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

Growing Strains

Growing Strains

Al though Sihanouk is often regarded as a progressive leaders, his time as head of state in Cambodia in the 60s, saw the impoverishment of the peasantry, the growth of an immensely wealthy Cambodian elite, and the building up of a headstrong military leadership which terrorised the rural people in bloody land grabs. A mass grave of 500 peasants was found in 1965; peasants who had resisted a local army garrison's attempt to take their land from them.

The development of popular movements in Cambodia in the 40s, 50s and 60s is full of twists and turns, but the greatest single influence on the local communist parties of that time came from neighbouring Vietnam where the resistance movement had been going longer and was much more developed.

A document from very early on in the Indochinese Communist Party's history puts, in a nutshell, the Vietnamese attitude to Kampuchean liberation. The ICP wrote in its "Letter to comrades in Cambodia and documents from the Macau Congress 1935", that '...there is no way we can envisage a separate Cambodian revolution. There can only be one Indochinese revolution'. The leadership of the ICP around that time also warned of Ho Chi Minh's "nationalist deviations". Ho Chi Minh went on to become President of North Vietnam and the deviation mentioned could possibly have been the insistence on separate national revolutions for all three South East Asian nations — Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.

All this merely reinforces the fact that the Vietnamese communists had always harboured the dream of an "Indochinese Federation" which would be under their tutelage. The separation of the ICP into three communist parties came in 1951, but only on paper because the leadership of the other two were still dominated by Vietnam, partly because of the maturity of the party but also because of their blatant "Indochina" ideology.