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

  • Breaking: US House passes 'Cambodia Democracy Act'

    The US House of Representatives in Washington, DC, on Monday, passed the “HR 526 Cambodia Democracy Act”, also known as the Cambodia Democracy Act of 2019. If signed off by the president, the bill will allow two major sets of action to be taken against high-ranking Cambodian

  • Shanxi wins bid to build sections of new Siem Reap airport

    Shanxi Mechanization Construction Group recently won the bid to build two sections of the new Siem Reap Angkor International Airport project in Cambodia for 290 million yuan ($42.16 million). The existing Angkor International Airport in Siem Reap, 5km from the famous ancient temple complex and world tourism

  • ‘Zero-dollar’ tours under fire

    Minister of Tourism Thong Khon has blamed “zero-dollar” tour operators for the decrease in foreign tourists to Angkor Archaeological Park in the first half of this year and has called for action against them. Angkor Archaeological Park received 1.24 million foreign visitors in the first half

  • Breaking: Rubbish found packed inside 83 containers at S'ville port

    Eighty-three containers packed with rubbish were broken open at Sihanoukville Autonomous Port by joint authorities on Tuesday. The origin of the containers has yet to be ascertained, Ministry of Environment spokesman Neth Pheaktra said. Pheaktra, who is also the ministry’s secretary of state, said