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Indochina Discovery - One Definition a Day: Cambodia's Civil War - Khmer Rouge

Cambodian Civil War
In Apr., 1970, U.S. and South Vietnamese troops entered Cambodia to attack Communist bases and supply lines. U.S. ground forces were withdrawn by June 30, but South Vietnamese troops remained, occupying heavily populated areas. The actions of the South Vietnamese troops in Cambodia and the resumption of heavy U.S. air bombings in their support, with the inevitable destruction of villages and killing of civilians, alienated many Cambodians and created considerable sympathy for the Communists. The number of Cambodian Communists (known as the Khmer Rouge) increased from about 3,000 in Mar., 1970, to over 30,000 within a few years. Most of the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops were able to withdraw, leaving in progress a raging civil war fought by Cambodians but financed by the United States, North Vietnam, and Communist China.


On Oct. 9, 1970, the national assembly declared Cambodia a republic and changed the country's name to the Khmer Republic. By that time, however, the national government controlled less than one third of Cambodia's total land area: Phnom Penh, most of the provincial capitals, and the central plain S of Tônlé Sap. Despite extensive U.S. military aid, the Khmer Rouge retained firm control of the northeast provinces and most of the countryside. Eventually, more and more territory fell into Communist hands, despite intensive U.S. bombing attacks which persisted until the halt imposed by the U.S. Congress in Aug., 1973.

The government's military position became desperate, with government forces concentrating primarily on keeping communications open with an increasingly beleaguered Phnom Penh. In Sept., 1972, severe food shortages in Phnom Penh sparked two days of rioting and large-scale looting, in which government troops participated. Lon Nol, aided by his brother Lon Non, exerted an increasingly oppressive rule, with massive political arrests and newspaper seizures. The Khmer Rouge insurgents launched a large-scale attack against Cambodia's third largest city, Kompong Cham, in Sept., 1973, and shelled Phnom Penh in 1974 and 1975, inflicting heavy casualties.



The Khmer Rouge and After
In 1975, the Khmer Rouge, led by Pol Pot, seized control of Phnom Penh and overthrew the U.S.-backed government of Lon Nol. The Khmer Rouge renamed the country the Democratic Kampuchea, and established Pol Pot as the premier. Immediately following the takeover, Phnom Penh was evacuated, and the entire population of the country's urban areas was forced to move to rural areas and work in agriculture. Most of the country's vehicles and machines were destroyed because the new regime was opposed to technology and Western influence. It is estimated that about a million and a half people were executed by the Khmer Rouge over the next four years. Members of the upper, middle, or educated classes, as well as suspected enemies of the Khmer Rouge, were victims of the genocide.

In 1978, after Pol Pot refused offers of negotiation and international supervision, the Vietnamese army invaded and seized Phnom Penh in 1979. Prince Sihanouk, who had been imprisoned in his palace by the Khmer Rouge, again fled to Beijing. The Khmer Rouge was driven into the western countryside, but the Kampuchean People's Republic, led by Pol Pot, was still recognized by the United Nations as the country's legitimate government. Throughout the 1980s various guerrilla factions formed and skirmished with the Vietnamese and the Khmer Rouge. One such group was a coalition force led by Sihanouk, who was still recognized by many Cambodians as the country's true leader.

In 1987 talks began in Paris to try to settle the civil war, and in 1989, Vietnam announced plans to withdraw its occupying troops from Cambodia. A peace treaty was signed by all of Cambodia's warring factions (including the Khmer Rouge, Hun Sen's Vietnamese-supported government, and Prince Sihanouk's faction) on Oct. 23, 1991. As agreed in the treaty, the United Nations assumed (1992) the government's administrative functions and worked toward democratic elections. However, provisions calling for disarmament of all factions were resisted by the Khmer Rouge, who resumed guerrilla warfare. Sihanouk denounced the Khmer Rouge, aligned himself with Premier Hun Sen, and again became head of state.

Cambodia's first-ever democratic elections were held in May, 1993, supervised by a large UN peacekeeping mission. Royalists won the largest bloc of national assembly seats (58 out of 120); Hun Sen's party came in second, and a coalition government with co-premiers—Prince Norodom Ranariddh and Hun Sen—was formed. The government administration remained populated largely by bureaucrats who had operated under the Hun Sen regime. The Khmer Rouge, who had boycotted the elections, continued armed opposition, retaining control of substantial territory in the N and W parts of the country. A new constitution reestablished the monarchy, and in Sept., 1993, Sihanouk became king. Attempts at mediation with the Khmer Rouge failed, and fighting continued.

In 1996 the Khmer Rouge split into two factions, one of which made an accord with the government. Pol Pot was ousted and imprisoned by the remaining Khmer Rouge in 1997 and died in 1998; the Khmer Rouge subsequently lost most of its remaining power and support. Following fighting in July, 1997, between the factions of Hun Sen and Prince Ranariddh, Hun Sen's forces declared victory and Ranariddh fled the country; he was replaced as first premier by Ung Huot. Prince Ranariddh returned to Cambodia in Mar., 1998, and became an opposition candidate in the legislative elections held in July. Hun Sen's party (the Cambodian People's party) was the official winner of the disputed election (with 64 seats out of 122), and he became the sole premier. Prince Ranariddh became the president of the national assembly, but Hun Sen further consolidated his control of the country.

Cambodia joined the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 1999. Elections in July, 2003, failed to give Hun Sen's Cambodian People's party (CPP) the two-thirds majority needed to govern without a coalition, but the liberal and royalist opposition parties denounced the results, rejected a two-party coalition, formed the Alliance of Democrats, and insisted that the alliance be the cornerstone of a three-party coalition. The deadlock remained unresolved until June, 2004, when Prince Ranariddh's party agreed to a renewed coalition with the CPP. A 186-member cabinet, the seats in which were reportedly sold for large sums in the expectation that they would yield corrupt profits, was formed.

The king abdicated in Oct., 2004, in favor of his son Norodom Sihamoni, despite the fact that the constitution made no provision for abdication. In Feb., 2005, the national assembly lifted opposition leader Sam Rainsy's parliamentary immunity, subjecting him to potential defamation lawsuits from the governing coalition, which he had accused of corruption. He fled Cambodia, and was subsequently convicted of defamation. Other members of his party also were tried and convicted in trials that international human-rights groups said were shams, and subsequently independent human-rights activists were arrested.

A political truce in early 2006, due in part to pressure from international aid donors, resulted in a pardon for Sam Rainsy and others and in Rainsy's return to Cambodia. In Mar., 2006, the constitution was amended so that future governments could be formed with the support of a majority of the members of parliamemt instead of two thirds of the members. Evidence of corruption led the World Bank to suspend funding for three Cambodian development projects in mid-2006. In July, 2006, a tribunal staffed by both Cambodian and international judges was formed to try former Khmer Rouge leaders beginning in 2007; the event marked the culmination of nearly nine years of negotiations concerning such trials. In Oct., 2006, Prince Ranariddh was ousted as leader of the royalist party while he was out of the country. He was subsequently convicted (2007) in absentia of fraud in the sale of the party's headquarters; Ranariddh denounced the conviction as politically motivated.

Bibliography
See M. F. Herz, A Short History of Cambodia (1958); M. Leifer, Cambodia, The Search for Security (1967); M. Osborne, The French Presence in Cochinchina and Cambodia (1969); D. A. Albin and Marlowe Hood, ed., The Cambodian Agony (1987); K. D. Jackson, ed., Cambodia, 1975–1978 (1989); D. P. Chandler, The Tragedy of Cambodian History: Power, War and Revolution Since 1945 (1992); C. Riley and D. Niven, ed., The Killing Fields (1997); D. Pran, Children of Cambodia's Killing Fields: Memoirs by Survivors (1997).

French translation by Anh Tho Andres @YourVietnamExpert.com

Vietnamese translation by Cuong Phan, Kim Hoang, Bich Hong, Bao Han
German translation by Han Dang-Klein
Italian translation by Phan Cong Danh
Japanese translation by Hong Anh

About YourVietbooks.comYourVietBooks is a collection of books on Vietnam for Readers who are interested in Vietnam's History, Culture, Language, Economy, or Business. Most titles are in English, but some are only available in French or Vietnamese. Our 
qualified and experienced translators can provide interested parties an accurate translation of some parts of the books for your research purposes. Contact@yourvietnamexpert.com

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