THE 2ND WAR - CAMBODIA AND VIET NAM



THE CAMBODIAN -VIETNAMESE WAR - PART TWO

The 2nd War took place in the 1970s and was between the Socialist Republic of Vietnam and Democratic Kampuchea. 

•  The War started because Cambodia repeatedly invaded Vietnam, attempting to retake the Mekong River Delta. The country felt the area belonged to them and continuously raided Vietnamese areas on the border. Also, the Cambodian troops exterminated the Vietnamese living within Cambodia.

•  The defining moment, however, came when the Khmer Rouge raided Ba Chuc and killed more than 3,000 Vietnamese. The massacre is still deeply felt today, and visitors can see memorials to the victims.

•  The Cambodians leader at the time was a man considered to be one of the world’s cruelest leaders, Pol Pot.  He was a dictator who caused the deaths of about 25 percent of the Cambodian population, or as many as three million people over the course of four years. The deaths were caused by a combination of executions, forced labor, and malnutrition.

The Cambodia - Vietnam Friendship Monument built in the late
1970s by the communist regime that took power after the Cambodian-Vietnamese War.

•  China supported Pol Pot’s reign and invaded Vietnam in response to the conflict, in 1979. However, the Vietnamese army was able to force them back across their border. The Chinese also were unable to force Vietnam away from Cambodia. During all this, the Vietnamese thought they would be supported by the Soviet Union. However, the Soviet Union did not oblige.

•  Pol Pot’s troops remained active for 15 years afterward, staying on the border of Thailand and Cambodia. They were able to do so thanks to financial assistance from China and political tolerance from Thailand.

•  Vietnam received a lot of criticism for its invasion of Cambodia, by not only China but also the United States. They also received criticism for allowing Vietnamese troops to stay within Cambodia for what was thought to be longer than necessary (1989). However, this has been compared to US forces remaining in the Middle East for extended periods of time.

•  The Vietnamese were not the saviors of the Cambodian people who were suffering under Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge. Helping the citizens of Cambodia was never the primary goal of the Vietnamese. Rather, they were worried that Pol Pot would get too close to China, allowing the Chinese additional access into Vietnam.

•  The Vietnamese soldiers who fought in the Cambodian-Vietnamese War did not receive much recognition when they returned home from the front. The Vietnamese press and government, however, made an enormous amount out of their involvement in the conflict with the French and the US.

•  Vietnam launched an invasion of Cambodia in late December 1978 to remove Pol Pot. Two million Cambodians had died at the hands of his Khmer Rouge regime and Pol Pot's troops had conducted bloody cross-border raids into Vietnam, Cambodia's historic enemy, massacring civilians and torching villages.

•  Pol Pot fled ahead of the onslaught and Phnom Penh was placed under Vietnamese control in a little over a week. 

•  Those that survived the Khmer Rouge regime initially greeted the Vietnamese as liberators. Years later, however, Vietnamese troops were still in Cambodia and by then, many Cambodians considered them occupiers.

Cambodia was an unpopular war for Vietnam, said Carlyle Thayer, an expert on Vietnam and emeritus professor at the University of New South Wales at the Australian Defense Force Academy in Canberra.  

•  “The Vietnamese military had been trained and experienced in overthrowing an occupying power and all of a sudden, the shoe was on the other foot. They had to invade Cambodia and occupy it, and succeed in setting up a government and engineer a withdrawal." 

Unlike Vietnam's wars against the French and Americans, the intervention in Cambodia was "downplayed" to the Vietnamese public, Mr Thayer said. When soldiers returned from Cambodia without the fanfare of previous wars, veterans felt that they had been “forgotten".   •  This conflict was different, and many Vietnamese soldiers felt they did not receive their due honor.


KILLING FIELDS

The Cambodian Killing Fields (Khmer: វាលពិឃាត, Khmer pronunciation: [ʋiəl pikʰiət]) are a number of sites in Cambodia where collectively more than a million people were killed and buried by the Khmer Rouge regime, during its rule of the country from 1975 to 1979, immediately after the end of the Cambodian Civil War 

The judicial process of the Khmer Rouge regime, for minor or political crimes, began with a warning from the Angkar, the government of Cambodia under the regime. People receiving more than two warnings were sent for “re-education", which meant near-certain death. 

People were often encouraged to confess to Angkar their "pre-revolutionary lifestyles and crimes" (which usually included some kind of free-market activity; having had contact with a foreign source, such as a U.S. missionary, international relief or government agency; or contact with any foreigner or with the outside world at all), being told that Angkar would forgive them and "wipe the slate clean." They were then taken away to a place such as Tuol Sleng or Choeung Ek for torture and/or execution. 

The executed were buried in mass graves. In order to save ammunition, the executions were often carried out using poison, spades or sharpened bamboo sticks. In some cases the children and infants of adult victims were killed by having their heads bashed against the trunks of Chankiri trees, and then were thrown into the pits alongside their parents. The rationale was "to stop them growing up and taking revenge for their parents' deaths."

Some victims were required to dig their own graves; their weakness often meant that they were unable to dig very deep. The soldiers who carried out the executions were mostly young men or women from peasant families.

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