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



The US offensive actually started on March 18 1969 when the first armed attack on Cambodia was launched by US armed forces in South Vietnam. But when on April 30, 1970, US tanks and troops rumbled across the Cambodian border, the war between the newly formed NUFK (National United Front of Kampuchea) and the United States with their local quislings headed by Lon Nol began in earnest.

The reason for the invasion is clear. The Lon Nol government was so shaky it needed the support of US troops to secure it, only five days after it was installed.

The Proclamation and Appeal for Resistance to the Cambodian people was drafted by Norodom Sihanouk the day he heard of his overthrow (he was in the USSR at the time). Although in the period of 1970-76, Sihanouk headed the Royal Government of the National United Front (the diplomatic arm of the NUFK), the incredible story of how in five years the NUFK armies took over the entire country despite the massive bombings they suffered and aggression from the US and treacherous Cambodian troops, is evidence of the work done by the CPK within the United Front.

Sihanouk briefly returned to Cambodia in 1973, but the leadership inside the country fell to those who became leaders of Democratic Kampuchea in 1975 — Pol Pot (then under the alias of Saloth Sar), Khieu Samphan, leng Sary and Son Sen.

Most New Zealanders active in the antiwar movement knew little about these developments. The existence of the CPK was not made public until 1976, and the Secretary-General of the party, Pol Pot does not get a mention in any material until 1976. But the incredible secrecy of the CPK did not reflect on its political work. The leadership had been tested under the rule of the French and under the repression in the 60s under the Sihanouk-led government. History now proves that they were the most independent minded of all the South East Asian communists, wholly devoted to an all Kampuchean programme.

The period up to 1973 saw the NUFK rapidly increase the size of its armed forces and the areas which it had liberated. With only 3,000 troops in 1970, it had grown to 50,000 in 1973 (CIA estimates) and had liberated 80% of the land area of Cambodia.

The Americans, having withdrawn their troops, resorted to mass bombings of liberated areas. A study at Cornell University, USA, revealed that in 1971 alone, 100,000 tons of bombs were dropped. However, following the 1972 Paris Peace Agreement with Vietnam, the US were able to throw all their available B52s into Cambodia with the result that from 7 March to 15 August 1973, 250,000 tons were dropped. It is estimated that 200,000 Kampucheans were killed during this period of the war. Most of the rural areas were destroyed during these bombings, and it was then that refugees began to move to Phnom Penh, unable to cultivate their crops.

The same year Kissinger, who with Nixon had ordered the terror bombings, in order not to lose face, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The ironies of history!

Also significant during this period was the NUFK's relations with both Vietnam and Russia, although the two shouldn't be confused at this stage. The leadership inside the NUFK, dominated by the CPK, had always been wary of the Vietnamese and about this time the differences started to appear. There were differences over the Paris Peace Agreements which the Kampucheans had, as in 1954, been frozen out of. The Vietnamese tried to enforce the Paris ceasefire on the NUFK by cutting off supplies and weapons, including weapons coming from China through Vietnam.

In 1971, parts of liberated Kampuchea had been attacked by Hanoi's troops and in 1972 the NUFK captured a Vietnamese spy whose confession bore the seal of the "Indochina Confederation" ideology still held by the Vietnamese.

The hatred of the Government of Democratic Kampuchea for the Russinas, came from, not simply as many Westerners have postulated, as a hand down from China, but grew from their experience of the treachery of the Soviet Union.

Photo of members of the Kampuchean People's Army

Members of the Kampuchean People's Army.

The USSR gave diplomatic recognition to the Lon Nol regimes and it was not until page 11 when the liberation was a foregone [unclear: firms] that they recognised the new government. In a UN debate as to [unclear: uld] assume the Cambodian seat in 74 the Soviets and their allies (with [unclear: ptJon] of Rumania and Yugoslavia) [unclear: ed] from the voting while urging [unclear: ltl] countries to abstain or be ab-[unclear: dom] the vote. A Russian official was at the debate as saying "...our [unclear: posble] that it is an affair between Khmers [unclear: t] we would like it to be settled by [unclear: il] means". This was also the US [unclear: n] at the time!

[unclear: cc] why the Soviets had deliberately [unclear: to] recognition of the Lon Nol regime [unclear: ild] look at the economic profit [unclear: v] was gaining from the puppet [unclear: recognised] The Soviet insurance company Goss-[unclear: ward] was, with other western insurance confirms, insuring US aid to Lon Nol brought in three times a month up the Mekong to Phnom Penh.