Indochina 1969-1990

In 1971 the PING PONG DIPLOMACY set in; relations between the US and the PRC improved; continued US military involvement in the Vietnam War was one of the remaining obstacles in Sino-American relations, as the PRC supported the Vietnamese. The US strategy in Vietnam seemed to fail and criticism of the war in the US became louder; in 1973 US minister of foreign affairs, HENRY KISSINGER, and his North Vietnamese LE DUC THO signed an agreement according to which US troops would pull out of Vietnam; both politicians were awarded the Nobel Peace Prixe (Le Duc Tho did not accept).
In 1975 the South Vietnamese government collapsed, and Vietnam was reunified under a communist system. Saigon was renamed HO CHI MINH CITY. Similarly, the PATHET LAO took over in Laos, the KHMER ROUGE in Cambodia. A first wave of Indochinese refugees arrived in the states.
In Vietnam 'REEDUCATION CAMPS' were established for those who had collaborated with the US, for 'bourgeois elements'. POL POT, President of KHMER (as Cambodia now was called) introduced an AGRO-COMMUNISM : the capital Pnom Penh was depopulated by shifting the population to the countryside, persons who had collaborated with the US authorities, who had lived a bourgois lifestyle, even those who merely were capable of speaking a foreign language were subject to a policy of genocide. An estimated 1 million people (out of a tital population of 7 million) died in what is known as the KILLING FIELDS.

In 1968 the communist block had broken in two, the Soviet and the Chinese blocks; with the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 the Chinese and Soviets seized to have a common policy in South East Asia. Vietnam opted for a Soviet alliance (as did Laos) and even joined the COMECON in 1978. Khmer-Cambodia was a Chinese ally.

When the Vietnamese minority in Cambodia was targetted by Pol Pot's assassins in 1979, the Vietnamese army invaded, quickly occupying most of the country, installing a pro-Vietnamese / pro-Soviet government under HUN SEN. The genocide stopped (that is in areas under Vietnamese control); Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge withdrew to remote areas in the Cambodian jungle.
The PRC was not willing to leave this treatment of a Chinese ally unanswered; a SINO-VIETNAMESE BORDER WAR broke out (1979). The Chinese, in order to retaliate, pressed their ethnically Chinese minority, many of them attempted to flee the country in boats, most of which were overloaded and hardly seaworthy - the BOAT PEOPLE. Those of them who were picked up at sea were brought to refugee camps; many of them were allowed to immigrate to the USA, Canada and Western European countries.

The Indochinese nations suffered economically from the damage caused by the war (large areas of Vietnam are still polluted by AGENT ORANGE, which continues to cause babies to be born with deformity etc.), from the transition to a state-planned socialist economy which administrated the lack of goods rather than serving the needs of the people, from the dominating influence of party cadres in economic affairs, from lacking diplomatic relations with western countries. In Cambodia's jungle, the civil war was continuing. Under international pressure, Vietnam agreed to withdrew its troops, democratic elections were held and the country went through a transition to democracy. UN PEACEKEEPERS came in (1992). In negotiations, various guerilla groups were persuaded to give up arms. Extreme poverty, the continued problem of LAND MINES, corruption and inefficiency are the major problems facing the nation.

See also under Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam

Sino-Soviet Relations and the February 1979 Sino-Vietnamese Conflict, by Bruce Elleman
DOCUMENTS South East Asian Archive, from University of California, Irvine
REFERENCE Article Southeast Asia, in : Britannica Book of the Year 1971, pp. 675-678 (on events in 1970) [G]
Article Southeast Asia, in : Britannica Book of the Year 1972, pp. 633-635 (on events in 1971) [G]
Article Southeast Asia, in : Britannica Book of the Year 1973, pp. 619-621 (on events in 1972) [G]
Article Southeast Asian Affairs, in : Britannica Book of the Year 1974, pp. 623-625 (on events in 1973) [G]
Article Southeast Asian Affairs, in : Britannica Book of the Year 1975, pp. 626-628 (on events in 1974) [G]
Article Southeast Asian Affairs, in : Britannica Book of the Year 1976, pp. 620-624 (on events in 1975) [G]

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on July 14th 2001, last revised on June 18th 2006

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