Home      Discussion      Topics      Dictionary      Almanac
Signup       Login
History of Cambodia

History of Cambodia

Discussion
Ask a question about 'History of Cambodia'
Start a new discussion about 'History of Cambodia'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Encyclopedia

Prehistory and early history



Carbon 14 dating of a cave at Laang Spean in northwest Cambodia
Cambodia
Cambodia , officially known as the Kingdom of Cambodia, is a country located in the southern portion of the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia...

 reveals people who made pots were living in Cambodia as early as 4200 BCE (Before the Common Era). Further archaeological evidence indicates that other parts of the region now called Cambodia
Cambodia
Cambodia , officially known as the Kingdom of Cambodia, is a country located in the southern portion of the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia...

 were inhabited from around 1000-2000 BCE by a Neolithic
Neolithic
The Neolithic Age, Era, or Period, or New Stone Age, was a period in the development of human technology, beginning about 9500 BC in some parts of the Middle East, and later in other parts of the world. It is traditionally considered as the last part of the Stone Age...

 culture. Skulls and human bones found at Samrong Sen date from 1500 BCE. These people may have migrated from South Eastern China to the Indochinese Peninsula. Scholars trace the first cultivation of rice and the first bronze making in Southeast Asia to these people. By the 1st century CE, the inhabitants had developed relatively stable, organized societies and spoke languages very much related to the Cambodian or Khmer of the present day. The culture and technical skills of these people of the 1st century in the CE far surpassed the primitive stage. The most advanced groups lived along the coast and in the lower Mekong River valley and delta regions in houses constructed on stilts where they cultivated rice, fished and kept domesticated animals. Recent research has unlocked the discovery of artificial circular earthworks dating to Cambodia's Neolithic
Neolithic
The Neolithic Age, Era, or Period, or New Stone Age, was a period in the development of human technology, beginning about 9500 BC in some parts of the Middle East, and later in other parts of the world. It is traditionally considered as the last part of the Stone Age...

 era.1

The Khmer people
Khmer people
Khmer people are the predominant ethnic group in Cambodia, accounting for approximately 90% of the 14.8 million people in the country. They speak the Khmer language, which is part of the larger Mon–Khmer language family found throughout Southeast Asia...

 were one of the first inhabitants of South East Asia. They were also among the first in South East Asia to adopt religious ideas and political institutions from India
Indian subcontinent
The Indian subcontinent, also Indian Subcontinent, Indo-Pak Subcontinent or South Asian Subcontinent is a region of the Asian continent on the Indian tectonic plate from the Hindu Kush or Hindu Koh, Himalayas and including the Kuen Lun and Karakoram ranges, forming a land mass which extends...

 and to establish centralized kingdoms surrounding large territories. The earliest known kingdom in the area, Funan, flourished from around the first to the 6th century. This was succeeded by Chenla
Chenla
Chenla is the Chinese designation for Cambodia after the fall of Funan. That name was still used in the 13th century by the Chinese envoy Zhou Daguan, author of the Manners and Customs of Cambodia...

, which controlled large parts of modern Cambodia
Cambodia
Cambodia , officially known as the Kingdom of Cambodia, is a country located in the southern portion of the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia...

, Vietnam
Vietnam
Vietnam – sometimes spelled Viet Nam , officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam – is the easternmost country on the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia. It is bordered by China to the north, Laos to the northwest, Cambodia to the southwest, and the South China Sea –...

, Laos
Laos
Laos Lao: ສາທາລະນະລັດ ປະຊາທິປະໄຕ ປະຊາຊົນລາວ Sathalanalat Paxathipatai Paxaxon Lao, officially the Lao People's Democratic Republic, is a landlocked country in Southeast Asia, bordered by Burma and China to the northwest, Vietnam to the east, Cambodia to the south and Thailand to the west...

, and Thailand
Thailand
Thailand , officially the Kingdom of Thailand , formerly known as Siam , is a country located at the centre of the Indochina peninsula and Southeast Asia. It is bordered to the north by Burma and Laos, to the east by Laos and Cambodia, to the south by the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia, and to the...

.

Funan Kingdom




The Funanese Empire rose to eminence from its affluent and powerful home city of Oc Eo
Óc Eo
Óc Eo is an archaeological site in Thoại Sơn District in southern An Giang Province, Vietnam, in the Mekong River Delta region of Vietnam. It is also one of the modern day communes of Vietnam. Óc Eo may have been a busy port of the kingdom of Funan between the 1st and 7th centuries AD...

 (in nowadays Vietnam
Vietnam
Vietnam – sometimes spelled Viet Nam , officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam – is the easternmost country on the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia. It is bordered by China to the north, Laos to the northwest, Cambodia to the southwest, and the South China Sea –...

), known in the Roman Empire
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

 as Kattigara, meaning the Renowned City. Contacts with the distant Roman Empire are evidenced by the fact that Roman coins have been found at archeological sites dating from the 2nd and 3rd centuries. However, most of the foreign trade of the Funan Empire was carried on much closer to home with India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

, especially the Bengal
Bengal
Bengal is a historical and geographical region in the northeast region of the Indian Subcontinent at the apex of the Bay of Bengal. Today, it is mainly divided between the sovereign land of People's Republic of Bangladesh and the Indian state of West Bengal, although some regions of the previous...

 area of India. Trade with India commenced well before 500 BCE (before the widespread use of Sanskrit
Sanskrit
Sanskrit , is a historical Indo-Aryan language and the primary liturgical language of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism.Buddhism: besides Pali, see Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Today, it is listed as one of the 22 scheduled languages of India and is an official language of the state of Uttarakhand...

 as a language in India). With the Indian trade came the Indianization of the culture of Funan and the religion of Hinduism. Funan and its succeeding societies which occupied this section of Southeast Asia would remain Hindu in religion for about 900 years. Some cultural features and customs of Hinduism continue to exist within the current society.

The empire reached its greatest extent under the rule of Fan Shih-man in the early 3rd century, extending as far south as Malaysia and as far west as Burma. The Funanese established a strong system of mercantilism and commercial monopolies that would become a pattern for empires in the region. Exports from the Funan Empire were largely forest products and precious metals—including gold elephants, ivory, rhinoceros horn, kingfisher feathers, wild spices like cardamom, lacquer hides and aromatic wood. Fan Shih-man expanded the fleet and improved the Funanese bureaucracy, creating a quasi-feudal pattern that left local customs and identities largely intact, particularly in the empire's farther reaches.

Chenla Kingdom



The Khmers, vassals of Funan had reached the Mekong River from the northern Menam River via the Mun River
Mun River
The Mun River , sometimes spelled Moon River, is a tributary of the Mekong river. It carries approximately 21,000 cubic kilometres of water per year.-Geography:...

 Valley. Chenla
Chenla
Chenla is the Chinese designation for Cambodia after the fall of Funan. That name was still used in the 13th century by the Chinese envoy Zhou Daguan, author of the Manners and Customs of Cambodia...

, their first independent state developed out of Funanese influence.

Ancient Chinese records mention two kings, Shrutavarman and Shreshthavarman who ruled at the capital Shreshthapura located in modern day southern Laos. The immense influence on the identity of Cambodia to come was wrought by the Khmer Kingdom of Bhavapura, in the modern day Cambodian city of Kompong Thom. Its legacy was its most important sovereign, Ishanavarman who completely conquered the kingdom of Funan during 612-628. He chose his new capital at the Sambor Prei Kuk
Sambor Prei Kuk
The ancient temple complex of Sambor Prei Kuk is located just to the north of the town of Kompong Thom, Cambodia.Located on Eastern bank of Tonle Sap, the central part of Sambor Prei Kuk is divided mainly into three groups. The structures of the overall archaeological area were constructed at...

, naming it Ishanapura.

After the death of Jayavarman I
Jayavarman I
Jayavarman I is considered by some to be the first king of the Khmer empire, as it evolved out of the Kamboja kingdom . He ruled from approximately 657 to 681. Over the course of his reign, and that of his predecessor Bhavavarman II, the Khmer kings' power was consolidated in the areas previously...

 in 681, turmoil came upon the kingdom and at the start of the 8th century, the kingdom broke up into many principalities. Pushkaraksha, the ruler of Shambhupura announced himself as king of the entire Kambuja. Chinese chronicles proclaim that in the 8th century, Chenla was split into land Chenla and water Chenla. During this time, Shambhuvarman son of Pushkaraksha controlled most of water Chenla until the 8th century which the Malayans and Javanese dominated over many Khmer principalities.

Khmer Empire


The golden age of Khmer civilization, however, was the period from the 9th to the 13th centuries, when Khmer Empire, which gave Kampuchea, or Cambodia, its name, ruled large territories from its capital in the region of Angkor in western Cambodia.

Legend has it that in 802 CE, Jayavarman II
Jayavarman II
Jayavarman II was a 9th century king of Cambodia, widely recognized as the founder of the Khmer Empire, which ruled much of the Southeast Asian mainland for more than six hundred years. Historians formerly dated his reign as running from 802 AD to 850 AD, but some scholars now have set it back to...

, king of the Khmers, first came to the Kuhlen hills, the future site of Angkor Wat. Later, under Jayavarman VII (1181–ca. 1218), Khmer reached its zenith of political power and cultural creativity. Jayavarman VII gained power and territory in a series of successful wars. Khmer conquests were almost unstoppable as they raided home cities of powerful seafaring Chams. However, territorial expansion stopped after a defeat by Dai Viet. The battle also witnessed Suryavarman II's death. Following Jayavarman VII's death, Khmer experienced a gradual decline. Important factors were the aggressiveness of neighboring peoples (especially the Thai, or Siamese
Thai people
The Thai people, or Siamese, are the main ethnic group of Thailand and are part of the larger Tai ethnolinguistic peoples found in Thailand and adjacent countries in Southeast Asia as well as southern China. Their language is the Thai language, which is classified as part of the Kradai family of...

), chronic interdynastic strife, and the gradual deterioration of the complex irrigation system that had ensured rice surpluses. The Angkor
Angkor
Angkor is a region of Cambodia that served as the seat of the Khmer Empire, which flourished from approximately the 9th to 15th centuries. The word Angkor is derived from the Sanskrit nagara , meaning "city"...

ian monarchy survived until 1431, when the Thai captured Angkor Thom
Angkor Thom
Angkor Thom , located in present day Cambodia, was the last and most enduring capital city of the Khmer empire. It was established in the late twelfth century by king Jayavarman VII. It covers an area of 9 km², within which are located several monuments from earlier eras as well as those...

 and the Cambodian king fled to the southern part of the country.

Dark Ages of Cambodia



The 15th to the 19th centuries were a period of continued decline and territorial loss. Cambodia enjoyed a brief period of prosperity during the 16th century because its kings, who built their capitals in the region southeast of the Tonle Sap
Tonlé Sap
The Tonlé Sap is a combined lake and river system of major importance to Cambodia.The Tonlé Sap is the largest freshwater lake in South East Asia and is an ecological hot spot that was designated as a UNESCO biosphere in 1997....

 along the Mekong River, promoted trade with other parts of Asia. This was the period when Spanish
Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

 and Portuguese
Portugal
Portugal , officially the Portuguese Republic is a country situated in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula. Portugal is the westernmost country of Europe, and is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the West and South and by Spain to the North and East. The Atlantic archipelagos of the...

 adventurers and missionaries first visited the country. However, the Thai conquest of the new capital at Lovek
Lovek
Longvek was a city in ancient Cambodia, the capital city of the country after the sacking of Angkor by the Siamese in 1431. Little more than a village today in Kampong Chhnang Province, it lies just north of Oudong....

 in 1594 marked a downturn in the country's fortunes and Cambodia. Becoming a pawn in power struggles between its two increasingly powerful neighbors, Siam and Vietnam. Cambodia remained a protectorate of Siam. Vietnam's settlement of the Mekong Delta
Mekong Delta
The Mekong Delta is the region in southwestern Vietnam where the Mekong River approaches and empties into the sea through a network of distributaries. The Mekong delta region encompasses a large portion of southwestern Vietnam of . The size of the area covered by water depends on the season.The...

 led to its annexation of that area at the end of the 17th century. Vietnam employed a strategy similar to those of North American pilgrims and pioneers: settle and claim. Such foreign encroachments continued through the first half of the 19th century. A successful invasion by Vietnam further limited Thai protectorship in Cambodia and established the kingdom under full Vietnamese suzerainty.

French colonial period




In 1863, King Norodom
Norodom of Cambodia
Norodom I ruled as king of Cambodia from 1860 to 1904. He was the eldest son of King Ang Duong, who ruled on behalf of Siam, and half-brother of Prince Si Votha as well as the half-brother of King Sisowath. Norodom is cognate with Narottam in Sanskrit which means Best of men . Norodom was...

 signed an agreement with the French
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 to establish a protectorate over his kingdom. The state gradually came under French colonial domination.

During World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, the Japan
Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

ese allowed the French government (based at Vichy
Vichy
Vichy is a commune in the department of Allier in Auvergne in central France. It belongs to the historic province of Bourbonnais.It is known as a spa and resort town and was the de facto capital of Vichy France during the World War II Nazi German occupation from 1940 to 1944.The town's inhabitants...

) that collaborated with the republican opponents and attempted to negotiate acceptable terms for independence from the French.

Cambodia's situation at the end of the war was chaotic. The Free French, under General Charles de Gaulle
Charles de Gaulle
Charles André Joseph Marie de Gaulle was a French general and statesman who led the Free French Forces during World War II. He later founded the French Fifth Republic in 1958 and served as its first President from 1959 to 1969....

, were determined to recover Indochina, though they offered Cambodia and the other Inchochinese protectorates a carefully circumscribed measure of self-government. Convinced that they had a "civilizing mission
Civilizing mission
is a rationale for intervention or colonisation, proposing to contribute to the spread of civilization, mostly amounting to the Westernization of indigenous peoples....

", they envisioned Indochina's participation in a French Union of former colonies that shared the common experience of French culture.

Sihanouk's "royal crusade for independence" resulted in grudging French acquiescence to his demands for a transfer of sovereignty. A partial agreement was struck in October 1953. Sihanouk then declared that independence had been achieved and returned in triumph to Phnom Penh
Phnom Penh
Phnom Penh is the capital and largest city of Cambodia. Located on the banks of the Mekong River, Phnom Penh has been the national capital since the French colonized Cambodia, and has grown to become the nation's center of economic and industrial activities, as well as the center of security,...

.

First administration of Sihanouk 1953-1970



As a result of the Geneva Conference on Indochina, Cambodia was able to bring about the withdrawal of the Viet Minh
Viet Minh
Việt Minh was a national independence coalition formed at Pac Bo on May 19, 1941. The Việt Minh initially formed to seek independence for Vietnam from the French Empire. When the Japanese occupation began, the Việt Minh opposed Japan with support from the United States and the Republic of China...

 troops from its territory and to withstand any residual impingement upon its sovereignty by external powers.

Neutrality was the central element of Cambodian foreign policy during the 1950s and 1960s. By the mid-1960s, parts of Cambodia's eastern provinces were serving as bases for North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong (NVA/VC) forces operating against South Vietnam, and the port of Sihanoukville
Sihanoukville
Sihanoukville , also known as Kampong Saom, is a province in southern Cambodia on the Gulf of Thailand. This port city is a growing Cambodian urban center, located southwest of the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh. The province is named after King Father Norodom Sihanouk and grew up around the...

 was being used to supply them. As NVA/VC activity grew, the United States and South Vietnam
South Vietnam
South Vietnam was a state which governed southern Vietnam until 1975. It received international recognition in 1950 as the "State of Vietnam" and later as the "Republic of Vietnam" . Its capital was Saigon...

 became concerned, and in 1969, the United States began a 14 month long series of bombing raids targeted at NVA/VC elements, contributing to destabilization. Prince Sihanouk, fearing that the conflict between communist North Vietnam and South Vietnam might spill over to Cambodia, steadfastly opposed the bombing campaign by the United States along the Vietnam-Cambodia border and inside Cambodian territory. Prince Sihanouk wanted Cambodia to stay out of the North Vietnam-South Vietnam conflict and was very critical of the United States government and its allies (the South Vietnamese government). The United States claims that the bombing campaign took place no further than ten, and later twenty miles (32 km) inside the Cambodian border, areas where the Cambodian population had been evicted by the NVA. Prince Sihanouk, facing internal struggles of his own, due to the rise of the Khmer Rouge, did not want Cambodia to be involved in the conflict. Sihanouk wanted the United States and its allies (South Vietnam) to keep the war away from the Cambodian border. Not only did Sihanouk try to keep the communist North Vietnamese soldiers from entering Cambodia territory, but he also did not allow the United States to use Cambodian air space and airports for military purposes. This upset the United States greatly. The United States saw Prince Sihanouk as a North Vietnamese sympathizer and a thorn on the United States, and using the CIA, it began plans to get rid of Sihanouk.

Throughout the 1960s, domestic Cambodian politics became polarized. Opposition to the government grew within the middle class and leftists including Paris-educated leaders like Son Sen
Son Sen
Son Sen was a Cambodian Communist politician and soldier. A member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Kampuchea/Party of Democratic Kampuchea, the Khmer Rouge, from 1974 to 1992, Sen oversaw the Party's security apparatus, including the Santebal secret police and the notorious...

, Ieng Sary
Ieng Sary
Ieng Sary was a powerful figure in the Khmer Rouge. He was the Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Democratic Kampuchea from 1975 to 1979 and held several senior positions in the Khmer Rouge until his defection to the government in 1996....

, and Saloth Sar (later known as Pol Pot
Pol Pot
Saloth Sar , better known as Pol Pot, , was a Cambodian Maoist revolutionary who led the Khmer Rouge from 1963 until his death in 1998. From 1976 to 1979, he served as the Prime Minister of Democratic Kampuchea....

), who led an insurgency
Insurgency
An insurgency is an armed rebellion against a constituted authority when those taking part in the rebellion are not recognized as belligerents...

 under the clandestine Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK). Sihanouk called these insurgents the Khmer Rouge
Khmer Rouge
The Khmer Rouge literally translated as Red Cambodians was the name given to the followers of the Communist Party of Kampuchea, who were the ruling party in Cambodia from 1975 to 1979, led by Pol Pot, Nuon Chea, Ieng Sary, Son Sen and Khieu Samphan...

, literally the "Red Khmer." But the 1966 national assembly elections showed a significant swing to the right, and General Lon Nol
Lon Nol
Lon Nol was a Cambodian politician and general who served as Prime Minister of Cambodia twice, as well as serving repeatedly as Defense Minister...

 formed a new government, which lasted until 1967. During 1968 and 1969, the insurgency worsened. In August 1969, Lon Nol formed a new government. Prince Sihanouk went abroad for medical reasons in January 1970.

Khmer Republic and the War



In March 1970, while Prince Sihanouk was absent, General Lon Nol deposed Prince Sihanouk in a coup d'état in the early hours of March 18, 1970. It has been alleged that this coup was not planned by the United States Central Intelligence Agency. Still while abroad, Prince Sihanouk had been warned by both the leaders in Soviet Union and in Peking, that he should return home, immediately without delay. As early as March 12, 1970, the C.I.A. Station Chief told Washington that based on communications from Sirik Matak, Lon Nol's cousin, that "the (Cambodian) army was ready for a coup." Nonetheless, Lon Nol assumed the power after the military coup and immediately allied Cambodia with the United States. Immediately, Son Ngoc Thanh, an opponent of Pol Pot, announced his support for the new government. On October 9, the Cambodian monarchy was abolished, and the country was renamed the Khmer Republic.

Hanoi rejected the new republic's request for the withdrawal of NVA troops. 2,000–4,000 Cambodians who had gone to North Vietnam in 1954 reentered Cambodia, backed by North Vietnamese soldiers. In response, the United States moved to provide material assistance to the new government's armed forces, which were engaged against both CPK insurgents and NVA forces.

On April 1970, US President Nixon announced to the American public that US and South Vietnamese ground forces had entered Cambodia in a campaign aimed at destroying NVA base areas in Cambodia (see Cambodian Incursion
Cambodian Incursion
The Cambodian Campaign was a series of military operations conducted in eastern Cambodia during mid-1970 by the United States and the Republic of Vietnam during the Vietnam War. These invasions were a result of policy of President Richard Nixon whose decision it was to invade...

). The US had already been bombing Cambodia for well over a year by that point.

Although a considerable quantity of equipment was seized or destroyed by US and South Vietnamese forces, containment of North Vietnamese forces proved elusive. The North Vietnamese moved deeper into Cambodia to avoid US and South Vietnamese raids. NVA units overran many Cambodian army positions while the CPK expanded their small-scale attacks on lines of communication.

The Khmer Republic's leadership was plagued by disunity among its three principal figures: Lon Nol, Sihanouk's cousin Sirik Matak, and National Assembly leader In Tam
In Tam
In Tam was a former Prime Minister of Cambodia. He served in that position from May 6, 1973 to December 9 1973, and had a long career in Cambodian politics.-Political career:...

. Lon Nol remained in power in part because none of the others were prepared to take his place. In 1972, a constitution was adopted, a parliament elected, and Lon Nol became president. But disunity, the problems of transforming a 30,000-man army into a national combat force of more than 200,000 men, and spreading corruption weakened the civilian administration and army.

The Communist insurgency inside Cambodia continued to grow, aided by supplies and military support from North Vietnam. Pol Pot
Pol Pot
Saloth Sar , better known as Pol Pot, , was a Cambodian Maoist revolutionary who led the Khmer Rouge from 1963 until his death in 1998. From 1976 to 1979, he served as the Prime Minister of Democratic Kampuchea....

 and Ieng Sary
Ieng Sary
Ieng Sary was a powerful figure in the Khmer Rouge. He was the Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Democratic Kampuchea from 1975 to 1979 and held several senior positions in the Khmer Rouge until his defection to the government in 1996....

 asserted their dominance over the Vietnamese-trained communists, many of whom were purged. At the same time, the Communist Party of Kampuchea
Communist Party of Kampuchea
The Communist Party of Kampuchea, also known as Khmer Communist Party , was a communist party in Cambodia. Its followers were generally known as Khmer Rouge .-Foundation of the party; first divisions:...

 forces became stronger and more independent of their Vietnamese patrons. By 1973, the CPK were fighting battles against government forces with little or no North Vietnamese troop support, and they controlled nearly 60% of Cambodia's territory and 25% of its population.

The government made three unsuccessful attempts to enter into negotiations with the insurgents, but by 1974, the CPK were operating openly as divisions, and some of the NVA combat forces had moved into South Vietnam. Lon Nol's control was reduced to small enclaves around the cities and main transportation routes. More than 2 million refugees from the war lived in Phnom Penh
Phnom Penh
Phnom Penh is the capital and largest city of Cambodia. Located on the banks of the Mekong River, Phnom Penh has been the national capital since the French colonized Cambodia, and has grown to become the nation's center of economic and industrial activities, as well as the center of security,...

 and other cities.

On New Year's Day 1975, Communist troops launched an offensive which, in 117 days of the hardest fighting of the war, collapsed the Khmer Republic. Simultaneous attacks around the perimeter of Phnom Penh pinned down Republican forces, while other CPK units overran fire bases controlling the vital lower Mekong resupply route. A US-funded airlift of ammunition and rice ended when Congress refused additional aid for Cambodia. The Lon Nol government in Phnom Penh surrendered on April 17, 1975, just five (5) days after the US mission evacuated Cambodia.

Democratic Kampuchea (Khmer Rouge Era)


Immediately after its victory, the CPK ordered the evacuation of all cities and towns, sending the entire urban population into the countryside to work as farmers, as the CPK was trying to reshape society into a model that Pol Pot had conceived.

Thousands starved or died of disease during the evacuation and its aftermath. Many of those forced to evacuate the cities were resettled in newly created villages, which lacked food, agricultural implements, and medical care. Many who lived in cities had lost the skills necessary for survival in an agrarian environment. Thousands starved before the first harvest. Hunger and malnutrition—bordering on starvation—were constant during those years. Most military and civilian leaders of the former regime who failed to disguise their pasts were executed.

Within the CPK, the Paris-educated leadership—Pol Pot
Pol Pot
Saloth Sar , better known as Pol Pot, , was a Cambodian Maoist revolutionary who led the Khmer Rouge from 1963 until his death in 1998. From 1976 to 1979, he served as the Prime Minister of Democratic Kampuchea....

, Ieng Sary
Ieng Sary
Ieng Sary was a powerful figure in the Khmer Rouge. He was the Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Democratic Kampuchea from 1975 to 1979 and held several senior positions in the Khmer Rouge until his defection to the government in 1996....

, Nuon Chea
Nuon Chea
Nuon Chea , also known as Long Bunruot , is a Cambodian former communist politician and former chief ideologist of Khmer Rouge. He was commonly known as "Brother Number Two" second in command to Pol Pot who was leader during the Cambodian Genocide 1975-1979...

, and Son Sen
Son Sen
Son Sen was a Cambodian Communist politician and soldier. A member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Kampuchea/Party of Democratic Kampuchea, the Khmer Rouge, from 1974 to 1992, Sen oversaw the Party's security apparatus, including the Santebal secret police and the notorious...

—were in control. A new constitution in January 1976 established Democratic Kampuchea as a Communist People's Republic, and a 250-member Assembly of the Representatives of the People of Kampuchea (PRA) was selected in March to choose the collective leadership of a State Presidium, the chairman of which became the head of state.

Prince Sihanouk resigned as head of state on April 4. On April 14, after its first session, the PRA announced that Khieu Samphan
Khieu Samphan
Khieu Samphan was the president of the state presidium of Democratic Kampuchea from 1976 until 1979. As such, he served as Cambodia's head of state and was one of the most powerful officials in the Khmer Rouge movement, though Pol Pot was the group's true political leader and held the most...

 would chair the State Presidium for a 5-year term. It also picked a 15-member cabinet headed by Pol Pot as prime minister. Prince Sihanouk was put under virtual house arrest.

The new government sought to completely restructure Cambodian society. Remnants of the old society were abolished and religion, particularly Buddhism
Buddhism
Buddhism is a religion and philosophy encompassing a variety of traditions, beliefs and practices, largely based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as the Buddha . The Buddha lived and taught in the northeastern Indian subcontinent some time between the 6th and 4th...

 and Catholicism
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

, was suppressed. Agriculture was collectivized, and the surviving part of the industrial base was abandoned or placed under state control. Cambodia had neither a currency nor a banking system.

Life in 'Democratic Kampuchea' was strict and brutal. In many areas of the country people were rounded up and executed for speaking a foreign language, wearing glasses, scavenging for food, and even crying for dead loved ones. Former businessmen and bureaucrats were hunted down and killed along with their entire families; the Khmer Rouge feared that they held beliefs that could lead them to oppose their regime. A few Khmer Rouge loyalists were even killed for failing to find enough 'counter-revolutionaries' to execute.

Solid estimates of the numbers who died between 1975 and 1979 are not available, but it is likely that hundreds of thousands were executed by the regime. Hundreds of thousands died of starvation and disease (both under the CPK and during the Vietnamese invasion in 1978). Some estimates of the dead range from 1 to 3 million, out of a 1975 population estimated at 7.3 million. The CIA estimated 50,000–100,000 were executed in a single purge by the state and that 1.5 million (from a range of 1.2 to 1.8 million) were killed by the Khmer Rouge from 1975 to 1979.

Democratic Kampuchea's relations with Vietnam
Vietnam
Vietnam – sometimes spelled Viet Nam , officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam – is the easternmost country on the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia. It is bordered by China to the north, Laos to the northwest, Cambodia to the southwest, and the South China Sea –...

 and Thailand
Thailand
Thailand , officially the Kingdom of Thailand , formerly known as Siam , is a country located at the centre of the Indochina peninsula and Southeast Asia. It is bordered to the north by Burma and Laos, to the east by Laos and Cambodia, to the south by the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia, and to the...

 worsened rapidly as a result of border clashes and ideological differences. While communist, the CPK was fiercely nationalistic, and most of its members who had lived in Vietnam were purged. Democratic Kampuchea established close ties with the People's Republic of China
People's Republic of China
China , officially the People's Republic of China , is the most populous country in the world, with over 1.3 billion citizens. Located in East Asia, the country covers approximately 9.6 million square kilometres...

, and the Cambodian-Vietnamese conflict became part of the Sino-Soviet
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 rivalry, with Moscow backing Vietnam. Border clashes worsened when the Democratic Kampuchea military attacked villages in Vietnam. The regime broke off relations with Hanoi in December 1977, protesting Vietnam's alleged attempt to create an Indochina Federation. In mid-1978, Vietnamese forces invaded Cambodia, advancing about 30 miles (48.3 km) before the arrival of the rainy season.

The reasons for Chinese support of the CPK was to prevent a pan-Indochina movement, and maintain Chinese military superiority in the region. The Soviet Union supported a strong Vietnam to maintain a second front against China in case of hostilities and to prevent further Chinese expansion. Since Stalin's death, relations between Mao-controlled China and the Soviet Union had been lukewarm at best. In February to March 1979, China and Vietnam would fight the brief Sino-Vietnamese War
Sino-Vietnamese War
The Sino–Vietnamese War , also known as the Third Indochina War, known in the PRC as and in Vietnam as Chiến tranh chống bành trướng Trung Hoa , was a brief but bloody border war fought in 1979 between the People's Republic of China and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam...

 over the issue.

In December 1978, Vietnam announced formation of the Kampuchean United Front for National Salvation
Kampuchean United Front for National Salvation
The Kampuchean United Front for National Salvation , often simply referred to as Salvation Front or by its French acronym FUNSK , was the nucleus of a new Cambodian regime, that would later establish the People's Republic of Kampuchea .Its foundation took place in 1978 in Vietnam by...

 (KUFNS) under Heng Samrin
Heng Samrin
Heng Samrin is a Cambodian politician. He was the chairman of the People's Republic of Kampuchea and the State of Cambodia , and later vice chairman and chairman of the National Assembly of Cambodia since 2006....

, a former DK division commander. It was composed of Khmer Communists who had remained in Vietnam after 1975 and officials from the eastern sector—like Heng Samrin and Hun Sen—who had fled to Vietnam from Cambodia in 1978. In late December 1978, Vietnamese forces launched a full invasion of Cambodia, capturing Phnom Penh on January 7, 1979 and driving the remnants of Democratic Kampuchea's army westward toward Thailand.

People's Republic of Kampuchea



On January 10, 1979, after the Vietnamese army
Vietnam
Vietnam – sometimes spelled Viet Nam , officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam – is the easternmost country on the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia. It is bordered by China to the north, Laos to the northwest, Cambodia to the southwest, and the South China Sea –...

 and the KUFNS invaded Cambodia, the new People's Republic of Kampuchea
People's Republic of Kampuchea
The People's Republic of Kampuchea , , was founded in Cambodia by the Salvation Front, a group of Cambodian leftists dissatisfied with the Khmer Rouge, after the overthrow of Democratic Kampuchea, Pol Pot's government...

 (PRK) was established with Heng Samrin as head of state. Pol Pot
Pol Pot
Saloth Sar , better known as Pol Pot, , was a Cambodian Maoist revolutionary who led the Khmer Rouge from 1963 until his death in 1998. From 1976 to 1979, he served as the Prime Minister of Democratic Kampuchea....

's Khmer Rouge
Khmer Rouge
The Khmer Rouge literally translated as Red Cambodians was the name given to the followers of the Communist Party of Kampuchea, who were the ruling party in Cambodia from 1975 to 1979, led by Pol Pot, Nuon Chea, Ieng Sary, Son Sen and Khieu Samphan...

 forces retreated rapidly to the Thai
Thailand
Thailand , officially the Kingdom of Thailand , formerly known as Siam , is a country located at the centre of the Indochina peninsula and Southeast Asia. It is bordered to the north by Burma and Laos, to the east by Laos and Cambodia, to the south by the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia, and to the...

 border. The Khmer Rouge and the PRK began a costly struggle that played into the hands of the larger powers China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

, the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 and the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

. A civil war was imposed on impoverished Cambodia that displaced 600,000 Cambodians to refugee camps along the border between Thailand and Cambodia.

Peace efforts began in Paris in 1989 under the State of Cambodia, culminating two years later in October 1991 in a comprehensive peace settlement. The United Nations
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

 was given a mandate to enforce a ceasefire, and deal with refugees and disarmament known as the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia
United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia
The United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia was a United Nations peacekeeping operation in Cambodia in 1992–93. It was also the first occasion on which the UN had taken over the administration of an independent state, organized and run an election , had its own radio station and jail,...

 (UNTAC).

Modern Cambodia: 1993-present


On October 23, 1991, the Paris Conference reconvened to sign a comprehensive settlement giving the UN full authority to supervise a cease-fire, repatriate the displaced Khmer along the border with Thailand, disarm and demobilize the factional armies, and prepare the country for free and fair elections. Prince Sihanouk, President of the Supreme National Council of Cambodia (SNC), and other members of the SNC returned to Phnom Penh in November 1991, to begin the resettlement process in Cambodia. The UN Advance Mission for Cambodia (UNAMIC) was deployed at the same time to maintain liaison among the factions and begin demining operations to expedite the repatriation of approximately 370,000 Cambodians from Thailand.

On March 16, 1992, the UN Transitional Authority in Cambodia
United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia
The United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia was a United Nations peacekeeping operation in Cambodia in 1992–93. It was also the first occasion on which the UN had taken over the administration of an independent state, organized and run an election , had its own radio station and jail,...

 (UNTAC) arrived in Cambodia to begin implementation of the UN Settlement Plan. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees began fullscale repatriation in March 1992. UNTAC grew into a 22,000-strong civilian and military peacekeeping force to conduct free and fair elections for a constituent assembly.

Over 4 million Cambodians (about 90% of eligible voters) participated in the May 1993 elections, although the Khmer Rouge or Party of Democratic Kampuchea
Party of Democratic Kampuchea
Party of Democratic Kampuchea was a political party in Cambodia, formed as a continuation of the Communist Party of Kampuchea in December 1981. In the mid-1980s it publicly claimed that its ideology was "democratic socialism," having ostensibly renounced Communism.-History:The dissolution of CPK...

 (PDK), whose forces were never actually disarmed or demobilized, barred some people from participating. Prince Ranariddh
Norodom Ranariddh
Prince Norodom Ranariddh is the second son of former king Norodom Sihanouk of Cambodia and a half brother of the current king, Norodom Sihamoni.-Biography:...

's royalist FUNCINPEC Party
Funcinpec
FUNCINPEC is a royalist political party in Cambodia. Before the 2008 election, FUNCINPEC and the Cambodian People's Party formed a coalition government, although FUNCINPEC's significance has decreased steadily since 1998, when it had an equal relationship with the CPP in the coalition.FUNCINPEC is...

 was the top vote recipient with 45.5% of the vote, followed by Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party
Cambodian People's Party
The Cambodian People's Party is the current ruling party of Cambodia.This party was formerly known as Kampuchean People's Revolutionary Party...

 and the Buddhist Liberal Democratic Party
Buddhist Liberal Democratic Party
The Buddhist Liberal Democratic Party was a Cambodian political party founded in 1993 by former Cambodian Prime Minister Son Sann. The BLDP was created as a successor to the Khmer People's National Liberation Front , an anti-communist group also started by Son Sann.-1993 Cambodian election:The...

, respectively. FUNCINPEC then entered into a coalition with the other parties that had participated in the election. The parties represented in the 120-member assembly proceeded to draft and approve a new constitution, which was promulgated September 24, 1993. It established a multiparty liberal democracy in the framework of a constitutional monarchy, with the former Prince Sihanouk elevated to King. Prince Ranariddh and Hun Sen became First and Second Prime Ministers, respectively, in the Royal Cambodian Government (RGC). The constitution provides for a wide range of internationally recognized human rights.

On October 4, 2004, the Cambodian National Assembly ratified an agreement with the United Nations on the establishment of a tribunal to try senior leaders responsible for the atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge. Donor countries have pledged the $43 million international share of the three-year tribunal budget, while the Cambodian government’s share of the budget is $13.3 million. The tribunal started trials of senior Khmer Rouge leaders in 2008.

See also



  • Economic history of Cambodia
    Economic history of Cambodia
    Cambodia was a farming area in the first and second millennia BCE. States in the area engaged in trade in the Indian Ocean and exported rice surpluses. Complex irrigation systems were built in the 9th century. The French colonial period left the large feudal landholdings intact. Roads and a railway...

  • History of Buddhism in Cambodia
    History of Buddhism in Cambodia
    -Suvannaphum:King Ashoka sent missionaries to the land of Suwannaphum, which has sometimes been identified as the mainland southeast Asian region of Mon and Khmerpeople...

  • History of Asia
    History of Asia
    The history of Asia can be seen as the collective history of several distinct peripheral coastal regions such as, East Asia, South Asia, and the Middle East linked by the interior mass of the Eurasian steppe....

  • Khmer Rouge
    Khmer Rouge
    The Khmer Rouge literally translated as Red Cambodians was the name given to the followers of the Communist Party of Kampuchea, who were the ruling party in Cambodia from 1975 to 1979, led by Pol Pot, Nuon Chea, Ieng Sary, Son Sen and Khieu Samphan...

  • List of kings of Cambodia
  • List of Prime Ministers of Cambodia
  • Military history of Cambodia
    Military history of Cambodia
    History attests to Cambodia's martial origins. In antiquity Cambodia, having conquered Laos, parts of Thailand, and the Malay Peninsula, held sway over a vast area of Southeast Asia. Khmer martial prowess waned in the early 15th century, however, and Cambodia subsequently endured periods of...

  • Politics of Cambodia
    Politics of Cambodia
    The Politics of Cambodia takes place in a framework of a constitutional monarchy, whereby the Prime Minister is the head of government and a Monarch is head of state. The kingdom formally takes place according to the nation's constitution in a framework of a parliamentary, representative...


External links