Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

UNITY interviews Ieng Sary: On mass famine, Kampuchean united front, resistance and other questions

First Published: Unity, Vol. 2, No. 21, October 19-November 1, 1979.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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UNITY had the opportunity in early October to interview Ieng Sary, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Democratic Kampuchea, while he was in New York to address the UN General Assembly.

The interview is important because it comes at a time when the occupation army of Viet Nam is escalating its war of aggression to try to subdue the Kampuchean people’s brave resistance.

Kampuchea also confronts the specter of mass famine. Millions of people face death by starvation because of Viet Nam’s systematic policy of pillaging Kampuchea’s once-rich agricultural fields, destroying irrigation dikes and preventing the peasants from going into the fields to plant rice.

In this interview, Ieng Sary presents the views of the Government of Democratic Kampuchea on these problems and discusses other questions the Kampuchean people are facing.

UNITY: What is the current military situation inside Kampuchea?

Ieng Sary: At the present, the Vietnamese are mobilizing all their forces to try to disintegrate our resistance. They have 23 divisions in total – more than 200,000 men. If we compare the Vietnamese forces with our own, we are less than the Vietnamese.

But the present military situation is much better than before. During the rainy season (May to October – ed.) we succeeded in liberating many villages and regions. The main success of the rainy season is that we succeeded in reorganizing our forces.

The Vietnamese have four weak points. The first is the morale of the Vietnamese soldiers is lower than before, and the majority of the Vietnamese army are young, from 17- to 21-years old, forcibly enlisted from south Viet Nam. The second weak point is in supplies. Before the last dry season the Vietnamese invaders could find food, gas, oil, everything. Now they have to transport all their supplies from Viet Nam.

The third weak point of Viet Nam is the internal difficulties in Viet Nam. The Vietnamese people are well aware that the war in Kampuchea is a war of aggression. So the Vietnamese people have begun to carry out struggle against the Vietnamese authorities. And besides that there are contradictions between the north and south Viet Nam. Now the highland national minority in south Viet Nam increased their fighting against the Vietnamese authorities.

The fourth weak point is that now public world opinion is well aware of the Vietnamese aggression against Kampuchea.

UNITY: Could you talk about the international diplomatic support Kampuchea has received?

Ieng Sary: In the diplomatic field our situation is more favorable than the Vietnamese situation. The ASEAN countries – the Southeast Asian countries, the Western countries, and the United States also, are very concerned about the Vietnamese aggression. Their stand is that the system is to be decided by the Kampuchean people themselves. They oppose the use of force by Viet Nam to change the internal regime of a country. On this problem we consider the United States, Canada, the other Western countries, and also Japan as friends, because their position is interested in making our nation survive.

So in the international arena we say that our diplomatic situation is good, and Viet Nam is more and more isolated. After thirty years of fighting for liberation, the world has much respect for Viet Nam. But now all this respect that Viet Nam was getting is nothing.

UNITY: There has been a lot of coverage in the press about the famine in Kampuchea. Could you talk about this problem?

Ieng Sary: In 1978, the famine did not exist in Kampuchea. Our people had enough to eat and we had already signed a contract to export rice to the African countries. We had stocks of clothes, salt, and textile materials, all for the condition of living of our people.

After the Vietnamese aggression all these have been destroyed. During this ten-month period of Vietnamese aggression, one million of our people have died. Half a million have been executed by the Vietnamese and half a million have died of starvation. The Vietnamese aggressors have deliberately created the situation of famine in order to exterminate our people. That is why we call upon all international organizations to give humanitarian aid to our people, even to our people who are now under Vietnamese control. This is to make it so that our people are not exterminated by the Vietnamese.

UNITY: What do you think of aid going into Phnom Penh if it is supervised by an international organization?

Ieng Sary: We think that it would be better if the aid comes through our own fighters, because we can reach a lot of the people and we can directly serve the people. As for humanitarian aid getting through to Phnom Penh, we think that not much will reach the people. The officials of the international humanitarian aid organizations can go to Phnom Penh and give the aid directly to the people or to the hospitals, but in the past we found that the Vietnamese will take the aid and give it to their allies.

During the last war (against U.S. aggression – ed.), the Chinese gave a lot of military aid to us. We discussed it with the Vietnamese and we asked them for authorization to transport this aid ourselves. But the Vietnamese refused. They said they would transport it for us. But in fact, we received only about 2% of the Chinese aid.

UNITY: Could you talk about the united front program announced last month by Khieu Samphan?

Ieng Sary: The only one condition for joining this united front is to fight the Vietnamese aggressors, and the united front now has much influence at home and abroad. The united front can succeed in the military field as in the diplomatic field, because at home in the military field the fighters are now well united. And in the international sphere also, when we meet the Kampuchean civilians here in the United States, they are very pleased also with the united front. So we think it is a very important political factor.

UNITY: What role do you think Prince Sihanouk can play?

Ieng Sary: On last July 15, our President of State Khieu Samphan sent a letter to Prince Sihanouk to ask him for a meeting to talk about the united front. He replied that he cannot receive our present offer. After that, on August 21, Khieu Samphan sent him another letter and proposed Prince Sihanouk as chairman of this united front. If he agreed to be chairman of the united front we could reshuffle the government, and we proposed Sihanouk to be the head of state of Democratic Kampuchea. He didn’t reply, but we were informed by the foreign affairs agency that he declined this offer. We have heard that he has suggested a front. I don’t know what kind of front, because we have no contact with him. But we can support any front under one condition – that is, it must fight against the Vietnamese aggression.

UNITY: How have you summed up the united front work you have done since liberation?

Ieng Sary: Just after liberation we had to face many complex problems. There were three main ones. The first was the desire of the Vietnamese to swallow all of Kampuchea. The second was that of the old Lon Nol forces wanting to overthrow our government. We also did not know whether the United States was going to continue to bomb our country. The third problem was how to feed our people. There were millions of people in the cities and not enough people in the countryside that were to help feed the whole population.

When we decided to evacuate the people from the cities, it was not an order to kill them, but it was to make them aware of the problems we faced to develop our agriculture. During this evacuation the people faced many difficulties and indeed some of them died. This decision was made by people who sincerely wanted to solve the problem, but Vietnamese agents tried to sabotage our work.

These agents mistreated the people. For example, some people grew rice and sugar cane around their houses and wanted to use it for themselves and their children, but the Vietnamese agents accused them of being individualist and not wanting to live in a collective way.

Indeed, we don’t say that all we did was right. Some mistakes have been made. There were people who carried out the policy line in a wrong way. But the Vietnamese agents are the ones that created the biggest problems.

UNITY: How do you feel the American people can support the Kampuchean people’s struggle?

Ieng Sary: I think that the American people can do three things. First you can help propagate the truth about what is going on in Kampuchea. And that is that the Vietnamese are waging a war of aggression to actually exterminate the entire Kampuchean people.

This war can spread throughout Southeast Asia and also through the world. The Soviet Union is now very active in Viet Nam, Kampuchea and Laos, and if they are ever able to consolidate their position, they can spread their influence throughout Southeast Asia. They already have military bases in Viet Nam and Laos, and are now constructing one in Kampuchea. The Soviet Union is using Viet Nam to prepare for a third world war.

The second thing people can do is help mobilize humanitarian aid for us.

The third thing is to prevent the United States government from recognizing the puppet regime in Kampuchea.

After the Vietnamese are defeated and they withdraw from our country, then we will set up elections which will be supervised by the United Nations, and then the Kampuchean people will have the right to select any government that they choose.