Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home
Hostname: page-component-846f6c7c4f-fw8f9 Total loading time: 0.226 Render date: 2022-07-07T10:04:12.540Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "useRatesEcommerce": false, "useNewApi": true } hasContentIssue true

Vietnam's Military and Political Challenges in Cambodia and the Early Rise of Cambodia's Strongman, Hun Sen, 1977–79

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  26 July 2021

Kosal Path*
Affiliation:
Brooklyn College, The City University of New York, USA
Boraden Nhem
Affiliation:
Department of International Studies, Royal University of Phnom, Penh Russian Federation Boulevard, Cambodia
*
*Corresponding author. Email: kosalpath@brooklyn.cuny.edu

Abstract

Much has been written about Cambodia's strongman, Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has been in power since 1985. Yet, the history of Hun Sen's early rise to a position of power in the Vietnam-initiated Cambodian revolution after June 1977 remains murky. Relying on Vietnamese and Cambodian archival documents, memoirs and interviews with former veterans of Unit 125 as well as Hun Sen's speeches and personal recollection of his historic journey to Vietnam on 20 June 1977, we make a two-fold argument. First, Hanoi's decision to establish an anti-Pol Pot Cambodian revolution in southern Vietnam to take over Cambodia—after toppling Democratic Kampuchea—was part of Hanoi's strategic plan to handle a double challenge: (1) to avoid being branded as an invader and (2) to establish a capable and friendly regime in Cambodia after the war. This provided an opportunity for a young Khmer Rouge defector, Hun Sen, to change his fortune by quickly earning the Vietnamese military leadership's trust and confidence based on his competence to organize and command the first army unit of the new Cambodian revolution, i.e. Unit 125. Second, as lucky as he was to flee across the heavily militarized border into Vietnam unharmed, Hun Sen's early rise to power is attributed to his survivalist instinct combined with shrewd strategic thinking.

Type
Original Article
Copyright
Copyright © The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of Institute for East Asian Studies, Sogang University

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

References

Baird, Ian G. 2020. Rise of the Brao: Ethnic Minorities in Northeastern Cambodia during Vietnamese Occupation. Madison, WI: The University of Wisconsin Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Becker, Elizabeth. 1998. When the War was Over: Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge Revolution. New York, NY: Public Affairs.Google Scholar
Bou, Thang. 2011. A Historic Journey That Cannot Be Forgotten (Unpublished Manuscript).Google Scholar
Chanda, Nayan. 1986. Brother Enemy: The War After the War. New York, NY: Collier Books.Google Scholar
Chandler, David. 1999. Voices from S-21: Terror and History in Pol Pot's Secret Prison. Chiang Mai, Thailand: Silkworm Books.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Chandler, David. 1999. Brother Number One: A Political Biography of Pol Pot. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.Google Scholar
Cixous, Hélène trans. 1985. The Terrible but Unfinished Story of Norodom Sihanouk, King of Cambodia. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press.Google Scholar
Colm, Sara. 1996. The Highland Minorities and the KR in Northeastern Cambodia, 1968–1979. DC-Cam (unpublished manuscript).Google Scholar
Dang Uy - Bo Tu Lenh Quan Doan 4 [Party Committee of the Command of Army Division 4]. 2004. Lich su Quan Doan 4 1974–2004 [History of Army Division 4, 1974–2004] (luu hanh noi bo [for internal circulation only]). Hanoi, Vietnam: Nha Xuat ban Quan doi Nhan dan [People's Army Publishing House].Google Scholar
Duc, Huy. 2012. Ben Thang Cuoc I. Giai Phong [The Winning Side: I. Liberation]. Saigon, Vietnam: OSINBOOK.Google Scholar
Gottesman, Evan R. 2003. Cambodia After the Khmer Rouge: Inside the Politics of Nation Building. Chiang Mai, Thailand.Google Scholar
Handley, Erin and Niem, Chheng. 2018. “Analysis: In new propaganda documentary, Hun Sen attempts to ‘Rewrite History’,” The Phnom Penh Post, 5 January. Available at: https://www.phnompenhpost.com/national-politics/analysis-new-propaganda-documentary-hun-sen-attempts-rewrite-history.Google Scholar
Heng, Samrin. 2019. The People's Struggle: Cambodia Reborn, Singapore: Didier Millet.Google Scholar
Hun, Sen. 2011. Hun Sen: Three decades of Cambodia's Journey, (unpublished manuscript).Google Scholar
Ith, Sarin. 2002. “Crossing the KR-controlled area.” Searching for the Truth, September.Google Scholar
Khoo, Nicholas. 2011. Collateral Damage: Sino-Soviet Rivalry of the Soviet-Vietnamese Alliance. New York, NY: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
Khuat, Bien Hoa. 2005. Dai Tuong Le Duc Anh [General Le Duc Anh]. Hanoi, Vietnam: Nha Xuat ban Quan doi Nhan dan [People's Army Publishing House].Google Scholar
Kiernan, Ben. 1981. “Origins of Khmer Communism.” Southeast Asian Affairs 174–75.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Luu, Van Loi. 1990. Vietnam: Dat, Bien, Troi [Vietnam: Land, Sea and Sky] (luu hanh noi bo [for internal circulation only]). Hanoi, Vietnam: Nha Xuat ban Cong an Nhan dan [People's Police Publishing House].Google Scholar
Mehta, Harish C., and Julie B., Mehta. 1999. Hun Sen: Strongman of Cambodia. Singapore: Graham Brash Ltd.Google Scholar
Morris, Stephen. 1999. Why Vietnam invaded Cambodia: Political Culture and the Causes of War. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
Mosyakov, Dmitry. 2001. “The KR and the Vietnamese Communists: History of their relations as told in the Soviet archives.” Searching for the Truth, May, 36–38.Google Scholar
Nem, Sowath. 2009. Revolution in a Distant Village: The Tea Banh Story, Historical Events in Koh Kong from the 1970s to the late 1970s. Phnom Penh, Cambodia: Reahoo Publishing.Google Scholar
Ngo, Dien. 1992. Campuchia nhin lai va suy nghi [Cambodia: A look back and thought] (unpublished memoir).Google Scholar
Ngo, Thi Thanh Tuyen. 2008. “Lich su Chien tranh Chong Khome Do Xam luoc Viet Nam tren Huong Tay Nam (5/1975–12/1978) [History of Vietnam's War against the Khmer Rouge in the Southwest from May 1975 to December 1978].” MA diss., Dai Hoc Quoc Gia Thanh Pho Ho Chi Minh [The National University, Ho Chi Minh City].Google Scholar
Nguyen, Thi Binh. 2015. Family, Friends, and Country. Hanoi, Vietnam: Tri Thuc Publishing House.Google Scholar
Nhem, Boraden. 2018. The Chronicle of a People's War: The Military and Strategic History of the Cambodian Civil War, 1979–1991. Oxford: Routledge.Google Scholar
Noren-Nilsson, Astrid. 2016. Cambodia's Second Kingdom: Nation, Imagination, and Democracy. Ithaca, NY: Cornell Southeast Asia Program Publication.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Path, Kosal. 2020. Vietnam's Strategic Thinking during the Third Indochina War. Madison, WI: The University of Wisconsin Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Path, Kosal 2018. “Introduction: Cambodia's political history and foreign relations, 1945–1998.” In Cambodia's Foreign Relations in Regional and Global Contexts, edited by Deth, Sok Udom, Suon, Sun, and Bulut, Serkan, 726. Phnom Penh, Cambodia: Konrad-Andenauer-Stiftung.Google Scholar
Path, Kosal, and Angeliki, Kanavou. 2015. “Converts, not ideologues? The KR practice of thought reform in Cambodia, 1975–1978.” Journal of Political Ideologies 20(3): 304332.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Phung, Dinh Am. 2009. Brigadier General Phung Dinh Am, Connecting with Three Generations of the Land of Angkor. Phnom Penh: [unkown publisher].Google Scholar
Régaud, Nicolas. 1992. Cambodge Dans la tourmente: Le Troisième Conflit Indochinois 1978–1991. Paris: Harmattan.Google Scholar
Slocomb, Margaret. 2003. The People's Republic of Kampuchea, 1979–1989: The Revolution after Pol Pot. Chiang Mai, Thailand: Silkworm Books.Google Scholar
Strangio, Sebastian. 2020. Cambodia: From Pol Pot to Hun Sen and Beyond. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
Tran, Quang Co. 2003. Hoi Uc va Suy Nghi [Memoir and Thought]. Hanoi (unpublished manuscript).Google Scholar
Vien Lich su Quan su Viet Nam, Bo Quoc Phong [Vietnam's Institute of Military History, Ministry of National Defense]. 2010. Lich su Quan Tinh nguyen va Chuyen gia Quan su Viet Nam Giup Cach Mang Campuchia (1978–1989) [History of Vietnamese Voluntary Army and Military Experts’ Assistance to the Cambodian revolution 1978–1989]. Luu hanh noi bo [for internal circulation only]. Hanoi, Vietnam: Nha Xuat ban Quan doi Nhan dan [People's Army Publishing House]Google Scholar
Westad, Odd Arne, and Sophie, Quinn-Judge, eds. 2006. The Third Indochina War: Conflict between China, Vietnam and Cambodia, 1972–79. New York, NY: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
“Discussion between Hua Guofeng and Pol Pot,” September 29, 1977, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, CWIHP Working Paper 22, “77 Conversations.” Available at: http://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/111265Google Scholar
Lu, Caixia. 2018 trans. “Conversation with Khieu Samphan and Ieng Sary, Leader and Deputy Leader of the Delegation of the National United Front and the Royal Government of National Union of Cambodia,” April 02, 1974,History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, Song Yongyi, ed., ‘Jimi Dangan zhong Xin Faxiande Mao Zedong Jianghua’ (Talks with Mao Zedong Newly Discovered in Secret Archives) (Guoshichubanshe, 2018). Available at: https://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/122045Google Scholar
Interview with a former battalion commander of the NADK (KR) 912th Division, 26 January 2012, Anlong Veng District, Ouddar Meanchey Province, Cambodia.Google Scholar
Anonymous interview with former veterans of Unit 125 during the official event marking the 43rd anniversary of the historic journey at Koh Thmar village of Memot district, 20 June 2020, Tbong Kmum Province, Cambodia.Google Scholar
Nuch Than, interviewed 20 June 2020, Koh Thmar village of Memot district, Tbong Kmum Province, Cambodia.Google Scholar
Cabinet of Samdech Techo Prime Minister Hun Sen, “Marching Towards National Salvation,” January 3, 2018, MPEG video, 1:33:54, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_re-tcl1LxYGoogle Scholar
Cabinet Office of Samdech Techo Prime Minister Hun Sen, “Activities of Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen During the Visit to the Historical Site Commemorating the 40th Anniversary of the Historic Journey Toward the Overthrow of the Pol Pot Genocidal Regime (20 June 1977–20 June 2017)],” June 21, 2017, MPEG video, Author's collection.Google Scholar
Cabinet of Samdech Techo Prime Minister Hun Sen, “Comments of Samdech Techo Hun Sen at the Second Historical Site (Hoa Lu village) Loc Ninh District, Binh Phuoc Province, Vietnam,” June 21, 2017, MPEG Video, Author's collection.Google Scholar
Sen, Hun. “Commemoration Ceremony of Fallen Veterans and Inauguration of the Historical Memory Statue at the Former Location of Unit 125 [Dong Nai province, Vietnam], the Source of the Armed Forces of Cambodia under the Command of Comrade Hun Sen.” January 2, 2012. MPEG Video. Author's collection.Google Scholar
Van Phong Bo Tong Tham Muu [Department of the General Staff (Vietnam People's Army)]. 31-12-77 [31 December 1977]. [Ban Ghi Dong Chi Van Tien Dung gap Hun Sen (Trung doan pho E dia phuong vung 21, Quan khu 203, sang Vietnam ngay 20 thang 6 nam 1977 [Note of Comrade Van Tien Dung meeting Hun Sen (Deputy Commander of Regiment at Region 21, Military Zone 203, who came to Vietnam on 20 June 1977)]. Tai thanh pho Ho Chi Minh ngay 27/9/1977 tu 8:00 den 10:40 [sang] [At Ho Chi Minh City on 27 September 1977 from 8:00 to 10:40 am]. This document was part of the documentary Marching Towards National Salvation, released to the public on 8 January 2018, Video: 56-58:00.Google Scholar
Keo, Baphnom. 2016. “Chronology of Samdech Techo Hun Sen's activities in serving the country and people.” Phnom Penh, Cambodia, 1–183.Google Scholar
Ministry of National Defense, undated. “Excerpts from speeches of, answers to the press of, and interviews with Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen, the Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Cambodia, Sadech Pichey Sena Tia Banh, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of National Defense, and Nem Sowath, Special Advisor to Sadech Pichey Sena Tia Banh and the director-general of the General Department of Foreign Policy and Foreign Affairs, Ministry of National Defense on the Commemoration Day of Sam Dech Techo Hun Sen's Historical 20-June-1977 Journey Leading to the Overthrow of Pol Pot's Genocide Regime.”Google Scholar
15971 – “Bao cao dac biet tiep theo bao cao dac biet so 02/VM ngay 14-1-1977 ve viec luc luong Campuchia tap kich don CANDVT bien phong so 7 va so 8 tinh Dak Lak [Special report following the special report No. 02/VM on 14 January 1977 about the Cambodian forces attacking our border defense police units No. 7 and 8 at Dak Lak province.” 3–5.Google Scholar
15971 – Nguyen Van Ngoc, Pho Truong Ban Bien Gioi Cua HDCP [Vice-Chairman of the Border Committee of the Government Council] kinh gui Anh To [sent to Pham Van Dong]. 1977. 6–18. The Border Committee, an organ of the Party Centre, was established at the end of 1975.Google Scholar
15971 – Thuong Ta Tang Lieu [Lieutenant-colonel Tang Lieu], Pho Cuc Truong Cuc Tham Muu [Vice Chief of the Department of Staff], Bo Tu Lenh CANDVT, Bo Noi Vu [Command of the Vietnamese People's Police, the Ministry of Interior]. Undated. “Bao cao tin tong hop trong Tuan (tu 15-7 den 21-7-1977) [Weekly summary report (from 15 to 21 July 1977)], 32–38.Google Scholar
15971—Thuong Ta Trinh Tran [Major Trinh Tran]. Bo Tu Lenh CANDVT, Cuc Truong Cuc Tham Muu, So: 03/BTL [Chief of General Staff Department, the Command of Vietnamese People's Police] Kinh gui Thu Tuong Pham Van Dong [sent to Prime Minister Pham Van Dong]. Hanoi, ngay 16 thang 1 nam 1977 [Hanoi, 16 January 1977], 3–5.Google Scholar
15860 – Chu Huy Man, Pho Bi thu Quan Uy Trung Uong [Chu Huy Man, deputy-secretary of the Central Military Commission]. Hanoi, ngay 28-8-1977 [Hanoi, August 28, 1977]. “Bao cao tinh hinh quan doi va cong tac quan su trong 6 thang qua [Report on military situation and affairs for the past six months], 1–7.Google Scholar
2354 – “Bao cao cua Thu Tuong Pham Van Dong truoc ky hop thu tu –Quoc Hoi Khoa VI, ngay 23/12/78 tai Hoi Truong Ba Dinh Ha-Noi” (Prime Minister Pham Van Dong's report before the fourth session of the National Assembly on 23 December 1978 at BaDinh), 1–20.Google Scholar

Save article to Kindle

To save this article to your Kindle, first ensure coreplatform@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Vietnam's Military and Political Challenges in Cambodia and the Early Rise of Cambodia's Strongman, Hun Sen, 1977–79
Available formats
×

Save article to Dropbox

To save this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Dropbox account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Vietnam's Military and Political Challenges in Cambodia and the Early Rise of Cambodia's Strongman, Hun Sen, 1977–79
Available formats
×

Save article to Google Drive

To save this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Google Drive account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Vietnam's Military and Political Challenges in Cambodia and the Early Rise of Cambodia's Strongman, Hun Sen, 1977–79
Available formats
×
×

Reply to: Submit a response

Please enter your response.

Your details

Please enter a valid email address.

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *