Cambodia. In January, union leader Chea Vichea was
murdered on an open street in K's capital Phnom Penh. Chea
Vichea had close contacts with the opposition Sam Rainsy's
party and King Norodom Sihanouk described the murder as
politically motivated. Earlier that month, at least three
other supporters of Sam Rainsy's party had been murdered.
K's government came under severe pressure from the outside
world to bring the guilty to justice. Of the two men who
were later arrested for the murder of the union leader, one
took on the blame.
CountryAAH, the total population in Cambodia is 16,718,976 people in 2020. Cambodia's political life was paralyzed for the first half of
the year as a functioning government could not be formed
after the parliamentary elections in July 2003. Prime
Minister Hun Sen and his Cambodian People's Party (CPP) then
failed to win their own majority in parliament and were
forced to seek coalition partners. The two major opposition
parties, FUNCINPEC and Sam Rainsy's party, rejected
government cooperation "in protest against electoral fraud".
Only in July was a new coalition government accepted between
FUNCINPEC and CPP under the leadership of Prime Minister
Sens. The work of establishing a court to investigate the
guilty persons of the Red Khmer massacre of 1975-79 could
thus be resumed after eleven months of interruption.
Parliament was also able to ratify the country's accession
to the WTO, which welcomed K. as a member as early as autumn
In October, King Sihanouk announced his intention to
abdicate. He was 82 years old then ill for some time. The
constitution of the country stipulates that the king should
sit for life, but the parliament decided to attend the king.
Formally, Combodia's monarch has a primarily symbolic role, but in
reality Sihanouk has had a great influence on the country's
politics for decades. His early departure was perceived by
most observers as a way for Sihanouk to be able to influence
the succession of beliefs himself.
In mid-October, Prince Norodom Sihamoni, Sihanouk's son,
was elected new king. Sihamoni, who is 51 years old,
unmarried and former ballet dancer, had remained outside the
political arena until the coronation and had lived largely
1975 Khmer Rouge takes power
The new rulers faced enormous tasks. Cambodia was
devastated and without any organization due to the war. The
capital had swelled to several million people who had been
kept alive only through massive North American airway
supplies. The new rulers decided to prevent an imminent
famine disaster by moving the population out into the
countryside to participate in food production. But another
relationship also came into play. Khmer Rouge's resistance
struggle was developed in the villages. They had little
contact with the urban population - unlike the liberation
movements in Vietnam. The urban population was considered to
be exploiters of the rural population.
But also on other fronts, Cambodia has a very different
strategy than neighboring Laos and Vietnam, where the
partisans had also won the war. Sure enough, in 1976 a new
constitution was passed, which was adopted by the People's
Assembly, which appointed Sihanouk and Khmer Rouge's Khieu
Sampham as head of state and government respectively, but
when Sihanouk returned from his exile in China, he was
forced to resign left and put under house arrest. At the
same time, Pol Pot emerged as the strong man of the regime.
Cambodia closed its borders - even to diplomats from
friendly countries. The Pol Pot regime abolished the
country's currency, flipped the National Bank and moved the
city's population out into the countryside where they were
thrown into agricultural production. Over the following 5
years, mass executions, starvation and illness cost at least
1 million Cambodians their lives. 100,000 were sent on the
run across the border to Vietnam and 30,000 to Thailand.
The regime strengthened ties with China and broke ties
with Vietnam. Already in 1975, the large Vietnamese
population was thrown out of the country. At the same time,
the regime declared that it did not recognize "the random
border-crossing of the colonial era". The existing borders
had otherwise been confirmed in 1973 by an agreement signed
by Sihanouk and Vietnam to avoid the temptation to restore
the borders of the old kingdoms. From the end of 1977,
therefore, the Khmer Rouge began to carry out an increasing
number of attacks into Vietnam. The same year in September,
Pol Pot declared that as early as 1960, a Communist Party
had formed with himself as chairman, and it was this party
that was at the heart of the Khmer Rouge.