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Trouble in Cambodia

During the American war in Vietnam the Ho Chi Minh trail between the North and the South ran through Cambodia. President Nixon had the trail bombed and sent troops into Cambodia against Vietnamese Communist forces there. That was the year that Cambodia's pro-US politician, Lon Nol, later rumored to have the support of the US Central Intelligence Agency (never historically confirmed) overthrew Cambodia's King Norodom Sihanouk, who had not been supporting the US effort in Vietnam and whose neutralism, disliked by the US extended to more of a favoritism toward China, where he went into exile. (It was a couple of years before President Nixon visited China.)

The American war in Vietnam destabilized Cambodia. In April 1975, Lon Nol was overthrown be a Communist force hostile to the US. The Cambodian Communist Party, led by Pol Pot started social engineering on a grand scale. It forced urban dwellers to the countryside to work in collective farms and forced labor projects. Money was abolished, books were burned. So-called class enemies were tortured and exterminated: teachers, merchants, and almost the entire intellectual elite. Strenuous working conditions, malnutrition and poor medical care killed others. An estimated 1 to 3 million people (from a population of over 8 million) died during due to the policies of his four-year premiership.

The Cambodian Communist Party had a longstanding dispute with the Vietnamese Communists. On December 25, 1978, the Vietnamese armed forces, along with a Cambodian force that included many dissatisfied Cambodian Communists, invaded Cambodia and in early January captured Cambodia's capital, Phnom Penh. Pol Pot and his forces, called the Khmer Rouge, fled to the border region with Thailand. Pol Pot's regime was replaced by a regime friendly with Vietnam called The People's Republic of Kampuchea.


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