Pen Sovann, a Khmer Vietminh
later turned against his boss
December 2, 1978 is a day that Khmer history repeated itself when Hanoi created a Khmer polity to serve its own interest in the third time--the Unified Khmer Issarak 1946, the Khmer Revolutionary Communist Party 1951, and the Khmer National United Front for National Salvation (KNUFNS) December, 02 1978. A creating of the KNUFUS based on two factors: a historical fulfilment and an urgent need of Hanoi. Historically, Vietnam at least failed three times to conquer Cambodia--a failure of Vietnamization in Cambodia by Emperor Minh Mang and his successor Thiev Tree in 1848, a failure to create an autonomous zone for the Khmer Vietminh after Geneva Conference 1954, and a forceful withdrawal of Vietcong troops from Khmer Rouge liberated zones in 1973. Urgently, Pol Pot's troop's reckless and anarchic behaviors along Cambodia-Vietnam borders, created a serious security threat to Vietnamese civilians along the borders. Pol Pot's purge against his own party members created exodus of Khmer Rouge defectors and refugee into Vietnam. After series meetings of the Vietnamese Politburo members chaired by Le Duan, Vietnam solemnly declared that it could no longer coexist with a hostile regime of Democratic Kampuchea ( DK), and it officially set up the KNUFNS on December 2, 1978 to overthrow Pol Pot's regime by fomenting uprising from inside or launching a full scale invasion.
Hun Sen, a Khmer Rouge Defector
has become a dictator
When Vietnam was well prepared for invasion, Pol Pot was so busy to fight his own internal enemies. A totalitarian despotism's purge can strengthen or weaken its own regime easily; Stalin and Mao's purges on their internal enemies were more successful as they did not fight the two battles at the same time. In contrast, Pol Pot was facing two battles at once--to face imminent threat from Hanoi and suspected internal uprisings fomented by the Vietnamese. However, what Pol Pot had handled with his own party members bled his regime to death. According to Philip Short, a famous author of Anatomy of a Nightmare, the DK's armed forces spent 60 percent of their energies to extirpate their internal enemies. And those people whom Pol Pot had suspected as his internal enemies were not all true, but most of them were faithful members and brave soldiers and commanders on the battlefield against the Vietnamese incursions along the border. By the time of the Vietnamese invasion, Pol Pot left only 30,000 reliable troops under the three zone commanders-- Son Sen, Ta Mok, and Keo Pauk, facing the much larger and well-armed Vietnamese troops.
A purge started in full scale from early 1977 with Chan Chackrey, a young military commander in Eastern Zone, a long with Ney Sarann, a Northeast party secretary, Koy Thoun, a Northern secretary, Chou Chet, a Western secretary, Rous Nhim, a Northwest secretary, and So Phim a powerful Eastern secretary. All these top leaders were brought to S-21 for interrogating and torturing before killing, except So Phim was ambushed when he was summoned to see Pol Pot in Phnom Penh, and he committed suicide after wounding with an ambush by Pol Pot's security forces, according to Philip Short, but there were some different accounts surrounding So Phim's death. Albeit in late 1978, only a few weeks away from the Vietnamese invasion, Vorn Vet, a Senior Politburo member and Kong Sophal, a Northwest military commander, were brought to S-21. A wipe out of military structures in Eastern, Northwest, West, and Northeast Zones completely brought the regime into a state of limbo. By the end of 1978, over 6,000 of party members were exterminated through S-21, and over 100,000 Eastern Zone civilians and troops were massacred by the central command. This is a grave mistake that never committed by any leader against his or her own people while the nation is facing the foreign onslaughts.
Although in such vulnerable situation, Pol Pot felt no sense of defeat; since 1978 he adopted an aggressive stand toward Hanoi. Pol Pot said, "We must attack them first, or they will attack us." Meanwhile, Hanoi accused Beijing of using Cambodia to put pressure on Vietnam to return to the Chinese camp. Vietnam also feared of a Khmer Rouge new air base built by China in Kampong Chnang, which is just 30 minutes fly from Ho-Chi Ming City. Now the border skirmishes between Cambodia and Vietnam and China and Vietnam increased frequently. the DK interpreted all Hanoi actions through a prism of Khmer ancestral struggle against their traditional enemies the same as the Vietnamese's view of China is distorted by atavistic memories of Chinese suzerainty and repression. Nonetheless, the Vietnamese totally ignored or forgot about their view toward China the same as Khmer view toward them.
As the nation in a state of limbo, on September 1978, Pol Pot secretly flew to Beijing to meet Deng Xiaoping to beg China for military and economic helps. Pol Pot's ferocious behaviors toward Hanoi forced China to face its dilemma. Deng privately rebuked the Khmer Rouge troops' anarchic and brutal behaviors along the Cambodia-Vietnam border. Deng repeatedly told Pol Pot that China would only support him with weapons whereas a conduct of war was ultimately on Pol Pot's responsibility. Pol Pot might fail to comprehend Deng's warning. While Pol Pot was in Beijing, a diplomatic front was heating up around the region.
Vietnamese Prime Minister Phan Van Dong visited ASEAN member-nations to garner supports from those non-Communist nations, but in Malaysia, Dong's request for support was politely rejected by most members, for it was too much, too sudden, and too late. Furthermore, Dong's request for normalized relation with the US also failed, for President Carter regarded relationship with China as his priority while normalization with Hanoi would be put on hold. As diplomatic mission failed in the non-Communist countries, now Vietnam saw its old friend, the Soviet as its final resort for support of the upcoming war. Three weeks later in Moscow, Le Duan and Leonid Breznez signed a friendship treaty to safeguard their security from any reckless attack by China.
A new friendship treaty between Moscow and Hanoi made China a bid nervous, but it felt confident that the Soviet would not risk a World War to defense Hanoi. Now it was a turn for China to solicit its war support from the region. Den Xiaoping visited Thailand and Malaysia, and he claimed that Vietnam was a parcel of the Soviet Bloc, and it posed a potential security threat in the region. Thailand and Malaysia saw an opportunity to bargain with China; they agreed to support China's war effort in exchange with China to cease support the Communist insurgencies in their homelands. Now as the Soviet supported Vietnam and China supported Cambodia, the US called the Cambodia-Vietnam conflict "a proxy war" between the Soviet and China. Washington saw Vietnam as "a Cuba of the East" --a stalking horse for the Soviet ambitions undertaking Asia the same role as Castro played in Latin America and Africa. Seeing this danger, The US agreed to begin the US-China military contact--a de facto alliance against the Soviet's hegemony in the region.
Now both sides had wrapped up their diplomatic efforts and troop mobilizations along the borders. As previous pledge by Hanoi, on Christmas Eve of 1978, the Vietnamese advanced columns set out from multiple directions toward Phnom Penh under a command of General Le Duc Anh. By December 30, Northeast and Eastern zones fell under the Vietnamese control, and on January 7, 1979, the DK's Leadership completely abandoned Phnom Penh in disarray without a fight that surprised the foreign diplomats as well as the whole people. A quick fall of Phnom Penh without a resistance proved that Pol Pot's regime had severely suffered a big blow from its own internal purge and persecution on its own people during the war time. Since then, a historical fulfillment of Hanoi has been put in place in Cambodia through its proxy regime until today.