Here is the next episode of the podcast at last! I couldn’t go anywhere yesterday, because the area where I live is covered with ice and snow, so I finally had time to finish Episode 106. At the beginning of the episode, I will explain what kept me from finishing it at the beginning of February, as I had originally planned to do. Today the topic is Cambodia from 1975 to 1979, the grim period known as “the Pol Pot Terror” or “the Killing Fields.” And because I was a teenager when these events were happening, I will tell you how they have affected me even to this day.
This is your friendly neighborhood podcaster, currently at home because of all the ice and snow my neighborhood has been getting for the past couple of weeks. As you know, I like to begin an episode by giving a shout-out to those listeners who made donations recently. Since the previous episode, I have had to replace my computer (more about that in a minute), and I made a call for donations on the podcast’s Facebook page to cover the cost of the new computer. Boy, did you respond! Over the past month, donations have come in from Louis E., Dan M., Brian E., Louis C., Caroline L., and Torsten J. Thank you for coming to the rescue in my hour of need! Of course, this episode is dedicated to all of you.
And that’s not all. If you’re a regular listener, those names should sound familiar. In fact, all but one of the donors have given before! Moreover, we have some promotions to mention. Louis E. and Torsten J. gave in 2020, and now that they have given in 2021, they have received the coveted water buffalo icon next to their names, on the Podcast Hall of Fame page. As for Louis C, he gave multiple times in 2019 and 2020, so now with a 2021 donation, he has become the second donor eligible for my newest icon, the ever-popular icon representing the Shwedagon Pagoda in Myanmar! Thank you for your support, all of you, and to quote Tiny Tim, God bless you, every one. May the climate be fair and conductive to prosperity, in the places where you live. And now we have a show to get to, so let’s roll with it!
Episode 106: The Killing Fields of Democratic Kampuchea
Greetings, dear listeners, from the hills of Bluegrass country in Kentucky! Sorry for the delays, this episode was originally scheduled to be released on February 1. But instead, I only started recording it on February 1. If you saw the messages I posted on the podcast’s Facebook page you know what happened. For the rest of you, here’s the story.
If you are joining us for the first time, this podcast is more than four and a half years old. I have recorded everything on a laptop that I bought in 2015. It certainly served me well, but on Monday, January 25, 2021, it gave me a warning that the hard drive was about to fail. Then the hard drive did fail 24 hours later. Thanks to the warning, I did not lose anything that mattered; I managed to back up all my data onto three external hard drives.
I took the laptop to the computer store where I bought it because they also do repairs. At first I thought they could just replace the hard drive and I would be good to go, but after looking at it, they said they found some motherboard problems that could cause the laptop to fail again later this year. So I ended up buying a new laptop on Friday, and spent the following weekend configuring it to suit my needs, an uphill task because the old laptop ran on Windows 7, while the new one uses Windows 10. Also, the new one doesn’t have a CD drive, so at some point I will have to get an external CD drive to plug into it. Finally, this episode may sound a little different from previous ones, due to the new configuration.
Now one of the podcasts I listen to is The Eastern Border, by Kristaps Andrejsons. He lives in Latvia, and talks about life in the bad old Soviet Union, told by someone on the other side of the Iron Curtain. In college I majored in Russian history, because this was during the Cold War, and it seemed like a good idea to learn how the other side thinks, so this podcast is right up my alley. A month or two ago, Kristaps’s computer failed under similar circumstances to mine. I was one of those who sent money to help him get back on his feet. Now I know how he feels, except that he lost his work to the hard drive failure, and had to start from scratch.
The new computer cost me $400 plus tax, so any donation you can make to get me through this tight spot will definitely be appreciated. More about that at the end of this episode.
By the way, I have noticed in most movies and TV shows that the good guys use Macs, while the villains use PCs. It even happened with Star Trek. In my favorite scene from the fourth Star Trek movie, “The Voyage Home,” Scotty tries to use a Mac computer from the 1980s by picking up the mouse and saying into it:
I guess this means I am with the dark side.
<Hans, are we the baddies?>
Okay, enough with the digression! Over the course of more than one hundred episodes, I have given an ongoing narrative about the history of the eleven nations between India, China and Australia. Now you can say we’re in the home stretch, because I have gotten at least as far as the mid-1970s with all of them. Therefore all the events I will be talking about today have happened in my lifetime, and maybe yours as well. In the case of two countries, Singapore and Malaysia, I have gone all the way to the present, so if I talk about them again, it will only be a casual mention.
Now we are returning to the area that got most of our attention from Episodes 71 to 96 – Indochina. When I covered Singapore and Malaysia, the stories had happy endings; those countries are successful today. Now I believe it is time to look at how the three countries of Indochina – Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam – have fared since the Second Indochina War ended, in 1975. While I would say that Vietnam has made a complete recovery from the war, all three have faced real challenges. In the case of Cambodia, the story is a hair-raiser for sure!
Here is a disclaimer. When I first launched this podcast, nobody had recorded anything on Southeast Asian history, except for a few clips from college professors about the Vietnam War, that ended with reading assignments and other class work. Indeed, I told you that was one of the reasons why I chose to talk about this subject. Since then I have listened to one podcaster besides myself talk about Cambodia’s outstanding achievement, the Angkor civilization. I covered that in Episode 7 of this podcast. In addition, I have heard Dan Carlin’s series on World War II in the Pacific, which he isn’t done with yet, and I have heard two podcasts discuss what Pol Pot did in Cambodia. Therefore what I cover today will sound familiar to those of you who listen to the same podcasts. I will give you the facts about the Khmer Rouge terror, of course, and then, since I am old enough to remember the events in this episode, I will distinguish this podcast from the others by also telling you how I saw the situation in Cambodia at the time.
If you missed the previous episodes I recorded about Cambodia, or feel you need to brush up on what you know about that country, you should at least listen to the episodes I recorded about the Cambodian phase of the Second Indochina War, because this episode begins with the end of that war. The wartime episodes are 91, 92, part of 95, and part of 96. Also, today’s story is one of the grimmest I have to tell in the whole podcast series. While I will continue to keep the podcast family friendly, there will be a lot of violence in today’s episode, so if you listen with small children, listener discretion is advised. All right, if everyone is ready, let’s go.
Communists are expected to behave brutally when they take over a country, but nobody expected the holocaust that the Khmer Rouge inflicted upon Cambodia, or as they renamed the country, Democratic Kampuchea. In fact, what the Communists did in places like Russia, China and Cuba looked like fainthearted reforms, by comparison.
We saw in Episode 96 that the Khmer Rouge were welcomed as they entered Phnom Penh, the nation’s capital, on April 17, 1975, because this meant the war was over. Instead, the horror planned by the Khmer Rouge began on the same day, with the total evacuation of Phnom Penh. Every man, woman and child was ordered out into the countryside. They were told that because the Khmer Rouge had captured the city, the Americans would now certainly bomb the place. No one was given time to pack; they were simply ordered at gunpoint to leave. Nobody was exempt, not even those too old or sick to walk on their own. Patients were dragged from their hospital beds and pregnant women were forced to give birth along the road. No matter what their condition, all had to keep moving or risk being shot. Under the scorching hot Cambodian sun, thousands dropped dead along the road, and their bodies were left to swell in the heat.
Overnight, every city in the land became a ghost town. The city dwellers were assigned to farms or public works projects, which usually meant building dams and dikes, or digging irrigation canals. The new villages they were settled in usually lacked food, farm tools, and medical care. Once they reached their destinations, they were made to work as slaves for 12-15 hours a day. They were separated from their families, given only watery rice gruel to eat most of the time, and treated worse than the farm animals. These workers lived in constant terror of being reported for even minor acts, such as taking a coconut from a tree or allowing cattle to graze in the wrong field. Many starved to death before the first harvest. During the next four years an estimated two million Cambodians, one fourth to one third of the prewar population, perished, either by malnutrition, disease, exhaustion–or by the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge, who tortured and killed without a second thought anyone showing the slightest resistance.
Podcast footnote: You gotta do what you gotta do. Starving Cambodians forced into the jungle from Skuon, a town thirty miles west of Kampong Cham, tried eating giant spiders, which in that area can grow up to six inches long. They found that when you fry them and apply the right spices, the arachnids are delicious, so the local residents still eat fried spiders today, long after the famine of the Khmer Rouge years ended. And they’re not the only ones; Cambodians driving across the countryside will make it a point to stop at Skuon for a plate of the local delicacy. End footnote.
The purpose of all this was a diabolical social experiment. We saw in a previous episode that since the 1960s, the Khmer Rouge headquarters had been in the northeast corner of the country, where the government in Phnom Penh couldn’t get at it, and that leaders like Pol Pot had come to admire the simple peasants living around them. Now their ultimate goal was to create an agrarian utopia, where just about everyone was a peasant. According to Pol Pot, five classes of people existed in pre-revolutionary Cambodia: peasants, workers, bourgeoisie, capitalists, and feudalists; I’m guessing that the last category means the royal family, and those who work for them. Now, as defined by the 1976 Constitution of Democratic Kampuchea, there would be three classes: workers, peasants, and “all other Kampuchean working people.” In practice, however, there were hardly any workers, because the cities had been evacuated, and the country’s few factories were closed. The one important group that still counted as “workers” were the laborers on large rubber plantations, and because most of them came from the Vietnamese minority, the Khmer Rouge did not trust them. Most of the population was lumped into two categories. Those who lived in the rural areas that the Khmer Rouge controlled before 1975 were called “Old People,” while those from the recently captured cities were “New People”; the Old People were treated somewhat better, because they had already been converted to communism, and thus were seen as more trustworthy. Still, according to the testimony of refugees, there were cases where the Old People also had to endure forced labor, indoctrination, the separation of children from parents, and random executions.
From the Khmer Rouge point of view, every element of civilization from the pre-1975 era must be eliminated, so a new, more perfect society could be built from nothing. Cities were useless–empty them! Schools don’t teach students how to grow rice, so close them. Trade is evil, so abolish all markets. Abolish money. Abolish the postal system, to keep out evil foreign influences. Abolish private transportation and land ownership. Abolish religion and marriage, so the people will work harder, eat less, and produce fewer children. From now on, their only family should be Angkar Loeu, “The Organization On High,” what the Khmer Rouge leadership called itself. Destroy contaminating foreign inventions, like cars, jewelry, TV sets, air conditioners, and anything else that represented wealth, class, or individuality. Turn the National Library into a pig sty. Destroy contaminated people: former enemy soldiers, teachers, physicians, ethnic minorities like the Vietnamese and the Chams, anyone who wore glasses or spoke a foreign language . . .
In other countries, after the communists took over, they sometimes allowed a transitional stage where patriotic capitalists worked with them to help the nation recover from the war it had recently undergone. With Russia, for example, this took place during the 1920s, and it was called the New Economic Policy. But the Khmer Rouge did not permit any part-capitalist stage like this. Norodom Sihanouk, the former Cambodian king and the figurehead Khmer Rouge leader, wrote that in early 1975, while the Cambodian Civil War was still going on, he, Khieu Samphan, and Khieu Thirith, the sister of Pol Pot’s wife, went to visit the premier of China, Zhou Enlai. At this point, Zhou Enlai was sick with cancer, and would die from it less than a year later, in January 1976. Zhou warned them not to attempt to achieve communism suddenly through one “great leap forward,” without intermediate steps. China had tried that in 1958; the result was a disaster, a man-made famine that killed at least 30 million people. Sihanouk wrote that Khieu Samphan and Khieu Thirith, quote, “just smiled an incredulous and superior smile.” Unquote. Later, Khieu Samphan and Son Sen, the chief of the Khmer Rouge secret police, boasted to Sihanouk that, quote, “we will be the first nation to create a completely communist society without wasting time on intermediate steps.” Unquote.
There was even a rumor that the ancient ruins of Angkor had been torn down by the overzealous Khmer Rouge; fortunately that turned out to be false. To symbolize the start of a new age, the Khmer Rouge proclaimed 1975 Year Zero, and proclaimed the start of a new community that would be cleansed of “all sorts of depraved cultures and social blemishes.”
Podcast footnote: Although the Khmer Rouge spared the old temples, they did use them as bases. They also planted hundreds of thousands of landmines in the grounds near the temples, and in a future episode I will tell you about the man who singlehandedly removed many of them. Nowadays, Cambodia’s splendid monuments suffer from two problems. The first and most serious problem is vandals, who have removed hundreds of sculptures and sold them on the black market.
The second problem is a strange one — nude tourists. In the twenty-first century there have been cases where foreign visitors to the Angkor Archaeological Park have taken pictures of themselves naked among the ruins. Probably the most notorious example appeared in 2015, on the website of a German photographer, Simon Lohmeyer. It shows a naked couple at an Angkor temple, wearing only monkey masks. The photo came with the caption “Hakuna Matata”; fans of “The Lion King” know this means “no worries.”
Because tourism to Angkor is a major source of income for Cambodia, and the temples are still a place of worship and meditation for Buddhist monks, the agency in charge of park security, the Apsara Authority, is not amused. Tourists caught with their pants down (literally) are likely to be fined and deported, and maybe banned from returning to the country. It is not clear what is causing this disrespectful behavior. Tourists may be inspired by the relief sculptures of topless women at the sites; in medieval Cambodia, Khmer women often wore nothing above the waist. Also, the tourists may think the ruins are a good place to do a live-action performance of a Disney movie like “The Jungle Book” or “The Lion King”(which would explain the “Hakuna Matata” incident), or this may be part of our culture’s current obsession with taking selfies. Now, has anyone heard if Indonesia is having this problem with the Borobudur temple? End footnote.
What I’m going to tell you next is partly personal. I have noticed that most of my fellow podcasters are left-of-center politically. So far I have kept my political views out of my podcast recordings, or at least I think I have kept my views out, so I am coming into the open about it now. I’m a right-wing conservative. But back in the late 1970s, when I was young and full of beans, I was very liberal like you other podcasters. Even borderline socialist. What caused me to cross the political aisle? It has been said that “a conservative is a liberal who was mugged the night before.” If there is one thing you can call my “mugging moment,” it was the way in which the news media reported on the Khmer Rouge reign of terror in Cambodia.
How did the outside world react to the Khmer Rouge experiment? At first they knew nothing about it. The international press had been expelled from the country when Phnom Penh fell. I remember Time Magazine managed to produce a story about the evacuation of Phnom Penh, but they didn’t know where the urban population was going, or what they would do when they got there. Then the Time reporters left, and all of Cambodia fell silent. The Vietnamese didn’t know what was happening, because as we saw in a previous episode, their forces pulled out of Cambodia before the war ended. Whatever the Khmer Rouge was doing, now escaped becoming public knowledge.
Then gradually the rumors started, brought out of Cambodia by refugees who were physical and psychological wrecks. At the beginning of 1977, a book telling the stories of those refugees, entitled Murder of a Gentle Land, was published. I read part of that book, so I knew that something very wrong was going on in Cambodia. But the response of most foreigners was different. The news media blamed all the bad rumors on CIA misinformation. I remember in particular reading a magazine article that flat-out denied reports about the Khmer Rouge abolishing the institution of marriage. There were also discussions among intellectuals about how the Khmers are not like the Vietnamese, so naturally they will have a different approach to Communism. In the name of fraternal solidarity, they were just practicing different means to reach the same ends.
Speaking of fraternal solidarity, when war later broke out between the Khmer Rouge and the Vietnamese, it showed me that the “universal brotherhood” communists talked about was nothing but a myth. Centuries of bad relations between Khmers and Vietnamese would not be erased overnight, just because both had a change in government. From that time on I have moved to the right politically. I left the Democratic Party in 1984, and the Republican Party in 2006, as both major American parties have become more like each other, turning into a “Uniparty” that does not care about what the people want. Now I am an independent conservative, like the talk show host Michael Savage. So if I let any bias creep into my recordings after this, you will know where I am coming from.
We saw in previous episodes that Prince Sihanouk spent most of the Cambodian Civil War in China, where he enjoyed a rather comfortable exile. After the war ended, he took his time, waiting several months before coming home to Cambodia. When he arrived, he was so appalled at what the Khmer Rouge had done that he quickly returned to China. When he visited a second time in 1976, he was arrested. As he had once predicted, some day the Khmer Rouge wouldn’t need him anymore. Still, they couldn’t just kill someone that famous, so they placed him under house arrest in Phnom Penh, and there he remained until January 1979. He was far more visible than his communist partners, but he never had much influence over them.
With Sihanouk’s arrest, Khieu Samphan became the second president of Democratic Kampuchea. I remember that at the time, the outside world thought Khieu Samphan was the real Khmer Rouge leader, but it turned out he was a front man, too. The ultimate leader was Pol Pot; it was always Pol Pot’s orders that were being carried out. Long-time listeners will remember meeting Pol Pot in Episode 91; his original name was Saloth Sar, and he had been hiding in the jungle since 1963. He did not show himself to the outside world until March 1976, when he was elected to a seat in the Khmer Rouge parliament that represented rubber plantation workers. One month later he became Democratic Kampuchea’s prime minister. It wasn’t until 1977 that Pol Pot was revealed as the leader of Angkar Loeu, and that the organization’s real name was the Kampuchean Communist Party, or KCP. But after that he remained a mysterious figure. How mysterious was he? He had covered up his past so successfully that even his own family did not recognize him. And in 1978 a team of visiting reporters from Yugoslavia, another communist country, asked him, quote, “Comrade Pol Pot, who are you?” Unquote.
In September 1976, Pol Pot gave a speech mourning the death of the Chinese leader, Mao Zedong, and he announced that the Khmer Rouge was on the side of China in the rivalry between China and the Soviet Union; here he declared that Angkar Loeu was “Marxist-Leninist” and that it enjoyed “fraternal relations” with the Chinese Communist Party. Then a year later, in September 1977, Cambodian radio broadcast a five-hour recorded speech where Pol Pot told the history of the Kampuchean Communist Party. He stated that the KCP was seventeen years old and that it had been founded on September 30, 1960. However, we know there had been a few communists in Cambodia previously; this podcast mentioned them in Episode 91. They had called themselves the Kampuchean People’s Revolutionary Party, KPRP for short, and the movement’s founding date had usually been given as September 30, 1951 – nine years earlier to the day. We also noted that this movement had been given aid by Ho Chi Minh’s communists, the Viet Minh, and took orders from them. September 1960 was the date of the KPRP’s second party congress, and it was around then that younger, pro-Chinese communists like Pol Pot began to take over the movement, replacing its older, pro-Vietnamese founders. Apparently Pol Pot was now spreading the idea that Cambodian communism had always been led by folks like him. He was also covering up the fact that during the war, the Khmer Rouge and the Vietnamese communists were brothers-in-arms, and that he couldn’t have conquered Cambodia without help from Hanoi.
Unlike other dictators, Pol Pot did not pull any absurd stunts; today he is only remembered for the ghastly slaughter while he was in charge. However, Pol Pot did show a common characteristic with other dictators; he thought enemies were plotting against him everywhere. Before long, the Khmer Rouge began employing spies, which were usually children, to report on any activities that might be interpreted as working against the revolutionary movement. Sure enough, traitors were “discovered,” and large numbers of real or alleged associates were identified in forced confessions. As “enemies” of the revolution were arrested and tortured into confessing their allegedly traitorous activities, they were also required to supply the names of people they were associated with and who were part of their supposed “network.” Of course the confessions extracted this way were unreliable; they came from people who would say anything to end the interrogations they were subjected to.
By 1977, the leadership’s distrust of others had become outright paranoia, and the purges of suspected traitors increased. Even the ranks of Khmer Rouge party members were purged; Pol Pot showed a racist attitude when he called his rivals, quote, “Khmer bodies with Vietnamese minds.” Unquote. As the number of victims and their families increased, prisons were set up, and here they were tortured and murdered. The most notorious of these prisons was a former high school in Phnom Penh, called simply S-21.
Podcast footnote: The warden running S-21 was Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Comrade Duch (“Doyk”). He died of old age last year, and I shared his obituary on this podcast’s Facebook page. He was probably one of the most brutal men you have never heard of. End footnote.
Out of an estimated 15,000 prisoners who were sent to S-21, only seven survived. The prisoners were photographed and tortured to produce confessions. Like the KGB in the Soviet Union, the Khmer Rouge kept copious records of their victims. If you go to Phnom Penh today and visit S-21, now called the Tuol Sleng Museum of Genocide, you will see hundred of photos taken of the prisoners, and the beds used to restrain them. After the prisoners died, their corpses were carried by truck to mass graves outside Phnom Penh. As of 2016, the Documentation Center of Cambodia listed 19,733 mass grave sites. Because of the mass graves, and the human bones littering the countryside, we often use the phrase “the Killing Fields” to describe this period in Cambodia’s history.
If the Khmer Rouge had minded their own business, they probably could have done what they wanted within Cambodia’s borders indefinitely, and let the rest of the world think whatever it wanted. But it was an external enemy, namely the Vietnamese, who brought down Pol Pot, thanks to his inability to get along with any foreign power besides China. We have seen that in the Sino-Soviet dispute, Pol Pot took the side of China, preferring Maoism over Leninism, but the Vietnamese communists joined the Soviet Bloc as soon as the Second Indochina War ended. As a result, the Khmer Rouge began persecuting ethnic Vietnamese living in Cambodia, seeing them as enemy agents. And as early as May 1975, right after the war, there were border clashes between the Khmer Rouge and the Vietnamese, and attacks on each other’s offshore islands. Then in 1977 there were Khmer Rouge attacks on Thai villages, along the Thai border. Of course the Khmer Rouge couldn’t get along with Thailand, because the Thais were not communist; on the contrary, the Thais still have a king even now, and for much of the twentieth century, the person running the show in Thailand was a right-wing military strongman. The murder of Thai villagers, including women and children, was the first widely reported concrete evidence of Khmer Rouge atrocities. One of my sources even mentioned clashes along the Laotian border, showing the Khmer Rouge couldn’t get along with any of their neighbors.
The bloodiest clashes were along the Cambodian-Vietnamese border. In September 1977, border fighting resulted in as many as 1,000 Vietnamese civilian casualties. Because of the recent war, Vietnam had one of the largest armies in the world at this date, and they had not had much to do since the war ended, so Vietnam retaliated, by launching air strikes against Cambodia, and by sending a ground force of 20,000 men across the border in October. However, Khmer Rouge resistance was tougher than expected, and the Vietnamese defense minister, General Vo Nguyen Giap, felt compelled to commit an additional 58,000 reinforcements in December. Then on January 6, 1978, the Vietnamese began an orderly withdrawal from Cambodian territory. Apparently the Vietnamese believed they had “taught a lesson” to the Khmer Rouge, but instead, Pol Pot declared this was an even greater “victory” than the 1975 victory against his non-communist opponents. Now it looks like Pol Pot got the idea that he could invade Vietnam and recover the Mekong delta region; long-time listeners will remember that this territory, the southernmost part of present-day Vietnam, belonged to Cambodia before the year 1700.
In mid-1978, Vietnamese forces invaded Cambodia again, advancing about 30 miles before the arrival of the rainy season forced them to turn back. In November, Vorn Vet, the deputy prime minister of Cambodia’s economy, launched a coup. It failed, and Vorn Vet was executed in the S-21 prison. By now there were tens of thousands of Khmer and ethnic Vietnamese refugees on the Vietnamese side of the border. On December 3, 1978, Radio Hanoi announced that Vietnam was organizing the refugees into a rebel army, the KNUFNS, meaning the Kampuchean National United Front for National Salvation. The leader of this force was Heng Samrin, a former division commander in the Khmer Rouge army, but you didn’t have to be a communist to join; any Cambodian who opposed Pol Pot was welcome. Still, the KNUFNS was too weak to overthrow the Khmer Rouge on its own; the Vietnamese would have to do most of the fighting, with the KNUFNS forming the satellite regime that would be established afterwards in Phnom Penh.
Vietnam launched an all-out invasion of Cambodia on December 25, 1978. The force consisted of 120,000 soldiers, combined armor and infantry units with strong artillery support. They advanced in five columns. Two of the columns came from the part of South Vietnam called the Central Highlands by Americans; they drove on the eastern provincial capitals of Stung Treng and Kratié. The third column advanced from Tay Ninh Province to the river port of Kampong Cham. The fourth column was the most important; it followed Route 1 from Ho Chi Minh City to another important river port, Neak Luong, and after taking it, marched on Phnom Penh. The fifth column started from Ha Tien, Vietnam, and captured the ports on the coast, thereby cutting off access to the sea.
The Khmer Rouge tried to stand their ground and fight. But because of the party purges, their units no longer had experienced commanders, and they withered under sustained pounding by Vietnamese artillery and air strikes. Many troops simply scattered before the Vietnamese offensive, to regroup later in western Cambodia. The Khmer Rouge chose not to defend Phnom Penh, and it fell to the Vietnamese on January 7, 1979, just two weeks after the offensive began. After taking the capital, Vietnamese units pushed into western Cambodia in two columns, to capture the western cities of Battambang and Siem Reap; then they met at Sisophon and continued marching to the Thai border, where there was heavy fighting in March and April. Here in the least accessible areas, the Khmer Rouge issued a new call to arms, and began an insurgency against the new government in power, just as they had done against the former governments of Prince Sihanouk and Lon Nol. Thus, Vietnamese troops would have to stay in the country for the time being.
On the diplomatic front, Vietnam at first denied having any troops in Cambodia, claiming that the KNUFNS had achieved its swift victory all by itself. Yeah, right. But when called before the UN Security Council, Hanoi’s representative admitted to the Vietnamese presence, and cited several Western press reports of Pol Pot’s atrocities, suggesting that Vietnam had overthrown a nasty dictatorship which no one loved, in the name of human rights.
It’s time to feed the baby, so I’m going to stop here. Because of the delays I had getting started on this episode, it will probably be the only episode coming out in February 2021. Fortunately, February is a short month. For next time, I think I will go to Vietnam and catch you up on what had happened in that country since the Second Indochina War ended, in Episode 96. For example, the last time I mentioned Vietnam in Episode 96, I was still talking about North and South Vietnam, but in this episode I only talked about one Vietnam. Would you like to know how they came together? Of course you would, and then we will be in a good position to continue the narrative about Cambodia, after Pol Pot was overthrown. Join me as we go into the Third Indochina War.
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