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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Vietnam brushes away Ieng Sary olive branch

Vietnam brushes away Ieng Sary olive branch

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

tribunal.

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

other Cambodians.

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."

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