1945-1954 1970-1975

History of Cambodia, 1954-1970

Status . In 1954, following the Geneva Treaty, Cambodia became fully independent (it had been declared independent within the French Union in 1950). The country's constitution was that of a monarchy, the capital Pnom Penh.

Administration . King Norodom Sihanouk in 1955 abdicated in favour of his father, Norodom Suramarit. The 1955 elections were won by Sangkum Reastr Niyum, a nominally leftist, in reality conservative and anti-Communist political grouping; the Democrats and the (leftist) Citizen's Party failed to win a single seat in parliament; the opposition claimed electoral fraud. Representatives of the opposition parties were beaten up by police, or even assassinated. The Democratic Party disbanded in 1957, the Citizen's Party ceased to funcyion in 1960.
In 1958, the U.S. supported a failed coup to overthrow the Cambodian government. In 1966 elections were held, in which several Sangkum candidates competed against each other.
The Khmer Serei were a guerilla organization fighting the Sangkum/Sihanouk regime, established in 1958, tacitly supported by the U.S., at first from bases in South Vietnam, later from bases in Thailand, with little success. Early Communist resistance was virtually annihilated, when one of their leaders, Sieu Heng, defected to the government in 1959.
In 1967 the communist Khmer Rouge began guerilla warfare against the Cambodian government (Battambang Rebellion).
Just before, on March 18th 1970, General Lon Nol had staged a coup d'etat ousting Prince Norodom Sihanouk who went to China into exile.

Foreign Policy . Cambodia established diplomatic relations with the USSR in 1956.
Upon Cambodian independence, Thai forces occupied area around Preah Vihear temple. In 1958 Cambodian and Thai troops clashed; in 1962 the International Court of Justice decided in favour of Cambodia. Cambodia, PR China established diplomatic relations in 1958. Cambodia claimed to pursue a neutral policy. In 1955 it had declined a U.S. offer to join SEATO. Cambodia severed ties with South Vietnam in 1963. In 1964 Cambodia received military aid from the PR China. In 1965 Cambodia suspended diplomatic relations with the U.S. In 1967 Cambodia and the Democratic Republic of Vietnam established diplomatic relations.

Cambodia and the Vietnam War . The Vietnam War had an impact on Cambodia, as the Viet Minh ran supply lines on the Cambodian side of the border to South Vietnam (Ho Chi Minh Trail) and US/South Vietnamese troops occasionally transgressed onto Cambodian territory. (Secret) U.S. air raids into Cambodian territory began in 1965 and escalated in 1969. In an 1966 agreement between Cambodia and the PR China, Cambodia approved of the North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong using Cambodia's border region with South Vietnam to run supply lines gfor the Viet Cong. On Feb. 23rd 1970 US President Nixon approved the hitherto secret bombing of Cambodia; on April 30th 1970 he announced that US troops were sent into Cambodia.

Domestic Policy . 1956 penal code introduced. Many new schools were built, the literacy rate significantly raised during the Sihanouk administration. New hospitals were built, access to medical doctors and health care improved.

The Economy . In a 1955 currency reform, the Indochinese Piaster was replaced by the Cambodian Riel.
Cambodia's economy was based on rice cultivation, fishing, rubber plantations. The education system produced graduates, but failed to provide employment for them. Cambodia ran a chronically deficitary budget. A First Five Year Development Plan was launched in 1956; a central project was to develop Kampong Som into a national port called Sihanoukville. The development of the country's infrastructure (roads) received most attention in the plans of 1956-1960, 1960-1964, 1964-1968, 1968-1972.
In 1955, Cambodia produced 1.2 million metric tons of rice, in 1970 an extraordinary 3.8 million metric tons, production between 1958 and 1967 averaged between 2.0 and 2.5 million metric tons (IHS p.196).
In 1963, banks, insurance companies and companies involved in foreign trade were nationalized.

Social History . The 1962 census counted 5.72 million Cambodians.

Cultural Policy . In 1958 the independence monument in Pnom Penh was unveiled. In 1962 tv broadcasting began. In 1956 Cambodian Athletes participated in the Summer Olympics at Melbourne, in 1964 in the Summer Olympics at Tokyo.

Timeline of Cambodian History, from timelines.ws; from BBC News
Cambodia 1955-1973. Prince Sihanouk walks the high-wire of neutralism, from William Blum, Killing Hope, posted by Third World Traveller
Article Norodom Sihanouk, Lon Nol, Cambodian Civil War, Khmer Rouge, Pol Pot, Sam Sary, Norodom Suramarit, Son Ngoc Thanh, Khmer Serei, Ho Chi Minh Trail, Cambodia under Sihanouk, Cambodia at the 1956 Summer Olympics, Cambodia at the 1964 Summer Olympics, 1963 Southeast Asian Peninsular Games, from Wikipedia
US-Cambodia 1955-1993, from Cooperative Research
1958 Thai-Cambodian Border Clashes, from ACED
Defection of Sieu Heng 1959, from ACED
Bombing Cambodia, by Noam Chomsky
Cambodia's Economic Development and History, by Sophal Ear (diss. 1995)
Cambodia 1954-1999, from ACIG, on airforce
U.S. Relations with Cambodia 1961-1963, from Foreign Relations of the United tates
Case Concerning the Temple of Preah Vihear (1962), from International Court of Justice Case Summaries
Cambodia, Chronicles of a Genocide, by Sergio Palumbo
The Precarious Relationship : People's Republic of China and Cambodia, its Implication for American Policy, by Gary H. Jefferson
Agent Orange in Cambodia : The 1969 Defoliation in Kampong Cham, by Andrew ells-Dang
Agent Orange's Legacy, from Cambodia Daily, 2004
U.S. Involvement in the Cambodian War and Genocide, from Cambodian Genocide Project
Cambodia 1965, video posted by Cambodia Information Center
Radio Khmer Serei, from Clandestine Radio
CIA Rogue Operation Cherry, by Larry Jo Daniel
A Global History of Currencies : Cambodia
Brief History of Russian-Cambodian Relations, from Embasy of the Russian Federation in the Kingdom of Cambodia
Cambodia, from Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Vietnam
Cambodia : The Party System in 1950-1955 and 1956-1962, in : Kenneth Janda, Political Parties : A Cross-National Survey
DOCUMENTS Cambodia Statesmen, from World Statesmen (B. Cahoon)
Cambodia, from Population Statistics at Univ. Utrecht
Photo : Royal Palaca 1957, by D'Lynn Waldron
1958 map of envisioned city of Sihanoukville, Cambodia, posted by Canby Publications
Time Magazine Cover : Prince Sihanouk, 1964
British Military Aid to Cambodia 1955, released file, from UK National Archives
REFERENCES IHS : International Historical Statistics : Africa, Asia & Oceania 1750-2000, edited by B.R. Mitchell, Basingstoke : Palgrave MacMillan 4th ed. 2003
Article : Cambodia, in : Britannica Book of the Year 1956 p.138, 1957 p.198, 1958 p.135, 1959 p.137, 1960 pp.135-136, 1961 pp.133-134, 1962 pp.123-124, 1963 pp.239-240, 1964 pp.214-215, 1965 pp.210-211, 1966 pp.167-168, 1967 pp.183-184, 1968 pp.181-182, 1969 pp.182-183, 1970 pp.181-182 [G]
Article : Cambodia, in : Americana Annual 1957 p.122, 1961 p.108, 1962 pp.105-106, 1963 pp.113-114, 1964 pp.114-115, 1965 pp.131-132, 1967 pp.141-142, 1968 pp.130-131, 1969 pp.142-143, 1970 pp.146-147 [G]
Article : Cambodia, in : The Statesman's Year-Book 1970-1971 pp.793-796 [G]

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on May 18th 2002, last revised on September 28th 2007

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