Cambodia: Civil War
In Apr., 1970, U.S. and South Vietnamese troops entered Cambodia to attack Communist bases and supply lines. U.S. ground forces were withdrawn by June 30, but South Vietnamese troops remained, occupying heavily populated areas. The actions of the South Vietnamese troops in Cambodia and the resumption of heavy U.S. air bombings in their support, with the inevitable destruction of villages and killing of civilians, alienated many Cambodians and created considerable sympathy for the Communists. The number of Cambodian Communists (known as the Khmer Rouge) increased from about 3,000 in Mar., 1970, to over 30,000 within a few years. Most of the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops were able to withdraw, leaving in progress a raging civil war fought by Cambodians but financed by the United States, North Vietnam, and Communist China.
On Oct. 9, 1970, the national assembly declared Cambodia a republic and changed the country's name to the Khmer Republic. By that time, however, the national government controlled less than one third of Cambodia's total land area: Phnom Penh, most of the provincial capitals, and the central plain S of Tônlé Sap. Despite extensive U.S. military aid, the Khmer Rouge retained firm control of the northeast provinces and most of the countryside. Eventually, more and more territory fell into Communist hands, despite intensive U.S. bombing attacks which persisted until the halt imposed by the U.S. Congress in Aug., 1973.
The government's military position became desperate, with government forces concentrating primarily on keeping communications open with an increasingly beleaguered Phnom Penh. In Sept., 1972, severe food shortages in Phnom Penh sparked two days of rioting and large-scale looting, in which government troops participated. Lon Nol, aided by his brother Lon Non, exerted an increasingly oppressive rule, with massive political arrests and newspaper seizures. The Khmer Rouge insurgents launched a large-scale attack against Cambodia's third largest city, Kompong Cham, in Sept., 1973, and shelled Phnom Penh in 1974 and 1975, inflicting heavy casualties.
Sections in this article:
- The Khmer Rouge and After
- Civil War
- Cambodia under Sihanouk
- Early History to Independence
- Land and People
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