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Salient. Newspaper of the Victoria University Students' Association. Vol 42 No. 8. April 23 1979

The Period up to 1970

The Period up to 1970

The history of what is now Kampuchea goes back thousands of years, the height of which was the ancient Khmer Kingdom of which the ruins of Angkor Wat (built around 1000 AD), the national emblem of Democratic Kampuchea, are the legacy. We needn't go any further into this period of history but it was here that a significant part of the culture and language of the Khmer people was developed.

Today, the Khmer people exhibit a significantly different culture, language add custom's from any of the neighbouring peoples, despite that fact that for years they [unclear: saffered] domination from what is now Thailand and what is now Vietnam. This seems a small point, hut as we shall see, Kampuchea's neighbours as well as some colonial powers have regarded Kampuchea as a non-nation, incapable of separate national status.

In 1854, Cambodia (a French alliteration of the native Kampuchea), became a French "protectorate". Although the French lost effective power there in 1953, the effects of French colonialism still burden Kampuchea today. This applies especially to the arbitrary borders drawn up by the colonialists in disregard of the history and peoples of the affected areas. These border divisions, including those en-compasing Laos, Vietnam and China are presently causing great difficulties in the area.

When the French left, Kampuchea was left with a part colonial, part monarchical, part parliamentary political system. At the same time, the United States had started extending their influence in the region very rapidly and were aiding a band of guerrillas (the Khmer Srei) who were working against the government headed by the crown prince Norodom Sihanouk. The Cambodian government took a policy of not allying itself with the US and accordingly started consciously to build up diplomatic relations with the old colonial masters France, and the neighbouring socialist countries of China and North Vietnam.