Sunday, January 4, 2015

A moment of Vietnamese invasion on January 7, 1979 and its aftermath

By Khmer Wathanakam

(The Vietnamese Tanks rolled into Cambodia in 1979)
On January 7, 1979, people in my village, Phum Thmey, Srok Sangke, Ket Battambang, just went to work on rice field and build irrigation system as usual day.  Surprisingly, around 12 or 1PM, when we returned from work to the canteen for lunch, suddenly we heard a loud noise of two helicopters flying in very high speed but unusual low altitude just above a top of the trees from Phnom Penh toward Battambang City.  We even saw the people on the board of those helicopters, but we had no idea who they were.  In fact, Pol Pot and his leadership team had fled Phnom Penh in disarray, indicating that his central government had collapsed by the Vietnamese invasion.  They rushed to Battambang City on their way to Thai-Cambodia border.  But Not long enough, about 10 to 15 minutes later, the Vietnamese Mig-21 had chased them behind, a few minutes after the Mig-21 passed over our village, we heard two loud explosions from the Vietnamese jet bomber, but it missed the target apparently in an attempt to assassinate Pol Pot and his entourage.  Since then the Vietnamese jets flew every day passing over our village to bomb the Khmer Rouge hideout targets and their ammunition depots in various locations in the province.

However, the people in our village were so bewildered even if they had known that Pol Pot regime was overthrown by the Vietnamese, the local Khmer Rouge administrators still ruled our village and the nearby areas as usual.  Every day people just went to work on their fields and ate lunch and dinner as normal.  But, on January 13, we felt the reality of the regime changed when we saw a column of Vietnamese tanks and trucks slowly driven on highway 5 from Battambang toward Phnom Penh with their victory red flags on the top.  Then they briefly stopped in our village searching for the Khmer Rouge troops and their locations, but no one knew where they were.  After that the Vietnamese convoys continued their way to Phnom Penh precariously.  Indeed, on their way to Phnom Penh, the Vietnamese elite troop columns were disrupted by land mines and severely beaten down by the regrouped Khmer Rouge special forces.  Later we frequently saw the wreckage of the Vietnamese trucks and tanks along the highway 5 from Battambang to Phnom Penh.