Hai Ba Trung: The Historical Backdrop
The Sino-Vietnamese conflict is 21 centuries old. The Chinese colonised the Kingdom of Nam-Viet in the Red River delta before the birth of Christ. In AD 39 two Vietnamese sister queens named Trung-Trac and Trung-Nhi led a four year long revolt against the Chinese. The Hans sent strong reinforcements and crushed this rebellion. Rather than surrender, the two queens committed suicide by jumping into the Red River. To this day in March each year all Vietnamese girls celebrate the Hai- Ba Trung day. That the 1979 Chinese invasion came in Feb-March could only have stirred these historical memories of hate in Vietnam.
Other major revolts followed in the 3rd, 6th and 10th centuries. These helped to buildup the martial spirit of the Vietnamese. A dozen more wars were fought in the 15th century. Then Chinese power declined and Vietnam was able to assert its independence. From the 18th century onwards both China and Vietnam were involved in trying to stave off the yoke of foreign domination. Vietnam became a colony of France in the later half of the 18th century and for a while two historical enemies became allies against a common imperialist enemy. When the Second World War broke out, both Giap and Ho Chi Minh took shelter in the Yunan province of southern China. This served as the base for guerilla warfare against the French. The Regular Vietnamese Army was built up and trained in the Kwang Si Field firing ranges of China. However both Giap and Ho Chi Minh never forgot for an instant the historical realities. They refused all Chinese offers to intervene militarily on their behalf. Ho Chi Minh said, "It is better to sniff French dung for a while than to eat Chinese all our lives". During World War II the Japanese occupation forces overthrew the French in Vietnam. They could not consolidate their hold over the countryside and thus gave the Viet Minh guerillas their chance to move in. Thus when the French returned they were sucked in to a relentless guerilla war. In 1956 came Dien Bien Phu and the rout of the French forces in Indo-China. The Geneva conference partitioned Vietnam along the 17th parallel. It is noteworthy that Chou en Lai (Zhou en Lai) ? the late Chinese Prime Minister played a significant role in this partition. The Chinese were not keen to see a strong united Vietnam on their southern borders. The Americans moved in and Vietnam?s agony dragged on for another 20 years - as a fierce guerilla war now started in the South against the pro American regime.
The Chinese appeared to be intent on fighting the Americans to "the last Vietnamese".
The Cambodian Preamble
During the closing stages of the war in Vietnam it had spilled over into the neighbouring Kampuchea. The famous Ho Chi Minh Trail (the infiltration route) from North to South Vietnam lay partly through Laos and Cambodia (Kampuchea). The Americans launched a major offensive in the Parrots Beak Bulge to cut off the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The CIA inspired a coup in which Gen Lon Nol overthrew the neutralist premier Norodom Shinouk. Shinouk fled to Peking and the pro Western regime of Lon Nol cooperated with the Americans in operations against the Viet Cong bases and caches. The Khmer Rogue guerillas ? (an ultra leftist communist organisation in Kampuchea) began guerilla warfare to overthrow Lon Nol?s regime. The Vietnamese aided them in this. When the Americans withdrew from Vietnam and Saigon fell, the Khmer Rogue guerillas overthrew Lon Nol?s unpopular regime. Thus it was that the regime led by Pol Pot, Khieu Samphan and Iang Seary came into power in Phnom Phen.
However, just as China and Vietna
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