Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Fighting the Vietnamese "crocodiles"

Fighting the Vietnamese "crocodiles"

testified at the tribunal Monday and part of Tuesday about armed conflict between Cambodia and Vietnam during the period of Democratic Kampuchea. Throughout the late 1970s, the Khmer Rouge waged repeated "nibbling" attacks across the border into Vietnam, often massacring Vietnamese civilians, he told the court. " />

Fighting the Vietnamese "crocodiles"

Journalist and expert witness Nayan Chanda testified at the tribunal Monday and part of Tuesday about armed conflict between Cambodia and Vietnam during the period of Democratic Kampuchea. Throughout the late 1970s, the Khmer Rouge waged repeated "nibbling" attacks across the border into Vietnam, often massacring Vietnamese civilians, he told the court.

While those associated with Vietnam were purged internally, Khmer Rouge leaders called on their people to kill all 50 million Vietnamese. In the end, this virulent hatred led to the regime's downfall.

Convinced that the Khmer Rouge were pawns of the Chinese, the Soviet-backed Vietnamese eventually decided to hit back hard, Chanda said. They drove the Khmer Rouge into the jungle and took control of the country for a decade.

Yet it was the Vietnamese Communists who had initially trained and equipped Cambodia's revolutionary fighters. How had such an enormous schism between the two Communist movements come about?

As Chanda explained, Vietnam and Cambodia have "had a pretty tormented relationship." Cambodian folk tales even describe the cruelty of the Vietnamese to Khmers. Yet there have also been numerous periods of collaboration between the two peoples.

But recurrent tensions, prompted by fears of Vietnamese "expansionism" and an undeniable strain of paranoia, undermined pre-Democratic Kampuchea Communist cooperation. Cambodians saw their eastern neighbors as "swallowers of other countries' territories."

This was compounded by the fact that, according to Chanda, the Khmer Rouge took an "openly racist" stance toward the Vietnamese.

"The Black Paper," an anti-Vietnamese manifesto created by DK in 1978, describes "the Vietnamese nature as aggressive," Chanda said. While it is "a mixture of fact and fantasy" that allegedly chronicles the history of Cambodian/Vietnamese relations, the document can offer insight into Khmer Rouge ideology, he added.

The issue of anti-Vietnamese racism in Cambodia has intrigued me for some time and, unfortunately, I think many of the same stereotypes (in a less extreme form) exist today. So I tried to find a copy of The Black Paper online.

I was not successful in this endeavor, and was only able to find other articles that quoted from The Black Paper. I've included several interesting Black Paper excerpts below that I pulled from the essay "The Ingratitude of the Crocodiles: the 1978 Cambodian Black Paper," published by the Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars in 1980. (It should be noted that one of the essay's authors, Serge Thion, has come under fire for polarizing comments he has made about the Holocaust.)

* In The Black Paper, the Vietnamese are described as even more ungrateful than crocodiles.

* The paper refers to the annexationist nature of Vietnam, which has never stopped trying to devour Cambodia.

*Yuon is the name given by Kampuchea's people to the Vietnamese since the epoch of Angkor and it means "savage." The words "Vietnam" and "Vietnamese" are very recent and not often used by Kampuchea's people. (The essay goes on to discredit this explanation, saying that the word "Yuon" exists in both Thai and Cham. Interestingly, "Comrade Duch" still refers to Vietnamese as "Yuon" when he speaks at the tribunal.)

*As they had made the revolution, the Vietnamese enjoyed some prestige in Southeast Asia. At that time, the international community gave them aid and support. Europe supported them. China helped and supported them. The Vietnamese have taken advantage of this support and used it as political support in order to carry out their scheme of expansion and annexation. They wanted to dominate all of "Indochina" . . . They want to take possession of Kampuchea in order to use her as a springboard for their expansion in Southeast Asia . . ."

* The Vietnamese even wanted to teach Kampuchea how to cook rice!

Following Chanda, scholar Craig Etcheson once again began testifying Tuesday afternoon, but was interrupted by defense objections. He may continue his testimony tomorrow.


  • Cambodia rejects UN rights claim

    Cambodia's Permanent Mission to the UN Office in Geneva on Friday hit back at David Kaye, the UN special rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression after he raised concerns over the repression of free speech and

  • Snaring may spawn diseases

    The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has warned that snaring of animals has become a crisis that poses a serious risk to wildlife in Southeast Asia and could spawn the transmission of zoonotic diseases to humans. Its July 9 report entitled Silence of the Snares: Southeast Asia’

  • Ex-party leader, gov’t critic named as secretary of state

    A former political party leader known for being critical of the government has been appointed secretary of state at the Ministry of Rural Development, a royal decree dated July 9 said. Sourn Serey Ratha, the former president of the Khmer Power Party (KPP), told The Post

  • Residence cards set for over 80,000 immigrants

    The Ministry of Interior plans to grant residence cards to more than 80,000 immigrants to better keep track of them. The ministry announced the plan on July 10, following the results of an immigration census. “An inter-ministerial committee and many operational working groups have been set up

  • Kingdom produces PPE gear

    Medical supplies from Cambodia have been donated to member countries of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to assist in the fight against Covid-19, said an ADB report published on July 9. The report stated that the supplies were donated as a response to global efforts to

  • Kingdom, US vow stronger ties

    At an academic forum on Saturday to celebrate 70 years of Cambodia-US diplomatic ties, Cambodian researchers and officials expressed hope of encouraging US investments and for that country to deepen and improve its bilateral relations. Held at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, it reviewed the past 70

  • Fifteen Cambodians from Saudi get Covid-19

    The Ministry of Health on Sunday confirmed 15 more imported cases of Covid. The 15 men ‒ all Cambodian aged 21 to 33 ‒ arrived from Saudi Arabia on Friday via a connecting flight in Malaysia. They were travelling with 79 other passengers, three of them women. The ministry said 80 of the

  • Ministry requests school opening

    The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport on Thursday said it would request a decision from Prime Minister Hun Sen to allow a small number of schools to reopen next month. Ministry spokesman Ros Soveacha said if the request is granted, higher-standard schools will reopen

  • Kingdom eyes India FTA, China deal set for August

    Cambodia is studying the possibility of establishing a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) with India to open a new market with the second-largest regional economy. This comes as an FTA with China is scheduled to be signed next month while similar negotiations with South Korea

  • Judge lands in court after crashing into alleged thief

    Sen Sok district police on Thursday sent a Koh Kong Provincial Court judge to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on manslaughter charges after he crashed his car into a woman riding a motorbike on Wednesday, killing her. District police chief Hour Meng Vang told The