Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Documentary recounting Hun Sen’s role in Vietnamese invasion divides opinion

Documentary recounting Hun Sen’s role in Vietnamese invasion divides opinion

A screenshot from the documentary Marching Towards National Salvation, which was broadcast on television and social media last night, in which Prime Minister Hun Sen recounts his defection from the Khmer Rouge and his return with a Vietnamese-backed force to re-take Phnom Penh. Facebook
A screenshot from the documentary Marching Towards National Salvation, which was broadcast on television and social media last night, in which Prime Minister Hun Sen recounts his defection from the Khmer Rouge and his return with a Vietnamese-backed force to re-take Phnom Penh. Facebook

Documentary recounting Hun Sen’s role in Vietnamese invasion divides opinion

A glossy biopic of Prime Minister Hun Sen that premiered with much fanfare on Cambodian television last night has divided public opinion, with critics suggesting the documentary amounts to propaganda.

The 90-minute film, titled Marching Towards National Salvation, was also broadcast on social media, where it has so far clocked up more than 100,000 views.

Dramatic music accompanies the video, with Hun Sen frequently tearing up as he talks about defecting from the Khmer Rouge in 1977 and crossing into Vietnam, returning years later and re-taking Phnom Penh along with Vietnamese forces on January 7, 1979.

There are glaring historical omissions in the piece – for example, there is no mention of Pen Sovann, the first prime minister to be installed by the Vietnamese, who later became an opposition lawmaker. Hun Sen’s close political allies Heng Samrin and Chea Sim, however, are presented as key players.

There is also no mention of the significant aid given to the Khmer Rouge by China, currently Cambodia’s biggest donor, but there are several references to Hun Sen fighting against the “foreign invasion” of US bombing.

Former opposition leader Sam Rainsy called the omissions “an insult to history” and to the Cambodian people.

“The worst authoritarian regimes always promote [a] personality cult, which in turn leads to [the] distortion of historical facts,” he said. “This is nothing but pure and cheap propaganda that can be easily and expediently reshaped any time to suit the political objectives of the propagandists.”

However Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan defended the historical narrative.

“The prime minister said it, so we understand that it is accurate,” he said.

Online reactions varied, with some Facebook users accusing it of whitewashing history. Others, however, praised the premier, saying the documentary “shows the truth about the real history which Cambodian leaders went through”.

Updates to come.

MOST VIEWED

  • Hun Sen: Full country reopening to be decided in two weeks

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has announced that if the Covid-19 situation remains stable for 15 consecutive days from the end of the October 5-7 Pchum Ben public holiday, Cambodia will reopen fully, albeit in the context of Covid-19 whereby people have to adjust their lives to

  • Cambodia sets new Covid-19 quarantine rules

    The government has modified Covid-19 quarantine requirements, shortening the duration for, among others, Cambodian officials, foreign diplomats and delegations, investors and inbound travellers in general. According to an official notice signed by Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng late on October 16, quarantine length for Cambodian

  • Cambodia unveils new quarantine regulations

    The government has modified Covid-19 quarantine requirements, shortening the duration for, among others, Cambodian officials, foreign diplomats and delegations, investors and inbound travellers in general. According to an official notice signed by Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng late on October 16, quarantine length for Cambodian

  • Hun Sen: Cambodia set to fully reopen

    Prime Minister Hun Sen concludes that the October 5-7 Pchum Ben public holiday, during which many people either flocked to their hometowns for family reunion or gathered at tourist attractions across the country, has not caused an outbreak of Covid-19. In a special address to

  • Will Evergrande change the way Chinese developers do business in Cambodia?

    China’s property sector policy has exposed the grim financial condition of real estate developers including those operating in Cambodia, which raises questions over the viability of their projects and business going forward The dark blue netting draping over one of Yuetai Group Co Ltd’

  • Cambodia seeks probe into 'false reports' on Hun Sen's alleged Cypriot passport

    Minister of Justice Koeut Rith on September 6 wrote a letter to his Cypriot counterpart Stephie Dracos requesting cooperation in investigating and providing the truth in relation to the "exaggerative and false allegations" that Prime Minister Hun Sen holds a Cypriot passport. In his letter, the