Vietnam asks Singapore to make amends over Cambodia ‘invasion’ remark

By Hong Hanh   June 7, 2019 | 07:13 am PT
Vietnam asks Singapore to make amends over Cambodia ‘invasion’ remark
Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh in a phone call with his Singaporean counterpart Vivian Balakrishnan Friday. Photo by Vietnam's Foreign Ministry.
The foreign ministers of Vietnam and Singapore Friday discussed the fallout of the Singaporean PM's statement on Vietnam ‘invading’ Cambodia.

Vietnam's Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh stressed that Singaporean PM Lee Hsien Loong's statement has caused a negative reaction and requested that it be adjusted appropriately.

The Singaporean PM's statement, in which he claimed Vietnam had invaded Cambodia, was the key issue discussed in a phone call between Minh and his Singaporean counterpart Vivian Balakrishnan Friday.

During the call, Balakrishnan explained the context in which Lee's statement on Facebook and at the Shangri-La Dialogue was issued. He said that the statement was not meant to offend Vietnam and Cambodia, stressing that Singapore appreciates its strategic partnership with Vietnam.

Minh, who is also Deputy Prime Minister, emphasized the legitimacy, as well as the contributions and sacrifices of Vietnamese military volunteers in helping Cambodia escape genocide, contributing to peace, stability and development in the region.

The two foreign ministers agreed to continue cooperating to strengthen and develop Vietnam-Singapore bilateral relations, as well as to strengthen the solidarity and unity of ASEAN.

In a Facebook post on May 31, Prime Minister Lee expressed condolences on the passing of former Thai PM and President of the Privy Council, General Prem Tinsulanonda, who he said served at the time five ASEAN members came together "to oppose Vietnam's invasion of Cambodia and the Cambodian government that replaced the Khmer Rouge."

Lee's statement has been met with strong opposition, including from Cambodian PM Hun Sen who slammed it as an insult to the sacrifice of the Vietnamese military volunteers who helped liberate Cambodia from the genocidal regime.

At the Shangri-La Dialogue hosted last week in Singapore, Cambodian Defense Minister Tea Banh also raised the issue with his Singaporean counterpart and requested that Lee amend the statement, which he said was "not true and does not reflect history."

Vietnam's Foreign Ministry spokesperson Le Thi Thu Hang also said Vietnam "regrets" that the statement did not reflect history objectively, raising negative public opinions.

She added that the ministry and relevant Vietnamese agencies have had formal and informal exchanges with their Singaporean partners, as well as sent a diplomatic note to the Singaporean Embassy in Hanoi.

The Khmer Rouge, led by Pol Pot, invaded Vietnam and killed tens of thousands of Vietnamese between 1975 and 1979 as part of its genocidal agenda. At the request of Cambodian revolutionaries, Vietnamese soldiers marched into Phnom Penh in January 1979 during a counteroffensive on the southwestern border to free the capital from the Khmer Rouge's clutches.

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