Cambodian Civil War (1967-75)

Figure 1.--Here we see Cambodian refugees in Vietnam during April 1973. The press caption read, "Just waiting: A group of Cambodians who fled the fighting in their troubled land, sit waiting for the war to go away in a camp at Chau Doc, South Vietnam. Fighting continues in Cambodia where insurgents have rejected a cease-fire proposal by the Phnom Penh regime."

Cambodia and its people became caught up in the Vietnam War. The Kymer Rouge conducted a low-leel insurgency during the 1960s. The Khmer Rouge fought in alliance with North Vietnam and the Viet Cong. There goal was to overthrow the Royal Cambodian Government, after October 1970, the Khmer Republic). The United States and the Republic of Vietnam (ROK) spported the Government forces. The North Vietnamese used Cambodia as a safe area to set up safe havens and base areas as well as to move supplies south. For a time this proved useful to the North Vietnamese as the United States could interdict supply routes in North and South Vietnam. President Johnson was aware of the Cambodian santuaries, but refused to authorize bombing in Cambodia in an effort not to widen the War. This policy changed with the electiin of Richard Nixon (1968). It was clear to President Nixon that the War had become deeply unpopular with the American people and could not be continued. He attempted to devise a policy that would allow the ROK to survive even after the American withdrawl. President Nixon authorizing the bombing to help protect its allies (both Cambodia and ROK) as the U.S. forces withdrew from Vietnam. President Nixon shortly after assuming office issued secret orders to bomb Base Area 353 in the area known as the Fishhook )opposite South Vietnam's Tay Ninh Province) (March 18, 1969). This was the first of a series of massive strikes on the Cambodian sanctuaries through May 1970. A Cambodian general, Lon Nol seized cintrol of the Gocernment (May 1970). The Kymer Rouge with increased support from North Vietnam escalated the Civil war. Beginning in 1970 the fighting in Cambodia escalated as did Khmer Rouge violence on their own people. The result was massive casualties, the destruction of the economy, destruction of crops leading to food shortages, and terrible atrocities. Refugees fled the fighting, many crossing the border to Thailand and Vietnam. As much of the fighting was in easern Cambodia, quite a number of refugees sought santuary in Vietnam. Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, after years of struggle, defeated the Cambodian military and seized the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh on April 17, 1975. The Khmer Rouge proiceeded to close the country off from the rest of the world. What followed was one of the most sinister and senceless acts of genocide ever committed by a government on its own people--the Cambodian Genocide.


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Created: 10:11 PM 4/26/2006
Last updated: 10:11 PM 4/26/2006