Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Expert says Vietnam tried, failed to control Khmer Rouge



Expert says Vietnam tried, failed to control Khmer Rouge

Expert witness Stephen Morris gives his testimony before the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia yesterday on the outskirts of Phnom Penh. ECCC
Expert witness Stephen Morris gives his testimony before the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia yesterday on the outskirts of Phnom Penh. ECCC

Expert says Vietnam tried, failed to control Khmer Rouge

Expert witness Stephen Morris took the stand yesterday to testify on the subject of Vietnam’s 1979 in-vasion of Cambodia, arguing that Vietnam desired to control the communist movements in Laos and Cambodia.

Morris, who was granted unprecedented access to Soviet communication files with the Vietnamese during the Khmer Rouge period, published a book on his research in 1999.

Khmer Rouge leaders Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan are on trial for various crimes against humanity, including genocide against the Vietnamese, as well as internal purging of their own officers. Defence teams have long argued that the purges were a reaction to an attempt by Vietnam to overthrow the Cambodian government, and Morris testified that Vietnam did indeed have imperial ambitions towards Cambodia.

“The history of Vietnam is a history of a long march south,” Morris said. “Large parts of what is now southern Vietnam used to be part of Cambodia.”

Morris also testified that the Vietnamese wanted to use people who were loyal to them to establish communist parties in other countries. He claimed the attempt to found an Indochinese communist federation was really an attempt by Vietnam to assert its authority in the region.

“The Vietnamese conceived of Indochina as a place where they would be dominant over Laos and Cambodia,” he said.

One of the documents from the Soviet archives was a 1973 communiqué from the Vietnamese to the Soviet ambassador which said Vietnam’s goal was “to replace the reactionary regimes in Saigon, Vientiane, and Phnom Penh with progressive ones”.

While the communist Khmer Rouge regime did take control of Phnom Penh soon after, Morris said Vietnam had less control than anticipated. “The Vietnamese Communist Party tried to control the entire communist movement in Indochina, but lost control of the movement in Cambodia,” Morris testified, adding “Vietnamese communists never fully understood what was going on in Cambodia”.

Morris also heavily criticised fellow Khmer Rouge researcher Ben Kiernan accusing the author of The Pol Pot Regime of having a “political agenda”.

The Australian researcher said it was a “tragic mistake” by the US State Department to grant Kiernan more than $1 million to research the Khmer Rouge. The prosecution has previously used Kiernan’s writings in relation to charges of genocide committed against the Vietnamese and Cham people.

MOST VIEWED

  • Phnom Penh placed in two-week lockdown

    The government has decided to place Phnom Penh in lockdown for two weeks, effective April 14 midnight through April 28, as Cambodia continues to grapple with the ongoing community outbreak of Covid-19, which has seen no sign of subsiding. According to a directive signed by Prime Minister

  • Cambodia on the verge of national tragedy, WHO warns

    The World Health Organisation (WHO) in Cambodia warned that the country had reached another critical point amid a sudden, huge surge in community transmission cases and deaths. “We stand on the brink of a national tragedy because of Covid-19. Despite our best efforts, we are

  • Hun Sen: Stay where you are, or else

    Prime Minister Hun Sen warned that the two-week lockdown of Phnom Penh and adjacent Kandal provincial town Takmao could be extended if people are not cooperative by staying home. “Now let me make this clear: stay in your home, village, and district and remain where

  • Businesses in capital told to get travel permit amid lockdown through One Window Service

    The Phnom Penh Municipal Administration has issued guidelines on how to get travel permission for priority groups during the lockdown of Phnom Penh, directing private institutions to apply through the municipality's One Window Service and limit their staff to a mere two per cent. In

  • Vaccination open to foreigners in Cambodia

    The Ministry of Health on April 8 issued an announcement on Covid-19 vaccination for foreigners residing and working in Cambodia, directing the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training and local authorities to register them. Health minister Mam Bun Heng, who is also head of the inter-ministerial

  • Ministry names types of business permitted amid lockdown

    The Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training singled out 11 types of business that are permitted to operate during the lockdown of Phnom Penh and Takmao town, which run through April 28. Those include (1) food-processing enterprises and slaughterhouses; (2) providers of public services such as firefighting, utility and