Cambodia History

Cambodia History


The way to independence

After Japanese armed forces occupied all of Indochina in March 1945 and eliminated the French protectorate administration, King Norodom Sihanouk (since 1941) proclaimed Cambodia’s independence on March 12, 1945 and annulled all French-Cambodian treaties.

After the military collapse of Japan (August 1945) and the occupation of Phnom Penh by British troops, France was able to restore its rule over Cambodia. In a treaty with France (November 17, 1946), Thailand had to cede all Cambodian territories it had won in 1941 to Cambodia. After the entry into force of a constitution (1947, conversion of the country into a constitutional monarchy), the kingdom received the status of a formally independent “associated state” within the French Union in1949. However, France retained control of the military, finances and foreign policy and protected the Francophile Sihanouk at the expense of the Democratic Party (demanding complete independence).

In the Indochina War (1946–54), anti-French guerrilla units, especially the Khmer Issarak, supported the Viet Minh in Vietnam.

After France, after lengthy negotiations with Sihanouk, had to grant Cambodia independence on November 9, 1953, it received full state sovereignty in accordance with the resolutions of the Geneva Indochina Conference (1954; Geneva Conferences, Geneva Indochina Conference); In 1955 Cambodia left the French Union.

Cambodia under Sihanouk – Politics of Neutrality and the Vietnam War

In order to be able to act politically more freely, Sihanouk thanked his father Norodom Suramarit (* 1896, † 1960) as king in 1955 and took over the head of the Sangkum Reastr Niyum (German People’s Socialist Community; winner of all seats in the 1955 parliamentary elections), 1958, 1962, 1966) and proclaimed – as a kind of alternative to Marxism – the program of “Buddhist socialism”. This is how Sihanouk determined(several times Prime Minister, from 1960 head of state) 1955–70 the policy of independent Cambodia. He tried to maintain the neutrality of his country (officially proclaimed in 1957) through a diplomatic “rocking policy”, especially during the Vietnam War. The infiltration of North Vietnamese associations and the Viet Cong, who used the East Cambodian border territory as a transit and supply route (the section of the Ho Chi Minh Path called Sihanouk Path), not only led to tensions with South Vietnam and the USA (to South Vietnamese-American Border crossings, break in diplomatic relations with the USA 1965-69), but increasingly also to domestic political conflicts. From 1967 there were repeated peasant uprisings and armed rebellions, which the army bloodily suppressed. See itypeauto for Cambodia literature.

Khmer Republic under Lon Nol

On March 18, 1970, a US-supported group around General Lon Nol (Prime Minister 1969–72; President after constitutional amendment 1972–75) overthrew Prince Sihanouk and proclaimed the Republic (October 9, 1970), which was officially Khmer until 1975 -Republic was called. Prince Sihanouk, who found refuge in China, headed a government-in-exile of national unity (GRUNK) in Beijing. In the civil war with the troops of the National Liberation Front of Cambodia, which was formed by the supporters of Sihanouk and the militarily dominant, communist-oriented Khmer Rouge, the Khmer government was defeated in 1975 (fall of Phnom Penh on April 17).

The Khmer Rouge terror regime

After their victory, the Khmer Rouge proclaimed the Democratic Kampuchea under their leadership body »Angka (r)« (the organization) (constitution of January 5, 1976). Sihanouk, who returned to Cambodia in 1975 and temporarily acted as powerless head of state, was placed under house arrest after his resignation in 1976, and most of the royal family was executed. Power was taken over by Pol Pot (“brother number one”; actually head of the “Angka [r]” and formally Prime Minister from 1976), Ieng Sary (* 1929 or 1930, † 2012; deputy head of government and responsible for foreign policy), Khieu Samphan (from April 1976 nominal head of state), Nuon Chea (* 1927, † 2019; chief ideologist), Son Sen (* 1930, † 1997;responsible for defense policy) and Ta Mok (* 1926, † 2006;called “the butcher”, regional commander); they had previously got rid of their internal party opponents (above all from the Provietnamese wing) in a bloody way. The Khmer Rouge subjected the country to a radical process of social transformation aimed at creating primitive agrarian communist conditions (often referred to as “Stone Age Communism”): The residents of the cities were forcibly relocated to the countryside and united with the population living there in cooperatives, where they were used as labor slaves without rights in agriculture (death of many in the “killing fields”). In particular, members of the army and police, civil servants, intellectuals and the Buddhist clergy were subjected to cruel persecution and were murdered; The Tuol Sleng torture and interrogation center (so-called »security prison] -21«) in Phnom Penh became the epitome of bloody terror. In addition, the Khmer Rouge abolished the money and destroyed the cultural and religious institutions. A terror regime developed which killed around 1.7 million people (mainly through hunger, disease and mass executions). Vietnam supported the opponents of the Pol Pot regime within the communist ruling class of Cambodia, which was led in December 1978 by Disease and mass executions) fell victim. Vietnam supported the opponents of the Pol Pot regime within the communist ruling class of Cambodia, which was led in December 1978 by Disease and mass executions) fell victim. Vietnam supported the opponents of the Pol Pot regime within the communist ruling class of Cambodia, which was led in December 1978 by Heng Samrin (* 1934) founded the “United Front for the National Salvation of Cambodia”.

Cambodia History