If you want to see more pictures about Cambodia
Like the majestic temple towers of Angkor breaking through the dense
jungles that vie to smother the ancient city, Cambodia transcends its
crippling history. Once the brilliant gem and artistic leader of
Southeast Asia, Cambodia is now trying to resurrect its cultural
tradition in an effort to heal the pain of the country's recent tragedy.
During the Khmer Rouge's brief but interminable four-year reign, more
than one million Cambodians were murdered.
The Cambodian people have endured far more than their
share of sorrow, and their legacy has wrought an inescapable, if not
indelible, stain on the urban fabric. Crippled soldiers loll on the
sidewalks, and far too many children have grown up parentless as a
result of the Khmer Rouge genocide.
Cambodia sits near the southern tip of the Indochina's
Peninsular, covering 181035sp.km, roughly the size of and Wales. The
country is enclosed by mountains, and its lowland interior is one the
savannas, dense forests, and rich, fertile alluvial plains. In the northeast,
the Eastern Highlands rise to form the natural border with Thailand, while
the Cardamom and Elephant Mountains can be found in the west and southwest
of the country. The Mekong River flows 500kms through the east and curves
by Phnom Penh, where it divides into the lower Mekong and Bassac Rivers.
Also running by the capital is the Tonle Sap River, which flows 100km
downriver from the Tonle Sap (Great Lake), the largest fresh-water pond in
Southeast Asia at 3000sq.km. During rainy season, between June and
October, the Mekong usually floods, overflowing into the Tonle Sap River
which then reverses its course and deposits the excess water into the
Tonle Sap, doubling the lake's size.
For the next five centuries, known as the
Cambodia's "dark ages", the remnants of Angkor struggled to
maintain its existence, marked by economic, political, and cultural
stagnation. By the mid-19th century, Cambodia had become hopelessly
trapped in the territorial struggle between Thailand and Vietnam until
France intervened by claiming the kingdom of itself.
France was already heavily involved with
Vietnam, and sought to expand its influence in the region to ultimately
gain the control of the Mekong against the threat of the British in burma
and the Thais next door. in 1863, the French annexed Cambodia as a
protectorate to thwart its rivals. For the next two decades, the French
colonists exploited Cambodia's people and natural resources, turning the
country into a vast rubber plantation and rice market. When King Norodom
blatantly refused to accept any more mistreatment from their oppressors in
1884, he was forced at gun point to surrender Cambodia completely to
France as a colony. In order to gain royal support and a biddable ally,
the French interfered with succession, passing over the crown prince in
favor of Norodom's brother Sisowath, for whom they provided an extravagant
life style. the new king's collaboration with French rule essentially
halted any nationalist movements similar to those of its neighbors.
When the Japanese seized Indochina during
World War II, they allowed the French to remain in nominal control, while
the Axis power continued on its military rampage through Southeast Asia.
In 1941, the French crowned 18-year-old Prince Norodom Sihanouk,
the grandson of Norodom, king of Cambodia. In their efforts to install a
puppet government, the French underestimated Sihanouk. Japan's calls for
"Asia for the Asiatics" kindled anti-European feelings and
galvanized nationalist struggles throughout Indochina. In Cambodia, the Khmer
Issarak (Freedom Front) arose as the foremost nationalist movement.
with persuasion from Japan, Sihanouk declared independence for his country
and dissolved all treaty with the French. Nevertheless, the new
Democrat-controlled government represented the interests of a pro-French
elite, intent on retaining its privileges.
When the French returned in late 1945, they
were compelled to keep promises made by the free French during the war. Consequently,
Cambodia's colonial status was nullified and absolute monarchy abolished.
Sihanouk, however, remained a figurative head of state, trying to negotiated
with the French for full independence while attempting to placate
supporters of the pro-communist Khmer Issarak and the Viet Minh who were
suspicious of his relation with France.
As the war between the French the Viet Minh
intensified during the late 1940s, the turmoil spilled into Cambodia. Even
though the Viet Minh had stirred anti-French sentiment, the French
successfully managed to divide the Cambodians. Two faction of the Issarak
emerged: the dominant was strongly pro-Viet Minh will the other was
largely anti-communist and wary the Vietnamese. Under the auspices of the
Viet Minh, the pro-commnunist Issarak formed Cambodia's first communist
party, the Khmer People Revolutionary Party (KPRP). Meanwhile, in
Paris, Cambodian students such as Saloth Sar (Pol Pot), Khieu Samphan, and
Ieng Sary-known as the "Paris Circle"-were introduced to Marxism
and eventually joined the French Communist Party, the most militant and
Stalinist in Western Europe. This group would come to play and important
role in the development of communism in Cambodia, profoundly altering the
course of its modern history.
With increased anti-French activities in
Vietnam and Laos, as well as the insurgent guerilla war waged by the Khmer
Issarak, France eventually granted completely independence to Cambodia on
November 9, 1953, less than two weeks before their defeat at Dien Bien Phu.
The Geneva Accords of 1954 recognized Sahanouk's Royal government as the
sole legitimate authority in Cambodia. The Paris Circle remained, however,
to shape the destiny of the communist movement in Cambodia.
For the people of Cambodia, the independence
meant freedom from an absolute monarchy. Sihanouk was pressured to
abdicate in 1955, although he remained a popular leader. Using his
influence, Sahanouk played a neutrality card that kept his country out of
the war raging in Vietnam and Laos in the 1960s.When civil war broke out
in South Vietnam, Sihanouk gave his support to the north Vietnam
revels. In an effort to thwart American involvement in Cambodia, Sihanouk
broke all diplomatic relation with the U.S. in 1965. Much to the
indignation of the U.S., Sihanouk also allowed the Viet Cong to run the Ho
Chi Minh Trail through Cambodia. His ambiguity and constant shifting
between right and left incurred resentment from the political elite in
Cambodia. This and his refusal to cooperate with the U.S. prompted the
American back coup of 1970 by army Commander-in-Chief Lon Nol, who
immediately abolished the monarchy and declared the Khmer Republic.
Sihanouk fled into Exile and his
revolutionary troops joined forces with the communist Khmer Rouge (a term
Sihanouk used for all leftist groups, but later signified Pol Pot and his
supporters, who gained control of the KPRP on 1960) to incite revolts
throughout the country while the North Vietnamese burrowed further into
Cambodia in its clamdestine activities. In April 1970, B-52 and fighter
bombers dropped hundreds of tons of bombs on eastern Cambodia as a prelude
to invasion by American and South Vietnamese troops. Sihanouk setup a
government-in-exile, was immediately recognized by the communist regimes
of Beijing and Hanoi and attracted the support of Khmer Rouge leaders.
Civil War broke out Between the two government soon after.
During the next two years, revolutionary
forces were successful in their guerilla attacks, isolating Phnom Penh
from the rest of the Country. At times, it was believed that they held 80%
of Cambodia territory. By 1973, they would be ready to launch an
immediate, and probably successful coup on the capital. However, the US
increased bombing that year, pushing revolutionary forces back and killing
most of Sihanouk's supporters. As a result, the Khmer Rouge emerged as the
dominant faction of the rebel insurgents.
In 1975, the Khmer Rouge increased their
offensive to gain control of Cambodia, finally seizing Phnom Penh on April
17, and renamed the country Democratic Kampuchea. Thus began one of the
wold's most brutal reigns of terror. The leader of the Khmer Rouge, the
so-called Paris Circle, were perhaps the most intellectually elite of
Asia's communist leaders and took drastic actions toward state-building as
a result of strong communist convictions. Many of these men blamed western
oppression for impeding development in their country and contended that
modernization could be achieved without industrialization.
As a means to creating an agrarian society,
Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge forces exterminated their opposition and the
Cambodian people to the Countryside, where they were pressed into slave
labor. Cities were destroyed, modern facilities were sabotaged, and
currency use was terminated. For the Khmer Rouge, it was no longer 1975,
but year Zero. People who wore glasses or spoke foreign languages were
executed without remorse. During their reign, the Khmer Rouge massacred an
estimated 1.4 million people (other estimates reach as high as 2.3
million) in a horrific holocaust unknown since Adolf Hilter's gas
chambers. There was no room in the new society for personal expression of
any sort. People were forced to work diligently, accept poor living
conditions and food rations, refrain from lavish displays of wealth,
swallow their grief over the loss of loved ones, and reject their
religion. Violation of these rules meant imminent execution. To avoid such
a fate, about two million people fled their homeland; many died along the
For nearly four years, the world sat back and
watched the death of the Cambodian people. Finally, on December 25, 1978,
Vietnamese forces invaded the country, successfully driving out the Khmer
Rouge within two weeks. Nevertheless, the United Nations condemned
Vietnam's occupation of Kampuchea; nobody else, however, was willing to intervene. A new government was setup for the people's Republic of
Kampuchea (PRK) under president Heng Samrin and Prime Minister Hun Sen.
Many different factions resisted Vietnamese rule, including Thailand,
China, and Democratic Kampuchea, represented by Sihanouk( even though he
had previously distance himself from the Khmer Rouge) before the UN
Security Council. In an unbelievable move in September 1979, the UN
General Assembly passed over the PRK, instead, recognizing the Khmer Rouge
as the representative government of the Cambodian People in the United
Nations. By the next year, 25 countries ( mostly communist regimes) had
recognized the PRK as the new legitimate government, but more than 80
countries continued to regard the Khmer Rouge as the sole authority. The
Heng Samrin government, despite its unpopularity among the Cambodian Peole
and the rest of the world, tried to restored the social and economic order
of Kampuchea in face of daunting odds.
After more than ten years of keeping the Khmer Rouge at
bay, Vietnam withdrew its forces from Cambodia in September 1989 under
harsh criticism and embargo. The Paris peace agreement in October 1991
allowed the UN to deploy the United Nations Transit Authority in Cambodia
(UNTAC), by far their largest peacekeeping force to date, to monitor the
ongoing civil war and resettle refugees back into the country. The oversaw
the elections for a coalition government in May 1993, ensuring for the
first time that all Cambodians had a chance to vote. In September,
Sihanouk returned to his country and was crowned king of Cambodia again.
That some year, the PRK was renamed Cambodia in an attempt to erase the
horror and pain of the Khmer Rouge era from the memories of the people.