Wednesday, December 3, 2008

How the war happened in Cambodia?

The War
The war between Vietnam and the Khmer Rouge's Democratic Kampuchea began shortly after the fall of Saigon. On May 1, 1975, a team of Khmer Rouge soldiers raided Phu Quoc Island against little or no Vietnamese resistance, and then executed more than five hundred Vietnamese civilians on Tho Chu Island. Angered by the Khmer Rouge's aggression, Hanoi launched a counter-attack that resulted in the liberation of those islands by Vietnamese forces. The battle over Phu Quoc was a cause of concern for the newly-established Socialist Republic of Vietnam as the country was challenged by a new enemy at a time when relations with the People's Republic of China began to deteriorate due to Vietnam's ideological alignment with the Soviet Union. That concern was further strengthened by the presence of Chinese advisors to Pol Pot's regime and increasing shipments of military hardware to Kampuchea's armed forces.

Following the raids on Phu Quoc and Tho Chu Islands the Khmer Rouge conducted two major incursions into Vietnam. The first attack occurred in April 1977, when regular units of the Khmer Rouge army advanced 10 kilometres (6 mi) into Vietnam, occupying some parts of An Giang Province where it massacred a large number of Vietnamese civilians. The second attack was in September of the same year. This time they were able to advance 150 kilometres (93 mi) into Vietnam. In retaliation, six divisions of the Vietnam People's Army invaded Cambodia on December 31, 1977. The Vietnamese army advanced as far as Neak Luong and later withdrew, taking with them some key Khmer Rouge figures, including future Prime Minister Hun Sen. The invasion was intended only as a "warning" to the Khmer Rouge. The Vietnamese offered a diplomatic solution to the border conflict that would require the establishment of a demilitarized zone along the border, but the offer was rejected by Pol Pot and fighting resumed.

Meanwhile, as the fighting continued to rage in the border areas between Vietnam and Kampuchea, the Khmer Rouge leadership began to purge members of its own party, as well as military commanders who escaped from Vietnamese forces after the short offensive in September 1977. Undeterred by earlier defeats the Khmer Rouge launched another major offensive into Vietnam using two regular divisions. Once again the Khmer Rouge was able to occupy some townships in Vietnam, conducting clearing operations that included the massacre of civilians. In one notable event the town of Ba Chuc was raided by the Khmer Rouge forces; by the time it was over most of Ba Chuc's inhabitants were brutally slaughtered leaving only two survivors.

Hanoi was now resolved to remove the threat of the Khmer Rouge permanently. The Vietnamese assembled a force of 10 divisions along the border with Kampuchea, with strong armour and air support they advanced into Khmer Rouge-held territory on December 25, 1978. The Kampuchean National United Front for National Salvation (KNUFNS), created with assistance from Hanoi, also went along with the military operation.

The Pol Pot regime of Democratic Kampuchea was largely supported with the People's Republic of China, with both regimes based on closely associated Maoist ideologies. The Vietnamese attack on Cambodia on December 25, 1978 was followed by massive amounts of troop deployments along the vast China-Vietnamese border. On the dawn of February 17, 1979, the People's Liberation Army moved into Vietnamese territory, at which point the Cambodian capital already had been captured by the Vietnamese and the Pol Pot regime toppled (see below), reportedly accusing the Vietnamese government of "revisionist" ideologies and the mistreatment of ethnic Chinese living in Vietnam. The Chinese kept moving into the north of Vietnam, reportedly advancing towards Hanoi at a high speed though not on good terms with their supply lines. The Chinese army captured Cao Bang on March 2 and Lang Son on March 4. The following day, however, the Beijing regime announced that it would not participate in further action moving more deeply into Vietnam, apparently after meeting fierce and unexpected harsh resistance by the well trained and experienced Vietnamese forces, supplied with American technology left behind earlier. With the Chinese support lost after Vietnamese recapitulation, Cambodia was left to the mercy of its destiny.

The Khmer Rouge had prepared a force of 70,000 to resist the invasion, but was not able to prevent the Vietnamese from advancing to Phnom Penh, which was captured on January 7, 1979. The Khmer Rouge switched to a guerrilla campaign and began to attack the long and exposed line of communication of the Vietnamese forces. The Vietnamese used the pretext that none of their own troops were actually fighting but only supporting the KNUFNS in their struggle against the brutal Khmer Rouge. This was not the case: Vietnam had over 150,000 troops in Cambodia, while the KNUFNS force numbered only 20,000. For the remainder of the occupation, the Vietnamese and Khmer Rouge were locked in a bloody guerrilla war. Vietnamese forces held the cities while the Khmer Rouge controlled the rural areas, especially along the Thai border. The struggle did not end until Vietnam withdrew its troops in the late 1980s. The number of casualties is uncertain but is estimated at 30,000 on each side.

Cambodian Civil War
The Cambodian Civil War was a conflict that pitted the forces of the Communist Party of Kampuchea (known as the Khmer Rouge) and their allies the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam) and the National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam (NLF, or, derogatively, Viet Cong) against the government forces of Cambodia (after October 1970, the Khmer Republic), which were supported by the United States (U.S.) and the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam).

The struggle was exacerbated by the influence and actions of the allies of the two warring sides. People's Army of Vietnam (North Vietnamese Army) involvement was designed to protect its Base Areas and sanctuaries in eastern Cambodia, without which the prosecution of its military effort in South Vietnam would have been more difficult. The U.S. was motivated by the need to buy time for its withdrawal from Southeast Asia and to protect its ally, South Vietnam. American, South and North Vietnamese forces directly participated (at one time or another) in the fighting. The central government was mainly assisted by the application of massive U.S. aerial bombing campaigns and direct material and financial aid.

After five years of savage fighting that brought about massive casualties, the destruction of the economy, the starvation of the population, and grievous atrocities, the Republican government was defeated on 17 April 1975 when the victorious Khmer Rouge proclaimed the establishment of Democratic Kampuchea. This conflict, although an indigenous civil war, was considered to be part of the larger Vietnam War (1960–1975) that also consumed the neighboring Kingdom of Laos, South Vietnam, and North Vietnam.

before the genocide

Cambodia is a country in South East Asia, less than half the size of California and twice the size of Scotland. Once it was the centre of the ancient kingdom of the Khmer, and its capital was Angkor, famous for its 12th century temples. The present day capital is Phnom Penh. In 1953 Cambodia gained independence after nearly 100 years of French rule. In the 1960s the population was over 7m, almost all Buddhists, under the rule of a monarch, Prince Sihanouk.

In 1970 Prince Sihanouk was deposed in a military coup. The leader of the new right-wing government was lieutenant-general Lon Nol, who was made president of the 'Khmer Republic'. Prince Sihanouk and his followers joined forces with a communist guerrilla organisation founded in 1960 and known as the Khmer Rouge. They attacked Lon Nol's army and civil war began.

Cambodia was also caught up in another country's war. Cambodia's neighbour to the east is Vietnam, which had also fought against the French to gain independence. When the French were defeated in 1954, Vietnam was divided in two: communist North Vietnam and pro-Western South Vietnam (backed by the USA). Civil war immediately broke out. The Viet Cong, a group of Vietnamese communist guerrillas (backed by North Vietnam and China), based themselves in the jungles of South Vietnam and fought against the South Vietnamese army from there. In 1964, the USA entered the Vietnam war, with airpower, firebombs and poisonous defoliants, but found they could not budge the determined Vietnamese communists. The inconclusive war in Vietnam cost many American and Vietnamese lives, devastated the country, and achieved nothing but misery for anyone caught up in it, including the Cambodians.

Under Prince Sihanouk, Cambodia had preserved neutrality during the Vietnamese civil war by giving a little to both sides: Vietnamese communists were allowed to use a Cambodian port to ship in supplies, the USA were allowed to bomb - secretly and illegitimately - Viet Cong hideouts in Cambodia. When US-backed Lon Nol took over, US troops felt free to move into Cambodia to continue their struggle with the Viet Cong. Cambodia had become part of the Vietnam battlefield. During the next four years, American B-52 bombers, using napalm and dart cluster-bombs, killed up to 750,000 Cambodians in their effort to destroy suspected North Vietnamese supply lines.

The Khmer Rouge guerrilla movement in 1970 was small. Their leader, Pol Pot, had been educated in France and was an admirer of Maoist (Chinese) communism; he was also suspicious of Vietnam's relations with Cambodia. The heavy American bombardment, and Lon Nol's collaboration with America, drove new recruits to the Khmer Rouge. So did Chinese backing and North Vietnamese training for them. By 1975 Pol Pot's force had grown to over 700,000 men. Lon Nol's army was kept busy trying to suppress not only Vietnamese communists on Cambodian territory but also Cambodia's own brand of communists, the Khmer Rouge.

In 1975 North Vietnamese forces seized South Vietnam's capital, Saigon. In the same year Lon Nol was defeated by the Khmer Rouge. It's estimated that 156,000 died in the civil war - half of them civilians.

Cambodia’s recent history is a complicated one, marred by years of terror and violence. In the 1960s, during the Vietnam War, the country served as a transport route between North and South Vietnam. Because of Cambodia’s proximity to Vietnam, the Vietcong army set up bases there. Although Cambodia remained neutral during the war, the presence of these bases caused American military forces to bomb the country heavily, launching secret bombing campaigns beginning in 1969. MSN Encarta estimates that the amount of bombs dropped on Cambodia during the war exceeded the amount dropped on Europe during World War II.
Shelves filled with skulls. Bottom row has flowers amongst the skulls.
Killing Fields Memorial

In 1975, communist forces known as the Khmer Rouge took control of the weakened country, initiating one of the most radical restructurings of a society ever attempted. They believed in creating an agrarian utopia, dubbing their first year in power “Year Zero.” Within days, entire cities were evacuated and destroyed, money and property was deemed worthless and hundreds of thousands were executed immediately in what are now called “the killing fields.” Led by Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge murdered more than 1.5 million Cambodians—15 to 20 percent of the country’s population—over the next four years, in one of the most brutal and disastrous regimes in modern history.

Wars of the Khmer Empire, until 1431

Sukhothai rebelled against Khmer rule
Sukhothai independent of Khmer rule
Khmer expedition into Malay peninsula
Ayutthaya independent of Khmer rule
First Ayutthayan siege of Angkor
Siamese conquest of Angkor

Wars of Cambodia, 1431-1863


Siamese sack of Angkor
Siamese invasion of Cambodia
Luang Prabang invasion of Cambodia
Luang Prabang invasion of Cambodia
Siamese invasion
War with Siam
War with Siam
Hispano-Portuguese expedition in support of Cambodian king (who, at the time of arrival, already was deposed); they kill the present king and fight way back to the coast
Massacre of the Spanish and Portuguese mercenaries garrisoned near Pnom Penh
War with Siam
Dutch retaliation against 1643 massacre of Dutchmen in Cambodia
Civil War; Annamese invasion
Cambodia annexed by Annam
War with Siam
Siamese invasion; sack of Pnom Penh
Siamese interference in Cambodian succession
Cambodian Rebellion
Khmer revolt against Vietnamese rule
War with Siam
Khmer Revolt
Siamese invasion, which turned into Siamese-Vietnamese War over Cambodia
Cambodian victory over Vietnamese
Rebellion of the Cham and Malay living in SE Cambodia
Cambodian invasion of Cochinchina

Wars affecting Cambodia, 1863-1954

Rebellion led by Poucombo
Khmer Rebellion against French rule
Battambang rebellion
another ebellion led by Nheou Vises
World War II; Japanese occupation

Wars of Cambodia, since 1954

Battambang Massacre
Thai-Cambodian border clash
Tax Revolt
Cambodia part of the Vietnam War theatre of operations; Civil War
Khmer Rouge raids into Thailand
Vietnamese conquest
Resistance against Vietnamese occupation
Khmer Rouge guerilla warfare
Civil War

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