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

The Last Days of Lon Nol

The Last Days of Lon Nol

In the last two years of the way, when Lon Nol's control of the country was being whittled down to the immediate area around Phnom Penh, the NUFK began to be aware of the massive problems they would encounter on the liberation of the capital.

Since 1970, it had grown from a population of half a million to approximately three million. So five of every six occupants were refugees from their homes in the bombed out countryside. The capital was not capable of supporting such a large population and serious health and hygiene problems had begun to develop.

Because the Lon Nol regime had lost control of the rural areas, no food was coming into the cities to feed the refugees. The United States was being forced to fly in 30-40,000 tons of food a month, much of that for the elite of Phnom Penh. The food shortage was also due to the black marketeering which was going on in the capital — merchants were storing up grain waiting for the price to rise while thousands of refugees starved to death.

In the last month of the war an estimated 8,000 people starved to death, primarily because the US were flying in military supplies instead of the usual supplies of food. According to the American agency that was handling the food (AID), the city needed 1,000 tons of rice a day to barely survive.. Near the close of the war only an average of 545 tons per day were sent in.

Deputy Director of AID, John Murphy, told Congress that Phnom Penh's population would have to "get along on something less than normal".