History of Cambodia (1979-present)

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The People's Republic of Kampuchea, The Vietnamese Occupation

On January 10, 1979, the Vietnamese installed Heng Samrin as head of state in the new People's Republic of Kampuchea (PRK). The Vietnamese army continued its pursuit of Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge forces. At least 600,000 Cambodians displaced during the Pol Pot era and the Vietnamese invasion began streaming to the Thai border in search of refuge. The international community responded with a massive relief effort coordinated by the United States through UNICEF and the World Food Program. More than $400 million was provided between 1979 and 1982, of which the United States contributed nearly $100 million. At one point, more than 500,000 Cambodians were living along the Thai-Cambodian border and more than 100,000 in holding centers inside Thailand.

Vietnam's occupation army of as many as 200,000 troops controlled the major population centers and most of the countryside from 1979 to September 1989. The Heng Samrin regime's 30,000 troops were plagued by poor morale and widespread desertion. Resistance to Vietnam's occupation continued, and there was some evidence that Heng Samrin's PRK forces provided logistic and moral support to the guerrillas.

A large portion of the Khmer Rouge's military forces eluded Vietnamese troops and established themselves in remote regions. The non-communist resistance, consisting of a number of groups which had been fighting the Khmer Rouge after 1975--including Lon Nol-era soldiers--coalesced in 1979-80 to form the Khmer People's National Liberation Armed Forces (KPNLAF), which pledged loyalty to former Prime Minister Son Sann, and Moulinaka (Movement pour la Liberation Nationale de Kampuchea), loyal to Prince Sihanouk. In 1979, Son Sann formed the Khmer People's National Liberation Front (KPNLF) to lead the political struggle for Cambodia's independence. Prince Sihanouk formed his own organization, FUNCINPEC, and its military arm, the Armee Nationale Sihanoukienne (ANS) in 1981.

Warfare followed a wet season/dry season rhythm after 1980. The heavily-armed Vietnamese forces conducted offensive operations during the dry seasons, and the resistance forces held the initiative during the rainy seasons. In 1982, Vietnam launched a major offensive against the main Khmer Rouge base at Phnom Melai in the Cardamom Mountains. Vietnam switched its target to civilian camps near the Thai border in 1983, launching a series of massive assaults, backed by armor and heavy artillery, against camps belonging to all three resistance groups. Hundreds of civilians were injured in these attacks, and more than 80,000 were forced to flee to Thailand. Resistance military forces, however, were largely undamaged. In the 1984-85 dry season offensive, the Vietnamese again attacked base camps of all three resistance groups. Despite stiff resistance from the guerrillas, the Vietnamese succeeded in eliminating the camps in Cambodia and drove both the guerrillas and civilian refugees into neighboring Thailand. The Vietnamese concentrated on consolidating their gains during the 1985-86 dry season, including an attempt to seal guerrilla infiltration routes into the country by forcing Cambodian laborers to construct trench and wire fence obstacles and minefields along virtually the entire Thai-Cambodian border.

The Khmer Rouge had also mobilized their guerrillas the same way. They cut down giant trees to block roads in the thick jungle along the Thai-Cambodian border to prevent the Vietnamese tanks and armor trucks from passing through. The Khmer Rouge laid down mines and subterfugere. These forced part of the vietnamese's tactic to fight as a guerrila warfare. Thus the Vietnamese suffered a damaging casualties. Momentum had shifted. The Khmer Rouge gain confidence they can keep swiping away the Vietnamese's armies. While the Vietnamese found out it is more difficult to hunt then be hunted.

Within Cambodia, Vietnam had only limited success in establishing its client Heng Samrin regime, which was dependent on Vietnamese advisors at all levels. Security in some rural areas was tenuous, and major transportation routes were subject to interdiction by resistance forces. The presence of Vietnamese throughout the country and their intrusion into nearly all aspects of Cambodian life alienated much of the populace. The settlement of Vietnamese nationals, both former residents and new immigrants, further exacerbated anti-Vietnamese sentiment. Reports of the numbers involved vary widely with some estimates as high as 1 million. By the end of this decade, Khmer nationalism began to reassert itself against the traditional Vietnamese enemy.

In 1986, Hanoi claimed to have begun withdrawing part of its occupation forces. At the same time, Vietnam continued efforts to strengthen its client regime, the PRK, and its military arm, the Kampuchean People's Revolutionary Armed Forces (KPRAF). These withdrawals continued over the next 2 years, although actual numbers were difficult to verify. Vietnam's proposal to withdraw its remaining occupation forces in 1989-90--the result of ongoing international pressure--forced the PRK to begin economic and constitutional reforms in an attempt to ensure future political dominance. In April 1989, Hanoi and Phnom Penh announced that final withdrawal would take place by the end of September 1989.

The military organizations of Prince Sihanouk (ANS) and of former Prime Minister Son Sann (KPNLAF) underwent significant military improvement during the 1988-89 period and both expanded their presence in Cambodia's interior. These organizations provide a political alternative to the Vietnamese-supported People's Republic of Kampuchea [PRK] and the murderous Khmer Rouge. The last Vietnamese troops left Cambodia in September of 1989.

Peace efforts and the free elections

From July 30 to August 30, 1989, representatives of 18 countries, the four Cambodian parties, and the UN Secretary General met in Paris in an effort to negotiate a comprehensive settlement. They hoped to achieve those objectives seen as crucial to the future of post-occupation Cambodia: a verified withdrawal of the remaining Vietnamese occupation troops, the prevention of the return to power of the Khmer Rouge, and genuine self-determination for the Cambodian people.

The Paris Conference on Cambodia was able to make some progress in such areas as the workings of an international control mechanism, the definition of international guarantees for Cambodia's independence and neutrality, plans for the repatriation of refugees and displaced persons, the eventual reconstruction of the Cambodia economy, and ceasefire procedures. However, complete agreement among all parties on a comprehensive settlement remained elusive until August 28, 1990, when after eight months of negotiations, a framework for comprehensive political settlement was agreed upon.

On October 23, 1991, the Paris Conference reconvened to sign a comprehensive settlement giving the UN full authority to supervise a ceasefire, repatriate the displaced Khmer along the border with Thailand, disarm and demobilize the factional armies, and to 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.

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On March 16, 1992, the UN Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC), under UNSYG Special Representative Yasushi Akashi and Lt. General John Sanderson, arrived in Cambodia to begin implementation of the UN Settlement Plan. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees began full-scale 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 four million Cambodians (about 90% of eligible voters) participated in the May 1993 elections, although the Khmer Rouge or Party of Democratic Kampuchea (PDK), whose forces were never actually disarmed or demobilized, barred some people from participating in the 10-15 percent of the country (holding six percent of the population) it controls.

Prince Norodom Ranariddh's FUNCINPEC Party was the top vote recipient with 45.5% vote followed by Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party and the Buddhist Liberal Democratic Party, 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. 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 (RCG). The Constitution provides for a wide range of internationally recognized human rights.

Recent developments

Compared to its recent past, the 1993-2003 period has been one of relative stability for Cambodia. However, political violence continues to be a problem in there.

In 1997, factional fighting between supporters of Prince Norodom Ranariddh and Hun Sen broke out, resulting in more than 100 FUNCINPEC deaths and a few CPP casualties. Some FUNCINPEC leaders were forced to flee the country, and Hun Sen took over as Prime Minister.

FUNCINPEC leaders returned to Cambodia shortly before the 1998 National Assembly elections. In those elections, the CPP received 41% of the vote, FUNCINPEC 32%, and the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) 13%. Due to political violence, intimidation, and lack of media access, many international observers judged the elections to have been seriously flawed. The CPP and FUNCINPEC formed another coalition government, with CPP the senior partner.

Cambodia's first commune elections were held in February 2002. These elections to select chiefs and members of 1,621 commune (municipality) councils also were marred by political violence and fell short of being free and fair by international standards. The election results were largely acceptable to the major parties, though procedures for the new local councils have not been fully implemented.

A riot occurred in January 2003 in which the Embassy of Thailand and several Thai businesses were damaged. Following the incident, Prime Minister Hun Sen expressed the RGC's regret to the Thai Government and promised compensation.

On July 27, 2003, elections were held and the Cambodian People's Party of Prime Minister Hun Sen won a majority, but not enough to rule outright. The King has urged the two other parties, Sam Rainsy Party and FUNCINPEC, to accept the incumbent Hun Sen as prime minister but as of the beginning of 2004, there was still a political impasse.

See also

References

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