PHNOM PENH: Prime Minister Hun Sen commemorated the history of the arrest and death of two former Prime Ministers during the time of the People's Republic of Kampuchea on Sunday, through a voice message he sent through the messaging app, Telegram. In the voice message, he confirmed that former Prime Minister Pen Sovann was arrested for treason and disunity, while former Prime Minister Chan Sy died of leukemia, and not because of a competition between Vietnam and the Soviet Union on human appointment.
The Prime Minister's confirmation came after he saw a commentator on social media describe the history of these two former Prime Ministers differently from what he had experienced in person.
Through a voice message sent via Telegram, the Prime Minister recalled the history of the National Salvation Movement of the Kampuchea (or Khmer) United Front for National Salvation that came from five forces, which included the four sides of Samdech Heng Samrin, Prime Minister Hun Sen, Bun Mey and Chea Soth. These four groups came together to form a conference to organize the Khmer people’s National Liberation Front based on the Armed Forces of the Cambodian National Salvation Army, which Prime Minister Hun Sen built on 2 December 1978. The Prime Minister added that after overthrowing the Khmer Rouge regime and taking back Phnom Penh on 7 January 1979, an interim government was formed the next day, which was called the Kampuchean People's Revolutionary Council.
Later, in 1981, the party convened its fourth National Congress to elect a new government, electing Pen Sovann as Prime Minister, but due to actions of treason and disunity, the party was forced to arrest him and send him to Vietnam. Chan Sy, the Minister of Defense at the time, was then appointed as the next Prime Minister.
Prime Minister Hun Sen stated that the main reason why Pen Sovann was arrested was because he ordered a search of the houses of Samdech Chea Sim and Samdech Heng Samrin, also tried to search the house of Prime Minister Hun Sen, arrested some leaders who had travelled to visit their families, and caused some to flee back into the jungle to rejoin the Khmer Rouge. Prime Minister Hun Sen reiterated that Pen Sovann wanted to consolidate too much power as the Prime Minister, the party’s secretary general and also demanded more control of the Ministry of Defense.
He said that on November 28, 1981, Pen Sovann summoned the four key leaders, Samdech Chea Sim, Samdech Heng Samrin, Samdech Hun Sen and Say Phu Thong, to a meeting to remove Keo Chenda from his position as the Minister of Industry, and to replace him with Chan Sy, the then Minister of National Defense, while Pen Sovann himself demanded control over the Ministry of National Defense.
Prime Minister Hun Sen says; "This is a plan that Pen Sovann is preparing to take over the military. I objected to Pen Sovann by saying that I agreed with Keo Chenda to be the only city party secretary without holding the post of Minister of Industry! But there is no need to appoint the Minister of Defense as the Minister of Industry, we are looking for someone else to fill that position. I told Pen Sovann to be careful about changing the three ministers, the first defense minister, the second foreign minister and the third interior minister. Pen Sovann was so angry with me that he said, "If no one goes to be the Minister of Industry, I will go and do it myself." I would like to add that it is good that if you become the Minister of Industry yourself, it will make the industry grow. So please go! Pen Sovann was very angry.”
Prime Minister Hun Sen has further described that after this meeting, Say Phu Thong spoke with him and has mentioned that Pen Sovann had betrayed them, and therefore, he should not be kept in his position of power. The Prime Minister has said he agreed with Say Phu Thong, but the problem was that Pen Sovann was backed by Vietnam, so they needed Vietnam's help on this matter. He continued that the main leaders at the time held a political office meeting at Say Phu Thong's house, in the absence of Pen Sovann, where they decided to arrest him and appointed Prime Minister Hun Sen and Say Phu Thong as the executors of the arrest.
"The arrest of Pen Sovann, me and Mr. Say Phu Thong, before leaving, I put the bullet in the gun brand 55 and put it in my pocket, Mom Praha, and then I asked to cut all the telephone system of Pen Sovann's house. At that time, I also rode a Soviet Volkswagen, Mr. Say Phu Thong's car passed in front of my house, there were not many people at that time. I called Pen Teang, Mon Sisophon, to wait in front of my house, because at that time I had a child, Manet, and Mana for about a year, I was worried because I was afraid of an explosion at that time. I also secretly gave a signal to Nhek Huon, the commander of the 196th Division at that time, and some other people, my older descendants, to prepare for the necessary situation to be able to jump into Phnom Penh at that time. This is not a coup! The party can prepare you up, the party can also oust you.”
The Prime Minister has further stated that when they arrived at Pen Sovann's house, he and Say Phu Thong had to sit in the basement to meet Pen Sovann, who pretended not to know that there were guests over despite his bodyguards having already informed him of their presence. At that time, Pen Sovann had called someone over to play cards at his house.
"I understand why the phone is not cut, it is in a military system that cannot be cut, so I took Say Phu Thong to go upstairs. When I got there, I grabbed and pulled down Pen Sovann's phone and then Say Phu Thong has said to Pen Sovann that he had made a very serious mistake! Please sit down and listen to Comrade Hun Sen read the decision. At that time, I asked Pen Sovann, who was sitting on a leash, to put his feet down and sit quietly. I read out loud the wrong decisions Pen Sovann had made, and our decision to order his immediate removal. After reading it, he handed it over to the bodyguard who was Pen Sovann's protector, grabbed Pen Sovann and took him away! As far as I know, he was transported to Pochentong and then sent to Vietnam."
Prime Minister Hun Sen has clarified that he was sent to a prison in Vietnam, but not the dungeon that Pen Sovann once claimed in his book. He has continued that after Pen Sovann’s arrest, the position of Party Secretary General was handed over to Samdech Heng Samrin, while Chansy was transferred from the Minister of Defense to the position of Prime Minister.
He has said Chan Sy served as Prime Minister from 1982 until 1984, when he fell ill with leukemia and was sent to the Soviet Union for treatment. He said that he went to Moscow in September 1984 to visit Chansy and asked Soviet doctors about his condition. The doctors informed him that Chansy’s cancer had already reached a critical stage and his death could only be delayed and not prevented. During this time, the Phnom Penh government sent a letter to the Cambodian Embassy in the Soviet Union announcing the appointment of Prime Minister Hun Sen as the Acting Chairman of the Council of Ministers in Chansy’s absence.
Chansy eventually died in December 1984, and his body was brought back to Cambodia for funeral processions, with Prime Minister Hun Sen acting as the chairman of the festival committee. Prime Minister Hun Sen was then officially elected by the National Assembly to be the new Prime Minister of Cambodia on January 14, 1985. "It should be reminded that the election of the National Assembly was a secret election. In the previous election, Pen Sovann lost by 8 votes, and Brother Chansy lost by 7 votes. But for myself, I would like to thank the members of the National Assembly for voting for me, unanimously. We had a secret ballot, but I got 100 percent of the vote."
Prime Minister Hun Sen has stressed that the arrest and appointment of leaders in the ranks of the Cambodian Government were purely internal affairs, and not as result of any external competition between Vietnam and the Soviet Union on the appointment of people in Cambodia.