VIETNAM has snubbed historic attempts by Cambodia's most senior Khmer Rouge defector
to restore long-severed ties.
Sources in Hanoi confirm that senior officials refused to accept letters to Vietnam
Communist Party General Secretary Do Muoi from Ieng Sary, the KR breakaway leader.
Sary said last month that he wanted to end traditional "misunderstanding and
mistrust" and to assure Vietnam that he now stood "side by side" with
Phnom Penh's coalition government.
"We cannot close the door," Sary said in Pailin. "We must put our
minds in the present situation. I knew Do Muoi and many other senior officials a
long time ago and I want him to know about our new movement."
He added: "I have not yet received a reply."
The Post understands letters to Muoi and his retired predecessor Nguyen Van Linh
were given to Cambodia's Second Prime Minister, Hun Sen, to deliver.
However, word from Hanoi was passed to Hun Sen that the documents would not be accepted.
Hanoi never even asked to know the contents of the letters.
The Foreign Ministry in Hanoi has publicly said little about the KR split, describing
Sary's amnesty from King Norodom Sihanouk as Cambodia's "internal affair".
But one ministry official in Hanoi said privately: "How could we even consider
opening links with Ieng Sary?
"We are not interested at all. He holds no official position, so how could we
even if we wanted to. We deal with the government in Phnom Penh and no one else."
Sary served as Foreign Minister and Vice-Prime Minister during the 1975-79 Pol Pot
regime, having earlier built up strong ties with both Hanoi and Beijing.
He said he had known Do Muoi from the 1960s during trips to Hanoi and Paris when
he also developed relations with Hanoi's key peace negotiator Le Duc Tho and Ho Chi
Minh's Prime Minister Pham Van Dong.
After 1975, however, relations degenerated into warfare amid a series of border clashes
and the deaths of an estimated 100,000 Vietnamese in repeated purges - policy decisions
Sary has insisted he could not control.
After the KR regime was driven from power by a Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia in
1979, Pol Pot and Ieng Sary were sentenced to death in absentia by a Vietnamese-organized
Anti-Vietnamese sentiment - at the core of the KR's jungle rebellion since 1979 -
remains strong among defectors in Pailin, where Sary's attempts at new relations
with Hanoi do not seem widely known.
Sary, who was born in Kampuchea Krom (southern Vietnam) and has distant Vietnamese
relatives by marriage, said Vietnamese settlers were now free to move to Pailin like
But several of his underlings insisted that Vietnamese would never be welcome. Some
objected to the presence of Vietnamese traders as close as Battambang.
"We would never accept them here," said one former KR soldier. "And
we will make sure they are too scared ever to try.
"There are some things of our old ways that go deeper than just ideology, things
we cannot reject. Concern over the Vietnamese is one of them."