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.
According to 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 2003.
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 abroad.
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.