have any other special choice. (Nguyen Co Thach, in his conversation with the Soviet ambassador in January, 1978, said that So Phim and Ta Mok were former members of the Communist Party of Indochina. (RSAMH, Fund 5, inventory 75, file 1062. Record of Soviet ambassadorís conversation with the deputy minister of Foreign affairs of the SRV, Nguyen Co Thach, 21.01.1978, p. 20).

It was possible to assume that the Vietnamese decided to strike a bargain by marriage of convenience at this time, hoping to remove Pol Pot gradually from leadership. The radicals, in their turn also agreed on compromise, as only Vietnam could have given them the assets for the armed struggle and on party needs.

It is well known, that at that time Pol Pot was looking for support both among Soviet and Chinese communists. According to some sources he visited Beijing in 1965 and, as archival data indirectly testify, gained support for his revolutionary plans from the Chinese leadership (On the history of the Vietnam-Kampuchean Conflict, Hanoi, 1979, p. 9.)

At least, according to the information of the Soviet embassy in Hanoi in a document dated February 19, 1968, it was pointed out that "using the critical economic situation of the peasants in the number of provinces, Chinese, based on pro-Maoist and pro-Vietnamese elements of the left wing forces, rouse actions of the so-called Khmer Rouge in the Northern and Northwest provinces, smuggle weapons, and create small armed groups of rebels (Subversive activities of Chinese in Cambodia.(reference). RSAMH, Fund 5, inventory 60, file 36. February 19, 1968, p.4)

Ung Khon San, the Deputy Chairman of Internal affairs at the Council of Ministers of Cambodia, told Soviet representatives about Beijingís active participation in the rousing of rebel activities. He said that rebels are armed with modern Chinese-made weapons (automatic rifles, grenade launchers, and 81 mm. mortars)...these weapons were found in boxes addressed to the textile factory in Battambang where Chinese experts were working. (RSAMH, Fund 5, inventory 60, file 365. Subversive activities of Chinese in Cambodia (reference), Phnom Penh, February 19, 1968 p. 9-10).

One cannot but admit that besides his trip to Beijing in 1966, Pol Pot expressed a desire to meet representatives of the Soviet embassy in Phnom Penh, expecting to receive support from Moscow. The meeting took place; however, Pol Pot was dissatisfied that a non-senior embassy official was sent to the meeting with him (as the former ambassador in Cambodia, Yuri Myakotnykh, told me in Barvikha on the 14th of August 1993, it was a conversation with only the third secretary of the Soviet embassy).

The CPKís hopes for Soviet aid were not justified and could not be justified because the Soviet representatives had practically no serious information about the CPK (conversation with Yuri Myakotnykh, Barvikha, August 14, 1993). The most the Soviet embassy could do at that time "was to send a lecturer to the representatives of the left-wing forces for a course of lectures on the socio-economic problems of Cambodia (RSAMH, Fund 5, inventory 58, file 324. Economic problems and escalation of the domestic situation in Cambodia (the political letter of the embassy of the USSR in Cambodia, second quarter 1966, p. 84).

The failure to establish contacts with Moscow did not weaken the position of Pol Pot, as he had Beijing and Hanoi behind him. To strengthen his support from Hanoi he even showed readiness for close union and special solidarity with the DRV: Pol Pot introduced Nuon Chea a person trusted in Hanoi, whom Le Duan, leader of the Vietnamese communists, in a conversation with the Soviet ambassador, called a politician of pro-Vietnam orientation as the occupant of the second most important post in the party. Speaking of Nuon Chea, Le Duan literally emphasized, he is our man indeed and my personal friend" (Record of conversation of the Soviet ambassador with Le Duan, first secretary of the Vietnamese communist party Central Committee, RSAMH, Fund 5, inventory 69, file 2314, November 16, 1976, p.113).

The compromise with Hanoi allowed Pol Pot to reserve to himself authority in the party leadership, to provide the material and military aid for fighting groups, which he called the Revolutionary Army. In the period 1968-1970 this army conducted unsuccessful operations against the forces of the ruling regime, sustaining heavy losses, and did not have the slightest hope of coming to power.

A great chance for Pol Pot and Khmer communists came in March, 1970. Their long-term enemy - Cambodian leader prince Sihanouk - was overthrown in the military coup detat of March 18, 1970. He had to enter into a military-political union with the communists to get back to power. It became a turning point for the communists: in the eyes of thousands of peasants, they turned from enemies of Sihanouk into his protectors. The revolutionary army started growing as on yeast, and the mass base of the communists considerably increased. In this case the goals of purely communist reorganization obviously were set aside for the moment, and the slogans of protection of the legal chief of state and of national independence came to the fore.

In April-May 1970, significant North-Vietnamese forces entered Cambodia in response to the call for help addressed to Vietnam not by Pol Pot, but by his deputy Nuon Chea. Nguyen Co Thach recalls: Nuon Chea has asked for help and we have liberated five provinces of Cambodia in ten days. (RSAMH, Fund 5, inventory 75, file 1062. Information on the conversation of the German comrades with the deputy minister of foreign affairs of the SRV Nguyen Co Thach, who stayed on a rest in the GDR from the 1st to the 6th of August, 1978. August 17, 1978, p. 70).

In 1970, in fact, Vietnamese forces occupied almost a quarter of the territory of Cambodia, and the zone of communist control grew several times, as power in the so-called liberated regions was given to the CPK. At that time relations between Pol Pot and the North Vietnamese leaders were especially warm, though one could not tell that the Vietnamese aroused obvious hostility among the communist Cambodian leadership by their frank elder brother policy towards the Khmers.

The Vietnamese leadership did not even hide the fact that the Cambodian Communist Party, in association with the Vietnamese Workers Party (VWP), was given the role of the younger brother, obliged to follow the directions of the elder brother. The secretary of the VWP Central Committee, Hoang Anh, for instance, in his speech on the twentieth VWP Central Committee plenary meeting held in January, 1971, declared: We should strengthen the revolutionary base in Cambodia and guide this country along the path of socialism. Here is the policy of our party (RSAMH, Fund 89, list 54, document 3, p. 21). Moreover, Soviet diplomats working in Hanoi noted: Vietnamese comrades last year carefully raised one of the clauses of the former Indochina Communist Party program concerning creation of the socialist Federation of Indochina (RSAMH, Fund 89, list 54, document 10. About VWP policy in determination of Indochinese problems and our goals implying from the decisions of the IV Congress of the C.P.S.U. (political letter) May 21, 1971, p. 14.)

The sense of this federation formation was in the unification of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia in one state after the victory of the Indochinese revolution under the direction of Vietnamese communists as "the elder brothers". It is natural that all these plans of Hanoi leaders were well known in Cambodia and could not help raising certain animosity and mistrust among Khmer communists not taking into consideration their views on Cambodiaís future. Soviet representatives in Vietnam were well aware of the wary and even hostile attitude of Khmer and Lao communists to Hanoiís plans on restriction of the independence of Laos and Cambodia and a new reorganization of the former territory of French Indochina. In the 1971 political letter, they noted that a too narrow national approach of Vietnamese comrades towards the resolution of Indochinese problems, [and] noticeable attempts of submission of Laos and Cambodia problems to the interests of Vietnam, caused latent complaint of Lao and Cambodian friends (RSAMH, Fund 89, list 54, document 10 (political letter) p.5).

This "latent" complaint is well visible in the correspondence of Pol Pot with Le Duan. In the letter of 1974, on the one hand he swore that all our victories are inseparable from the help of our brothers and comrades-in-arms the Vietnamese people and the Vietnamese workers party and on the other hand he quite definitely declared that relations between our parties are based on mutual respect and non-interference in one another internal affairs. (On the History of the Vietnamese-Kampuchean Conflict, Hanoi, 1979, p. 20).

It is completely obviously that the Khmer Rouge party and military apparatus became more and more forceful, the ambitions of their leaders, their genetic hostility and mistrust to the Vietnamese. (Historically Khmers always disliked Vietnamese, considering them aggressors in relation to their home country) became more and more obvious: The Khmer Rouge only searched an occasion to designate their own position, independent from the Vietnamese. In the liberated regions they prohibited the local population to come into contact with Vietnamese, attacked as if mistakenly separate Vietnamese groups, seized wagon-trains with food supplies, ammunition and military equipment. (On the History of the Vietnamese-Kampuchean Conflict, Hanoi, 1979, p. 7).

The possibility for "insult" and "divorce" from Hanoi was granted to them by destiny: in 1973, after the conclusion of the Peace agreement in Paris, Pol Pot turned from formal into real leader on the liberated territory of his country. The reason for this change was that the Vietnamese in Paris, as in 1954 at Geneva, again agreed on full withdrawal of their forces from Cambodia. Their withdrawal loosened the Khmer Rouge leadershipís dependence on Hanoiís instructions, saved their party structures from dense political and ideological custody in Cambodia by numerous Vietnamese advisers, and in fact disrupted the positions of plainly pro-Vietnamese elements inside the CCP. Hem Samin, very friendly to Vietnam, a first member of the United Front for National Salvation of Kampuchea, recalled that since 1973 people who had only joined the party at military party meetings freely came in for rude and groundless criticism of pro-Vietnamese veterans. (V. Skvortsov, Kampuchea: The saving of freedom, Moscow, 1980, p.6.)

The year 1973 was marked by the first wave of cadre emigration, when along with Vietnamese forces the country was abandoned by future well known figures of post-Pol Pot Cambodia like Miech Somnang and Keo Chenda. Pen Sovan, who became the head of the Cambodian Peopleís Revolutionary Party reconstructed after 1979 by the Vietnamese, left the editorial committee of the Khmer Rouge radio station in 1973 and escaped into Vietnam. (V. Skvortsov, Kampuchea: The saving of freedom, Moscow, 1980. p. 93.)

The Vietnamese withdrawal of forces and the weakening of Vietnamese control allowed Khmer radicals to begin realization of their plans to toughen domestic policy in the spirit of the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. A sharp transition towards mass socialization and a reorganization of entire Khmer village life in the spirit of China's large communes started just after the Vietnamese withdrawal. Beforehand, it was a risky business, as it would inevitably have caused suspicions that the Cambodian communist leadership would not follow the Soviet-Vietnamese course, but would have more sympathy for the Chinese experience.

The Khmer Rouge position strengthened again after success on all fronts in their mass attack at the end of January and the beginning of February, 1973. Thus Pol Pot more or less demonstrated to all that the new Vietnamese betrayal (Hanoi has left us thus Khieu Samphan in a conversation with Sihanouk evaluated the Paris Agreement) and the sharp aggravation of relations with the Vietnam Workers Party due to the Khmer Rouge refusal, despite insistent Vietnamese "recommendations," to enter into negotiations with the Lon Nol government (W. Shawcross, Sideshow, p. 281), had not affected the operations of the Khmer communists. Under his leadership the CPK, unlike in 1954, was ready for such a turn of events, and independently capable of a military victory in the country.

In the spring of 1973, in a conversation with the Soviet ambassador, Le Duan stated that the initiative in Cambodian affairs is not in our hands (Fund 5, inventory 66, file 782. Record of conversation of the Soviet ambassador with the VWP Central Committee Secretary Le Duan, April 19, 1973, p. 78.) This was a fair but late recognition by the Vietnamese leader. Pham Hung - the member of VWP Politbureau responsible for Cambodia - made unsuccessful attempts to act according to the Vietnamese script. It was clear to all that Pol Pot was waging his own war, independent of Hanoi. (Pham Hung held a few meetings with Pol Pot in January 24-26, 1973. Nayan Chanda, Brother Enemy, N.Y., 1986, p. 68.)

In April 1973, Hanoi openly advised its Soviet allies that it had no real control of the situation in the Cambodian Communist Party. In the same conversation with the Soviet ambassador, Le Duan declared that the Cambodian Peoples Revolutionary Party has contentions both with Sihanouk and with its own members. Their organization is situated in Beijing. Even the Chinese embassy in Hanoi has more contacts with them than we have. However Khmer comrades are very careful. Our help to them is substantial. There is a possibility to get closer to them gradually (RSAMH, Fund 5, inventory 66, file 782. Record of the Soviet ambassadorís conversation with the VWP Central Committee secretary Le Duan, April 19, 1973, p. 7.)

Pham Van Dong told the Soviet ambassador about bitter alienation of the relations between Khmer and Vietnamese communists. In their conversation of April 14, 1973, the Vietnamese prime minister indicated that our support and help to Cambodian friends is decreasing and its scale is now insignificant. Pham Van Dong took a much more optimistic position, in comparison with Le Duan, when he was asked by the Soviet representative about the presence of conspiracy in the Cambodian problem behind the Vietnamese back. He said we know that there are plans directed to the creation of difficulties in relations between the peoples of Indochina. We, however, have enough forces to resist these plans. The leadership of the DRV is constantly working on the Cambodian problem (RSAMH, Fund 5, inventory 66, file 782. Record of the Soviet ambassadorís conversation with the VWP Politbureau member and prime minister of Vietnam, Pham Van Dong, April 14, 1973, p. 80.)

To all appearances, under the influence of Vietnamese Leaders information on the significant independence of the Khmer leadership, Moscow officials came to a conclusion about the necessity of making their own contacts with the Khmer Rouge. In the same conversation with Pham Van Dong, the Soviet ambassador said that comrades from the KPRP do not evaluate fairly enough their connections with the C.P.S.U., depending [the issue of] of recognition of Sihanouk by the USSR. We need their help to know the situation in Cambodia better. (RSAMH, Fund 5, inventory 66, business 782. Record of the Soviet ambassadorís conversation with the VWPís Politbureau member and prime minister of Vietnam, Pham Van Dong, April 14, 1973, p. 85.)

A little later, in June 1973, the envoy-counsellor of the embassy of the USSR in the DRV informed Moscow: in accordance with the assignment of the Centre, I have passed the letter of the Central Commitee of the C.P.S.U. to the KPRP Central Committee. In the conversation with the VWP Central Commitee deputy chief of department Tran Khi Khien, he said that it was difficult to foresee a response of the Cambodian friends as to how they will consider the initiative of the Central Committee of the C.P.S.U. (RSAMH, Fund 5, inventory 66, file 782. Record of the Soviet embassy to the DRVís envoy-counsellors conversation with the VWP Central Committee deputy chief of department Tran Khi Khien, June 16, 1973, p. 132.)

Analysis of these documents proves, surprisingly, that Moscowís attempts to create connections with the Khmer Rouge were undertaken indirectly, via its Vietnamese allies, in whom the Cambodian leadership had minimal confidence. The passing on of the official invitation for cooperation with the Khmers by means of the Vietnamese party worker ensured the blazing collapse of the whole project. As it now appears, Moscow, though wishing to establish direct ties with the Khmer Rouge leadership, at the same time did not want to complicate its relations with Hanoi by trying to approach the Cambodian leadership over Hanoiís head.

At the same time the information provided to the Soviet side by Hanoi contained its own puzzles. In November 1973, the deputy chief of the socialist countries department of the VWP Central Committee, Nguyen Trong Thuat, in a conversation with a Soviet diplomat, asserted that the latest information makes it clear that the process of the NUFCs (National United Front of Cambodia D.M.) and personally Khieu Samphanís ruling roles are now strengthening. (RSAMH, Fund 5, inventory 66, file 782. Record of the Soviet embassy first secretaryís conversation with the deputy chief of the socialist countries department of the VWP Central Committee, Nguyen Trong Thuat, November 13 1973, p.185.)

Now in January, 1978, the information about Khieu Samphan was completely different. The first deputy chief of the external relations department of the Vietnamese Communist Party Central Committee, Nguyen Thanh Le, told the Soviet ambassador that in 1971-1972 Khieu Samphan was an ordinary member of the party and only in 1975 became a candidate member of the Central Committee. (RSAMH, Fund 5, inventory, 75, file 1061. Record of the Soviet ambassadorís conversation with the first deputy chief of the external relations department of the Vietnamese Communist Party Central Committee, Nguyen Thanh Le, January 14, 1978, p. 6.)

It is possible to explain this obvious inconsistency in two ways: either Hanoi really did not know Khieu Samphanís actual place in the ruling hierarchy of the Cambodian Communist Party (he was always far from real leadership), or they knew but did not want to tell the Soviet side, wishing to put Moscow in contact not with the actual leaders, but with Khieu Samphan who was unable to make decisions. At least in 1973-1974, Khieu Samphan and Ieng Sari were considered in Moscow as the most influential persons in the CPK, and Moscow officials tried several times to organize a meeting with him alone. Thus in April, 1974, the Soviet ambassador, in conversation with the deputy minister of foreign affairs of the DRV, Hoang Van Tien, asked about the time of Khieu Samphanís return to the DRV on his way to Cambodia. He said that he would like to meet with him. (RSAMH, Fund 5, inventory 67, file 659. Record of the Soviet ambassadorís conversation with the Vietnamese deputy minister of foreign affairs, Hoang Van Tien. April 12, 1974, p. 59.)

In reply to this request, the chief of the USSR and East European countries department of the Vietnamese ministry of foreign affairs, Nguyen Huu Ngo, said that in the morning of May 28, the protocol department of the ministry of foreign affairs, according to the request of the Soviet ambassador, has raised with Khieu Samphan the question of this meeting. In the afternoon, Prime Minister Pham Van Dong, in negotiations with the Cambodian delegation, has passed on fraternal greetings to Khieu Samphan and Ieng Sari from comrades Brezhnev, Podgorniy, and Kosygin, wishing them success in their struggle. The Soviet leaders asked Pham Van Dong about it during his recent visit to Moscow."

It is clear now that Khieu Samphan, even if he was very keen on going to such meeting, would not have been able to do so without the approval of Pol Pot himself or the Politbureau of the Central Committee. A breakthrough in relations between Moscow and the Khmer Rouge could take place only if key figures of the Khmer leadership were involved in this process. But the Vietnamese tried to do their best to prevent direct contact between Moscow and the CPK authorities, wishing to avoid a situation in which someone else would take over their monopoly of relations with the Khmer Rouge. Being aware that Moscow could inevitably become suspicious as to the genuineness of Hanoiís intent to assist in establishing contacts between the CPSU and the CPK, Vietnamese officials constantly declared that the VWP exerts every effort to assist in the promotion of relations between Cambodian and Soviet comrades. (RSAMH, Fund 5, inventory 67, file 659. Record of conversation of the Soviet ambassador with the Chief of the Department of the USSR and East European countries of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the DRV, Nguyen Huu Ngo. May 30, 1974. p. 85.)

It is widely believed that after 1973 relations between the Khmer Rouge and the Vietnamese communists were gradually worsening until the beginning of the border war in April, 1977. The archival documents, which we possess, testify that the assumption is not correct and that their relations, after seriously cooling off in 1973, saw a marked improvement in 1974 up to the level of close cooperation.

In that year the CPK authorities seemed to have forgotten their accusations that the Vietnamese have betrayed the interests of the Khmer people, and they started to glorify again the combat friendship and solidarity of the liberation forces of Vietnam and Cambodia. In fact, Pol Pot was compelled to recognize that he had been somewhat hasty to come up with accusations against the Vietnamese, because in the beginning of 1974 it became obvious that due to considerable casualties in the 1973 military campaign the Khmer Rouge were not able to take Phnom Penh without serious military and technical aid.

In his search for material assistance and arms, Pol Pot originally addressed China; however, the latter was deaf to all entreaties (RSAMH, Fund 5, inventory 75, file 1062. Record of the conversation of Deputy Minister of Foreign affairs of the SRV, Nguyen Co Thach, with German comrades while staying for rest in the GDR on 1-6 August, 1978. August 17, 1978, p. 72.) Beijing played its own game and expected certain changes in the correlation of forces in the Vietnamese leadership and in its political course, which would deepen Vietnamese cooperation with China and slow the growing influence of the USSR. After receiving a refusal in Beijing, Pol Pot, who was frequently called brother number one in CPK documents, was compelled to soften his rhetoric and summon Hanoi for support once again. The archival documents testify to a softening of Khmer-Vietnamese relations. The political report of the Soviet embassy in the DRV for 1974 mentioned that while in the beginning of the year the Vietnamese friends in conversations with the Soviet diplomats referred to vast difficulties in cooperation with the Cambodian communists, at the end of the year they indicated an improvement of relations. (RSAMH, Fund 5, inventory 67, file 655. The 1974 political report of the Soviet embassy in the DRV, p. 49).

In March Pol Pot, in a letter sent to Le Duc Tho, a member of the Politbureau of the Central Committee of the VWP, went so far as to say that sincerely and from the bottom of my heart I assure you that under any circumstances I shall remain loyal to the policy of great friendship and great fraternal revolutionary solidarity between Kampuchea and Vietnam, in spite of any difficulties and obstacles. (On the history of the Vietnamese-Kampuchean Conflict, Hanoi 1979, p. 20).

No doubt in 1974, Pol Pot was playing an ingenious game with Hanoi with far-reaching purposes. He exuded gratitude and swore his allegiance, because he had no better chance of receiving military and other aid from Vietnam. In 1978, the then Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Vietnam, Nguyen Co Thach, told German communists that in 1974 Cambodians had asked for assistance for the purpose of taking Phnom Penh. But the Chinese did not provide such aid, then Pol Pot had approached Vietnam. The new call for assistance, as in 1970, did not come from Pol Pot himself, but from his deputy within the party, Nuon Chea (Record of conversation of the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the SRV, Nguyen Co Thach, with German comrades while staying for rest in the GDR in August 1-6, 1978. RSAMH, Fund 5, inventory 75, file 1062, August 17, 1978, p. 72). There is nothing strange about Pol Potís compelled appeal to Vietnam for assistance. The strange thing was why the Vietnamese leadership, which was fully informed
of the special position of the Khmer Rouge leader concerning relations with Hanoi, did not undertake any action to change the power pattern within the top ranks of the Communist Party to their own benefit. Apparently, the position of Nuon Chea, as the main person on whom Hanoi leaders put their stakes, proved to be decisive at that moment. Nuon Chea was already closely cooperating with Pol Pot. It was obvious that he consistently and consciously deceived the Vietnamese principals concerning the real plans of the Khmer leadership, pointing out the inexpediency of any replacement of the Khmer leader. As a result, in 1974 Vietnam granted military aid with no strings attached. Pol Pot was not toppled. There were not even attempts to shatter his positions or strengthen the influence of opposition forces. It is possible that Hanoi simply did not want undesirable problems in its relations with Phnom Penh at the moment of preparation for its own decisive assault in the South.

There is no doubt that the apparent desire of the Khmer Leadershipís majority to govern Cambodia independently and without external trusteeship was obviously underestimated in Hanoi. Vietnamese leaders confessed to this blunder later. A member of the VWP Politbureau and a long-term Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nguyen Co Thach, for instance, in his 1978 conversation with German communists, told them that in 1975 Vietnam evaluated the situation in Cambodia incorrectly. (RSAMH, Fund 5, inventory 75, file 1062. Record of the conversation of the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the SRV, Nguyen Co Thach, with German communists, while staying on rest in the GDR in August 1-6, 1978. August 17, 1978, p. 72).

Such an admission by an experienced Vietnamese minister was no wonder: 1975 became an obvious watershed in relations between Phnom Penh and Hanoi. After the seizure of Phnom Penh by the Khmer communists, and Saigonís takeover by the Vietnamese, the situation in Indochina changed dramatically. North Vietnamese leaders successfully accomplished one of the main behests of Ho Chi Minh: they unified all Vietnam under the authority of Hanoi and came close to the realization of another item of his alleged will - formation of a federation of socialist states of Indochina under Vietnamese domination. But it came as a surprise that unlike the Pathet Lao& and Kaysone Phomvihan, Pol Pot and the Khmer leadership categorically refused any form of special relations with Hanoi. Pol Potís visit to Hanoi in June 1975 was mainly a protocol event.

Pol Pot offered ritual phrases like without the help and support of the VWP we could not achieve victory, expressed gratitude to brothers in North and South Vietnam took special note of the Vietnamese support in the final major attack during the dry season of 1975, when we faced considerable difficulties. (V. Skvortsov. Kampuchea: Saving the freedom, Moscow, 1980, p. 52). The Khmer leader did not mention the establishment of special relations with Vietnam as expected by the Vietnamese. Moreover, having returned to Phnom Penh, Pol Pot declared: we have won total, definitive, and clean victory, meaning that we have won it without any foreign connection or involvement we have waged our revolutionary struggle based on the principles of independence, sovereignty and self-reliance. (Ben Kiernan, Pol Pot and the Kampuchean Communist Movement, in Kiernan and Boua, Peasants and Politics in Kampuchea 1942-1981, London, Zed, 1982 p. 233). Thereby the Khmer leader actually disavowed even the ritual words of gratitude for the Vietnamese people, which he had pronounced during his trip to Hanoi. In fact the only result of his trip was the agreement on holding a new summit in June, 1976. However, as Vietnamese sources testify, the meeting was never held (On the History of the Vietnamese-Kampuchean Conflict, Hanoi, 1979, p. 16).

In fact this Vietnamese does not say the whole truth. Such a meeting did take place in the first half of 1976. In 1978, the Chairman of the State Committee on Science and Technology of the SRV, Tran Quy Inh, told the Soviet ambassador about some details of the meeting. He said that during a personal meeting between Le Duan and Pol Pot in 1976, Pol Pot spoke about friendship, while Le Duan called the regime existing in Democratic Kampuchea slavery communism. In the conversation with Pol Pot, the Vietnamese leader described the Cambodian revolution as unique, having no analogue. (Record of the conversation of the Soviet ambassador with member of the Central Committee of the CPV, Chairman of Committee on Science and Technology of the SRV, Tran Quy Inh, March 24, 1978. RSAMH, Fund 5 inventory 75, file 1061, pp. 39-40.)

It appears from the archival documents that in the first half of 1976 Hanoi seriously expected positive changes in its relations with the Khmer Rouge. In February 1976, apparently on the eve of the summit, Xuan Thuy - one of the most prominent party leaders of Vietnam - told the Soviet ambassador that the relations of Vietnam and Cambodia are slowly improving. (RSAMH, Fund 5, inventory 69, file 2314. Conversations of the Soviet ambassador with Xuan Thuy, February 16, 1976 p. 16). A little later, in July 1976, in conversation with the Soviet ambassador, the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the DRV, Hoanh Van Loi, declared that the Vietnamese leadership deems it necessary to have patience and work towards gradually strengthening its influence in Cambodia. (RSAMH, Fund 5, inventory 69, file 2312. Conversation of the Soviet ambassador with the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the DRV, Hoanh Van Loi, July 1976, p. 90).

Apparently the Vietnamese leaders considered the well-known Pol Pot interview, which he had given in 1976 to the deputy director-general of the Vietnamese Information Agency, Tran Thanh Xuan, as a proof of growing Vietnamese influence in Phnom Penh. Tran Thanh Xuan visited Cambodia at the head of a large delegation of Vietnamese journalists. In the interview Pol Pot said all the words which the Vietnamese had waited in vain to hear in June 1975. He said in particular, we consider friendship and solidarity between the Kampuchean and Vietnamese revolutions, between Kampuchea and Vietnam a strategic question and a sacred feeling. Only when such friendship and solidarity are strong, can the revolution in our countries develop adequately. There is no other alternative. That is why, honouring these principles, we consider that both parties and we personally should aspire to maintain this combat solidarity and brotherhood in arms and make sure that they grow and strengthen day by day. (Nhan Dan. 29 VII, 1976).

It is quite obvious that only extremely serious circumstances could have made Pol Pot demonstrate anew this adherence to Vietnam. Brother No 1 indeed experienced tough pressure inside the CPK from a group of party leaders, rather numerous and influential, especially on the regional level, who were opposed to breaking off relations with Vietnam. In September, 1976, due to their pressure, Pol Pot would even be temporarily removed from his post. To relieve this pressure and to gain time, he was simply compelled to make statements expected by his enemies. Surprisingly enough he managed to fool them again, to create the illusion of his surrender and readiness to go hand in hand with Vietnam. Even in March 1977, when the anti-Vietnamese campaign in Cambodia was rapidly escalating, Truong Chinh, member of the VWP Politbureau and Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National Assembly of the SRV, in a conversation with the Soviet ambassador, made the point that Democratic Kampuchea is also generally building socialism, but the leaders of Kampuchea are not clear enough as to forms of socialist construction. There is no unity in the Kampuchean leadership and much depends on which line will win. (RSAMH, Fund 5, inventory 73, file 1409. Record of the conversation of the Soviet ambassador with Truong Chinh, March 15, 1977 p. 34).

There is no doubt that in 1976 in spite of some improvement in relations with Phnom Penh, Hanoi actually lost not only control (that had happened long before), but even sources of authentic information on the situation in the Khmer leadership. At least this fact was recognized by Vietnamese leaders. In July 1976, according to the Soviet ambassadorís information, the Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the SRV, Pham Vam Dong, informed confidentially that the present situation in Cambodia is not clear enough to Hanoi, which has difficulties in following developments there. Pham Van Dong also said that it was necessary to show patience and that reality itself should teach the Khmers some lessons. (RSAMH, Fund 5, inventory 69, file 2314. Conversation of the Soviet ambassador with Prime Minister Pham Van Dong, July 13, 1976, p. 72).

The Vietnamese leadershipís poor understanding of current political struggle in Cambodia could also be seen from the fact that back on November 16, 1976, Le Duan had told the Soviet ambassador that Pol Pot and Ieng Sari had been removed from power, that they were bad people. Le Duan added that everything will be all right with Kampuchea which will be together with Vietnam sooner or later; there is no other way for the Khmers. We know how to work with them, when to be resolute or Soft. (RSAMH, Fund 5, inventory 69, file 2314. Record of the conversation of the Soviet ambassador with the First Secretary of the Central Committee of the VWP, Le Duan, November 16, 1976, p. 113).

In fact the report that Pol Pot and Ieng Sari had bee removed from power, which was now in the hands of the "reliable" Nuon Chea, totally misinterpreted the situation in Phnom Penh by the middle of November 1976. Pol Potís opponents - such well-known Khmer communistsí long time connected with Vietnam, Keo Muni, Keo Meas and Nei Sarann - were already imprisoned and exposed to severe tortures. Agriculture Minister Non Suon and more than two hundred of his associates from various ministries, the army and the party apparatus had already been arrested by November 1 (Ben Kiernan, The Pol Pot regime: Race, power and genocide in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge, 1975-1979, New Haven, Yale University Press, 1996, p. 335). While Le Duan was informing the Soviet ambassador that Pol Pot and Ieng Sari had been ousted, in reality they were firmly in power, wielding full authority in Phnom Penh.

Generally speaking, the circumstances of the coup attempt have until now been insufficiently investigated. It is known that in September 1976, under pressure from the anti-Pol Pot opposition (Non Suon was one of the leaders and an old Vietnamese protťgťs , Pol Pot was compelled to declare his temporary resignation from the post of prime minister of Democratic Kampuchea due to health reasons. The second-ranking person in the party hierarchy, Nuon Chea, was appointed acting prime minister (Kiernan, The Pol Pot Regime, p. 331). At the same time Tung Krohom. (Red Flag) magazine, an official organ of the Communist Youth League of Kampuchea, ran an article affirming that the CPK was founded in 1951when it was assisted by the VWP (On the History of the Vietnamese-Kampuchean Conflict, Hanoi, 1979, p. Such a statement contradicted Pol Potís directives claiming that the CPK emerged in 1960 and had not received any help from the VWP. In September 1976 a regular air route between Hanoi and Vientiane was also established. A natural rubber consignment was sold to Singapore and attempts were made to accept humanitarian and medical aid from the U.N. and some American firms. All these events testified to a weakening of the radical groupís positions, to an obvious change of the political line and to a certain modification of the Cambodian authoritiesí attitude toward the Vietnam and the VWP.

A turnaround in Phnom Penh like this encouraged the Vietnamese leadership, which advised its Soviet friends that the situation in Cambodia is not clear, but it is easier to work with Nuon Chea, than with Pol Pot and Ieng Sari. (RSAMH, Fund 5, inventory 69, file 2314, p. 88. October 15, 1976. Conversation of the Soviet ambassador with Nguyen Duy Trinh). Soviet friends in their turn had sent the new Khmer leadership an important sign: at the October 1976 Plenary meeting of the Central Committee of the CPSU, L.I. Brezhnev suddenly declared that the path of independent development was opened among other countries before Democratic Kampuchea (Pravda, October 26, 1976). However, the hopes for stability or positive changes in Cambodia soon dimmed, as Hanoi did not make any appreciable attempts to support Pol Potís opponents. It is difficult to determine the reason for such passivity. Was it because the Vietnamese considered the changes irreversible, or were they afraid to compromise their people in Phnom Penh, or did they not quite clearly realize how to help them, or did they not have actual possibilities to provide such help ? In any case the attempt at Pol Potís removal from power ended extremely pitiably for Hanoi: thousands of brother number one opponents were imprisoned and executed, and the winner having regained his power, could now openly conduct his anti-Vietnamese policy.

The cat and mouse game between Pol Pot and Hanoi ended after the Vietnamese Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Hoang Van Loiís confidential visit to Phnom Penh in February 1977. Pol Pot declined his proposal of a summit of Vietnamese and Cambodian leaders (Chanda, Brother Enemy, New York, 1986, p. 186). After the obvious failure of this visit, Hanoi, apparently, was finally convinced that it was impossible to come to terms with the Cambodian leadership. Gone were the hopes that Nuon Chea could change the situation for the benefit of Vietnam. At least during the Soviet ambassadorís meeting with the deputy minister of Foreign affairs of the SRV, Hoang Bich Son, on December 31, 1977, the Vietnamese representative said that during the war with the United States, Nuon Cheaís attitude towards Vietnam was positive and now in his personal contacts with Vietnamese leaders he is to a certain extent sympathetic to Vietnam, but the current situation in Kampuchea makes such people unable to do anything (RSAMH, Fund 5, inventory 75, file 1061. Record of the conversation of the Soviet ambassador with the deputy minister of Foreign Affairs of the SRV, Hoang Bich Son. December 31, 1977. p. 10).

Vietnamís decision to take a tougher stand on relations with Democratic Kampuchea was also motivated by the endless border war, started by the Khmer Rouge in the spring of 1977, and the appearance of Chinese military personnel backing the Khmer Rouge training and arming their troops, building roads and military bases. Among such bases was an Air Force base at Kampong Chhnang, which made it possible for military planes to reach the South Vietnamese capital Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) in half an hour time. The situation developed in such a manner that Hanoi had to think of the real threat to its national security rather than about an Indochinese federation. New circumstances required new approaches. In this connection the following information received by Soviet ambassador from his Hungarian colleague in Vietnam deserves attention. As a Hungarian journalist was informed, on September 30, 1977, the Politbureau of the CPV met in Saigon for an extraordinary session, under Le Duanís chairmanship, to discuss when to publish information on the Kampuchean reactionary forces aggression" (RSAMH, Fund 5, inventory 73, file 1407. Hungarian ambassadorís information on Vietnamese-Cambodian relations. November 1, 1977. p. 99.) The very term Kampuchean reactionary forces meant a radical turnaround of the Vietnamese policy. Hanoi had a new plan of operations to deal with situation in Cambodia.

The first element of this plan was the change in Vietnamís border war strategy. While the year 1977 had seen the Vietnamese troops mainly defending, now they dealt a powerful direct blow against Cambodian territory which came as a surprise to the Khmer Rouge. In December-January 1977-1978, Vietnamese troops destroyed Cambodian units and pursued Khmer Rouge combatants. For different reasons the Vietnamese did not occupy the country, but quickly withdrew their forces. (Bulgarian news agency correspondent I. Gaitanjiev was told that the Vietnamese troops were deployed some 35 kilometres away from Phnom Penh but occupation of all Kampuchea was politically impossible (RSAMH, Fund 5 inventories 75, file 1062. Record of the conversation of the Soviet embassy minister in Beijing with the BNA correspondent I. Gaitanjiev, Beijing, April 4, 1978 p. 23).

This successful invasion made it possible for Hanoi to make a detailed appraisal of the situation in Cambodia and the mood of the majority of its population. When the Vietnamese forces entered Khmer territory, the local population, as a high-ranking Vietnamese diplomat informed the Soviet ambassador, met the Vietnamese well (RSAMH, Fund 5, inventory 75, file 1061, Record of the conversation of the Soviet ambassador with the chief of the consular department of the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Vu Hoang, February, 1978, p.15-16). Moreover, when the Vietnamese troops withdrew from Cambodian territory, thousands fled following them to Vietnam (Chanda, Brother Enemy, New York, 1986, p. 213).

At that time, Hanoi considered only two ways of solving the Cambodian problem. According to the chief of the consular department of the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Vu Hoang, one option is a victory for healthy forces inside Democratic Kampuchea; another &is compelling Pol Pot to negotiate in a worsening situation (RSAMH, Fund 5, inventory 75, file1061. Record of the conversation of the Soviet ambassador with the chief of the consular department of the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Vu Hoang. February, 1978, p. 15-16).

As we see, Hanoi put its stakes either on a coup de tat and a victory of healthy forces, or on the capitulation of Pol Pot and his acceptance of all Vietnamese conditions. But its leaders miscalculated. Attempts to organize Pol Potís overthrow by a mutiny of the Eastern Zone military forces ended in a complete disaster for the anti-Pol Pot rebels in June 1978. Thereby the first option could be discarded. The second one appeared equally unrealistic, as the Chinese aid to the Khmer Rouge sharply increased in 1978 and eased the difficulties experienced by the regime.

It appeared that the Vietnamese leadership did not limit itself to the two scenarios for Cambodia introduced by Vu Hoang to the Soviet ambassador. They had the third choice: deposition of the Pol Pot regime by a massive military invasion and the introduction of a new administration in Phnom Penh controlled by Hanoi. So in the middle of February 1978, Vietnamese party leaders Le Duan and Le Duc Tho met with, firstly, a small group of Khmer communists remaining in Vietnam, who had regrouped there in 1954 (most of the other groups had returned to Cambodia in the beginning of the 1970s, and were soon killed in repressions), and, secondly, with former Khmer Rouge who had sought refuge in Vietnam from Pol Potís repressions. The purpose of these meetings was to form an anti-Pol Pot movement and political leadership. It would include Vietnamese army major Pen Sovan, a Khmer who had lived in Vietnam for 24 years, and the former Khmer Rouge Hun Sen, who had escaped to Vietnam only in June 1977. At that time a chain of secret camps for guerrilla army induction and training appeared in South Vietnam (Chanda, Brother Enemy, New York, 1986, pp. 217-21.) Former American military bases in Xuan Loc and Long Chau were the main camps. In April 1978 the first brigade of the anti-Pol Pot army was secretly administered an oath; later some other brigades manned at battalion level or below, were formed on the territory of Vietnam.

Provision of proper diplomatic background for the operation to overthrow Pol Pot was considered of utmost importance. In June 1978, the Politbureau of the VWP Central Committee took a decision on the expediency of a trip by Le Duan to Moscow. A Soviet diplomat reported in June 1978 that according to the Vietnamese the trip should have a confidential status. Le Trong Tan, deputy chief of the Joint Staff, will accompany Le Duan (RSAMH, Fund 5, inventory 75, file 1062, Record of a Soviet diplomatsí conversation with the member of the Politbureau of the VWP Central Committee, minister of foreign affairs of the SRV, Nguyen Duy Trinh, June 15, 978, p. 35).

By securing initially informal, and after the conclusion of the friendship and cooperation treaty between the USSR and the SRV, official support from Moscow, the Vietnamese began to talk quite clearly that the forthcoming dry season can be effectively used for powerful attacks on the Phnom Penh regime (RSAMH, Fund 5, inventory 75, file 1062. Record of conversation of a Soviet diplomat with Nguyen Ngoc Tinh deputy chief of South East Asian communist parties sector of the CPV Central Committees foreign relations department. October 20, 1978. p. 1). An interesting thing was that the Vietnamese firmly assured Soviet representatives, who were concerned about the Chinese response to the prospective invasion, that China will not have time to dispatch large military units to Phnom Penh to rescue.

This book is dedicated to my beloved Khmer people, whose suffering is unparalleled in human history. Cambodians are on the brink of extinction, dying a slow death, murdered in the name of two conflicting types of communism. It is a struggle to the death between Kampuchean and Vietnamese communism; it is also a dispute between the two communistsí giants they represent, china and Russia. (Norodom Sihanouk of Cambodia, War & Hope, 1980, William Shawcross).

Please pro-Hanoi/Vietminh/Vietcong, Leninists, Stalists and all communists, totalitarianism, expansionism, colonialists, imperialists and hegemonism and conquerors stop hiding the true facts and chains of events that you are trying to bury in the ground anymore. You should go to temple and confess all crimes youíve committed, and let a high priest shave your hair to be a monk. Buddha will pardon you; itís not too late for you yet. If not, bad karma will haunt you for the rest of your life. You will surely be punished any crimes youíve committed against Khmers in the near future, you trust in God/Buddha.
6 August, 2003

Post Response | Return to Index | Read Prev Msg | Read Next Msg

POLITICS FORUM is maintained by Webmaster at #CAMBODIA WEB.