Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong speaks at the 2019 Shangri-La Dialogue (Photo: AFP/VNA)
In his remarks at the Shangri-La Dialogue and on his Facebook page in late May, PM Lee mentioned the so-called Vietnam’s “invasion” and “occupation” of Cambodia in 1979.
In response, the Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation issued a statement, saying that the Singaporean leader’s remarks are against the revival of the Cambodian people and show that Singapore supports the genocidal regime and wants this regime to return to Cambodia.
They are also an insult to the sacrifice of the Vietnamese military volunteers who helped liberate Cambodia from the genocidal regime, the Cambodian ministry added.
Meanwhile, the spokesperson of the Singaporean ministry said on this ministry’s website that: “Singapore highly values its relations with Cambodia and Vietnam. Notwithstanding our differences in the past, we have always treated each other with respect and friendship. Bilateral relations have grown in many areas, and we worked together with other Southeast Asian countries to build a cohesive and united ASEAN.”
This statement noted: “Singapore had no sympathy for the Khmer Rouge, and did not want to see the Khmer Rouge to return to Cambodia. In 1988, ASEAN sponsored UN General Assembly resolutions condemning the Khmer Rouge to ensure it would not be part of any eventual government in Cambodia. Singapore and ASEAN were keen to provide humanitarian assistance to the Cambodian people.”
According to the Singaporean spokesperson, PM Lee wanted to emphasise that regional stability and prosperity, as well as ASEAN unity, cannot be taken for granted. The current geopolitical uncertainties make it all the more important that ASEAN countries maintain unity and cohesion, and strengthen cooperation.
The spokesperson added: “PM Lee had made reference to this history to explain how statesmanship and foresight helped to end the tragic wars that caused great suffering to the people of Indochina, and to bring about the peace and cooperation that the region enjoys today.”
This ministry noted that on June 7th, its Minister Vivian Balakrishnan made separate phone calls to Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh and Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn.
“They agreed that notwithstanding the serious differences in the past, we have taken the path of cooperation, dialogue and friendship,” the ministry said, adding that “Singapore is committed to building on our good relations with Vietnam and Cambodia, and hope that they can continue to grow from strength to strength, based on candour and trust.”