Vietnam Occupation

The Vietnam Occupation or People's Republic of Cambodia was the new regime formed by a heterogenous group of communists and non communist exiles that with the help of 90,000 Vietnameses troops had overthrown Pol Pot's regime. After the Vietnamese troops took Phnom Penh in 1979 the Khmer Rouge fleed to the Thai border and the country was left in chaos and confussion. Millions of Cambodians that had been relocated by force started wandering around the country in search of the families and friends, and hunderds of thousands sought help in the refugees camps along the Thai border.

As a result of this disorganization the fields were left unnatended and in 1979-80 a widespread famine proliferated over the country. The images of starving Cambodians were widely published in the world and an umprecedent aid campaign took place. However, Cambodia was going to be the victim of the international political status quo once more, and the newly stablished People's Republic of Cambodia (a pro Hanoi government headed by Hen Samrin) was not recognised by the international community (except the eastern block and its allies). Little help was offered to reconstruct the country that was left in tatters by the Khmer Rouge. Instead, the international help was diverted to the refugee camps along the Thai border.

Isolation of the People's Republic of Cambodia

As the Vietnamese consolidated in the country the Khmer Rouge, assisted by China and other ASEAN nations, regrouped and started a guerrila figthing against the Phnom Penh government. They were not the only armed group; the USA assisted and armed other non communist groups that wanted to fight the government. The three major opposition groups (the Khmer Rouge, Prince Sihanouk's Funcipec party and Son Sann's party) signed a coalition against the government in 1982 and Sihanouk served as head of the coalition.


The Khmer Rouge an estimated 2 million Cambodians.

Skulls of Khmer Rouge victims.

The 1980s can be summarised as the civil war fuelled by the USA, China and the ASEAN nations, between the People's Republic of Cambodia and opposition groups, amongst which the Khmer Rouge were the only serious organized fighting force. The country was heavily mined by both sides and deforestation took its toll in the countryside. In 1989 the dismemberment of the eastern block forced an already wretched Vietnam to withdraw from Cambodia.

The departure of the Vietnamese cleared the way for the pacification process of the country. In 1990 the UN put forth a plan for free and democratic elections to take place in 1993. The refugees started to be repatriated to the country. However the Khmer Rouge grew more intransigent and refused to be desarmed as part of the democratic process. Amid the escalating of violence the FUNCIPEC party headed by Sihanouk's som prince Ranariddh won 58 seats in the elections, closely followed by the Cambodian's People Party.

This last party was gradually becoming the dominant force in the country. In 1994 the Khmer Rouge, politically and economically isolated, started desintegrating. The darkest chapter of Cambodian history was finally over, and Cambodia slowly entered a new politcal stage that has shaped present-day Cambodia.


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