Albania~Cambodia, from hero to zero


enver busyOnce again Nixon has shown his face as the warmongering representative of American imperialism and exposed his own pacifist lies and demagogy. Two or three days ago he declared he was going to withdraw 150 thousand troops from Vietnam. This was just another bluff, but on the other hand, it shows that American imperialism, which has got itself caught up in a terrible meatgrinder, is lashing out wildly, trying to extricate itself from its very great difficulties, and now, by sending its troops into Cambodia, it has gone deeper into an even vaster, more intense and destructive sea of fire. Now American imperialism will have to throw new, greater forces into the holocaust and face more numerous united forces, which have great possibilities to manoeuvre.

The peoples of Indochina are uniting as one against their common enemy and will put him in his grave all the sooner. The American imperialists and their friends, the Soviet revisionists, are frantic and they have good reason to be. Their plans have been and will be foiled.

The Soviet revisionists have been caught like rats in a trap. They cannot extricate themselves from the consequences of their treachery and are sinking deeper into the mire. Their statements on Cambodia are stale, false, cynical. Their ambassador still maintains close links with Lon Nol. A positive thing is that Sihanouk is not in their clutches. Sihanouk is beginning to recognise what the Soviet revisionists, who are trying to carry out many actions to weaken the united front of the peoples of Indochina, really are.

But with the Americans’ invasion of Cambodia, the North Vietnamese, too, must certainly be greatly disillusioned with the lies of the Soviets who are for talks with the Americans.

The American imperialists have recommenced the bombing of North Vietnam. This is a great defeat for the Soviet revisionists, a terrible exposure for them as friends of American imperialism. The Vietnamese will draw the proper lessons. [i]

Fraternal friendship and militant solidarity was a phrase often used by Albanian authorities in relation to Cambodia’s government associated with Prince Sihanouk following the 1970 coup d’état.

Prince Norodom Sihanouk visited Albania in 1972, 1974, 1975, 1978 and 1985 Sihanouk was no stranger to the Albanians having visited the small Balkan nation as it supported the Royal Government of National Union of Cambodia in its struggle against the Lon Nol-Sirik Matak clique that disposed Prince Sihanouk.

Sihanouk made five visits under very different personal conditions in 1972, 1974, 1975, 1978 and 1985. Each dinner reception was described in media coverage as “passed in a cordial and friendly atmosphere”. Enver Hoxha recorded the first visit in his diary

Last evening we put on a dinner in honour of Sihanouk. He spoke very well both about Albania and his stands in politics and the war against the American aggressors. During the meal, we continued the political talks with him about the current international problems, about China, Vietnam and Laos. We also talked about culture and art in Cambodia and Albania. Sihanouk liked the Albanian songs and dances which our artists performed during this dinner.[ii]

Sihanouk apparently had a good rapport with Hoxha. During his visit in June 1973, Sihanouk presented Enver Hoxha with copies of two documentary films, one of which recorded his historic trip to the liberated areas of Cambodia.[iii]

In a telegram to Sihanouk, Hoxha commented,

“Now 90 per cent of the country is a liberated area where the people’s power has been established. The struggle for the complete liberation of the country is being carried out successfully.

The Albanian people, who are following the struggle of the fraternal Cambodian people with special attention and admiration, greatly rejoice at the victories of the Cambodian people have reaped and continue to reap in the battlefield as well as at the continued strengthening of the position of the National United Front an d of the Royal government of national union on the international arena as well as at home.”[iv]

The Albanian press publicised the support for the Cambodian people’s “just struggle against the U.S. aggressors and their Phnom Penh puppets. Albania supported the diplomatic offensive for recognition of FUNK at the United Nations and elsewhere, providing a warm and cordial welcome to visiting envoys and delegations, and was host to Cambodian students in exile. Other, less publicised assistance remains buried in the archives.

Support for the  Royal Government of National Union of Cambodia and the coalition, National United Front of Kampuchea was acknowledged by the Cambodian Foreign minister Sarin Chak in his 1975 visit when he:

“expressed his warmest thanks to the Albania people, their party and Government and comrade Enver Hoxha, for their great aid, encouragement and enthusiastic support for the Cambodian people’s struggle against aggressor US imperialism and the quisling Lon Nol clique, for their complete militant solidarity since the first days of the struggle.”[v]

The previous year, a delegation led by Kieu Samphan signed a joint declaration expressing “their special joy and satisfaction” at the “fraternal friendship, militant solidarity and close collaboration” following talks with Beqir Balluku, the Albanian Defence Minister [vi]

Prior to victory in April 1975, Albania was a staunch ally, expresses fulsome support for the Cambodian struggle. Enver Hoxha addresses his electorate in 1974, informing them,

 enver We hail the historic victories which the valiant Cambodian people are achieving under the leadership of the National United Front in their struggle against the American imperialist aggressors and the puppet regime of Lon Nol. We are convinced that the ultimate victory of the Cambodian people over the foreign aggressors and the Phnom-Penh traitors is inevitable.[vii]

After 1975


The United States of America has washed its hands of Cambodia. Together with their puppet, Lon Nol, the Americans killed and maimed Cambodians, burned cities and villages and now, being unable to continue with their atrocities, they have removed Lon No and the war criminals and sung the de profundis over Cambodia. [viii]

There was a time [over 40 years ago] when Albania was considered to be one of the few remaining countries in the world friendly towards Cambodia. Albania was amongst the half a dozen countries maintaining ambassadorial relations with the Democratic Kampuchea regime with a functioning embassy in Phnom Penh.

Dhimiter Stamo served as the Albanian Ambassador during the DK regime from December 2nd, 1975 to July 1978. He was the first European ambassador who personally met the DK leadership: Pol Pot, Khieu Sampham, Ieng Sary, Son Sen, Vorn Vet, So Phim, Ieng Thirith, Thiounn Thioeun, and others comprising Prince Sihanouk and his wife Monique.

What happened to the well-publicised “close and fraternal friendship”? The question raised is: was the relationship between Albania and the Democratic Kampuchea much more than two states alignment with China engaging in trade?

In 1976 a DK delegation went to Albania in October (before heading to Romania and Yugoslavia) and trade was secured – in exchange for such things as hardwood, coconuts and rubber, the Albanians sent tractors and other agricultural equipment, arriving in the country in 1977.

Enver Hoxha noted in his diary, Thursday – December 8, 1977

Of course, Cambodia is a very poor state, just emerged from the war, still without a crystallized policy. In these conditions, and also because of the very tense situation which exists between Cambodia and Thailand, as well as between Cambodia and Vietnam over territorial conflicts, it seems to have good relations with China.[ix]

Throughout the same year, diplomatic missions in a number of Warsaw Pact countries were closed, and the Democratic Kampuchea regimes recalled all of their diplomatic personnel from the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, Romania, and including Albania. By late 1977, Democratic Kampuchea only maintained embassies in China, North Korea, Laos and Vietnam.

There were messages sent to national congresses – five months after the Chinese ended its aid to Albania, Tirana publicised a message of greetings received from Phnom Penh regarding the national celebration of the founding of the People’s Republic of Albania – but there were no obvious favoured treatment for the Albanians. The niceties were observed: a report dated 17 October 1976 in the Democratic Kampuchea news bulletin announced that interim Prime Minister Nuon Chea had received the Albanian Ambassador Dhimiter Stamo.

Tirana’s Man in Phnom Penh

Previously the Albanian Charge d’affaires in Hungary, the Albanian Ambassador during the DK regime, DHIMITER STAMO, in his late forties, had served in Hungary for about five years, originally as First Secretary, later in charge of the six strong Albanian mission. He had earlier service in Bucharest for several years, and completed his university studies there. Stamo spoke excellent French, Italian and Romanian, but not Hungarian.

American diplomatic cables described Stamo as

“Somewhat unusual for an Albanian diplomat. He had good, even cordial, contacts with French, Austrian and Greek diplomats, and was a relatively frequent guest at their social functions. Although not particularly well informed he was quite friendly and approachable and willing to engage in political conversations with western diplomats representing countries with which Albania had diplomatic relations…… Several of his diplomatic contacts here had the impression that he was a senior operative with wide responsibilities, whatever that means in the Albanian context.”[x]

During the Democratic Kampuchea regime he took residence in Phnom Penh which he later documented in his memoirs accompanied with photographs , in “Tre Anni con i Khmer Rossi”, (Three Years with the Khmer Rouge) produced in the 2000 edition of AFRICANA, a yearly journal in Italian language, published by the Italian Associazione di Studi Extraeuropei (Association of Extraeuropean Studies).

By 1978 relations had cooled on both sides, partly explained as collateral from the simmering Sino-Albanian split – the alignment to China was a very clear priority in the foreign relations of the Democratic Kampuchea regime. The publication of the editorial on 7 July 1977, “The Theory and Practice of the Revolution“, contained the first public criticism of the “three worlds theory” which was the guiding thought behind China’s foreign policy. In 1978 the Albania and Vietnam shared a mutual interest, united by criticism of the new leadership of China and attempts to identify the manifestations of the “great power” of Chinese chauvinism in the post-Mao era. [xi]

Albania’s relations with Vietnam

Albania  had maintained its good relations with Vietnam throughout the developing period of conflict: on 6 June 1977 Hanoi signed an agreement on cultural and scientific cooperation between Vietnam and Albania, and a week later a Vietnamese trade union delegation visited Tirana to attend a congress of Albanian trade unions. After the official unification of Vietnam in the spring of 1976, the Albanian leadership continued to emphasize friendly relations with Vietnam. The People’s Republic of Albania (PRA) and of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV) had maintained normal relations despite the severing of all bilateral ties between the Soviet Union and Albania in the early 1960s. The Albanian leadership continued at every opportunity to emphasize the moral support for the Vietnamese national liberation struggle. Speaking at the beginning of November 1976 in his report to the Seventh Congress of the PLA, Hoxha welcomed the victory of the Vietnamese people in their armed struggle against “U.S. imperialism and its lackeys”. The unification of Vietnam marked the realization of the national aspirations of the Vietnamese people, and the Albanian people would continue to preserve and further strengthen the “fighting friendship linking our two brotherly countries”

Soured relations with Kampuchea were not simply Albanian vindictiveness towards an ally of its former ally, a contributory factor was Phnom Penh’s own undisguised “wooing” of the Yugoslavia interest, something that would have raised grave concerns in Tirana.[xii]

Initially, for its part, Albania had diplomatically signally a neutral position in the deterrioting border clashes between Vietnam and Democratic Kampuchea. An editorial in Zeri I Popiullit “ A Conflict Which Is Alien to the Lofty Interests of the Peoples of Vietnam and Cambodia”(January 5th 1978) expressed equal appreciation of the two countries “valiant past, as well as the hope that the conflict would be settled around the conference table and in the spirit of co-operation and mutual understanding.”

A later editorial tilted more significantly towards a more sympathetic stance on the side of Hanoi as the year progress. Explicit in “Imperialists: Hands Off Vietnam” (June 24th 1978) was that – without actually naming China – Beijing was the article’s primary target. It accused outside interference of acerbating the situation, “the conflicts created and the armed clashes on the Vietnamese-Cambodian border, stirred up by the foreigners.” The Albanian commentary said nothing about domestic events inside Kampuchea, but did voice its concerns that the “new imperialist intrigues” were hindering “the march of Vietnam on its road of independent development and peaceful constructions affects and offends the consciousness of all people.”

By the summer of 1978 Albania had clearly taken the side of Hanoi in the conflict between Vietnam and Kampuchea. The peaceful resolution of the border dispute, argued the Albanians , “was not done. On the contrary, the Pol Pot group, incited by Beijing, brought out in Phnom Pen daily communiques in which they announced that thousands of Vietnamese were being killed by its army on Vietnamese territory”[xiii]

Albanian reaction to the Chinese attack on Vietnam’s northern border in January 1979 saw, for the first time, also condemnation of the “inhuman” nature of the fallen Pol Pot regime by the Albanians. Tirana had not previously made any allusion to the human rights abuses widely reported in the western media yet Enver Hoxha directly referred to the Albanian embassy experience in condemning the regime:

In Cambodia, the Cambodian people, communists and patriots, have risen against the barbarous government of Pol Pot, which was nothing but a group of provocateurs in the service of the imperialist bourgeoisie and of the Chinese revisionists, in particular, which had as its aim to discredit the idea of socialism in the international arena…

The anti-popular line of that regime is confirmed, also, by the fact that the Albanian embassy in the Cambodian capital, the embassy of a country which has given the people of Cambodia every possible aid, was kept isolated, indeed, encircled with barbed wire, as if it were in a concentration camp. The other embassies, too, were in a similar situation. The Albanian diplomats have seen with their own eyes that the Cambodian people were treated inhumanly by the clique of Pol Pot and Ieng Sary. Phnom Penh was turned into a deserted city, empty of people, where food was difficult to secure even for the diplomats, where no doctors or even aspirins could be found. We think that the people and patriots of Cambodia waited too long before overthrowing this clique which was completely linked with Beijing and in its service.[xiv]

enverhoxha_and_lenin   In the editorial the Party of Labour of Albania came out with an all-out attack against Mao Zedong who not too long ago they  had called “the dear and respected leader of all the peoples and communists of the world” but now they labelled a “revisionist,” “non-marxist,” “eclectic,” “narrow nationalist.” etc. They went as far as to accuse the Chinese of following orders from Washington in their “counterattacks” against Vietnam as they were launched shortly after Deng Xiaoping returned from his official visit to the United States. In his “Imperialism and Revolution“, published in the same year, Hoxha stressed that the Chinese “social-imperialists” grossly interfered in the internal affairs of Vietnam, and asked whether China could be trusted. Supporters of the Albanian position would later argue: As for Pol Pot, he upheld the Chinese “Three Worlds Theory” and by the 1990’s was saying that “communism is over” and that Cambodia belongs to the “West.”

Hoxha, writing in January 1979, as if the previous decade with all its fraternal rhetoric had not occurred, noted in his diary that:

“Cambodia was called a socialist country. On top of this ‘socialist’ country the ‘communist party’ was allegedly in force, which was led by two main persons, a certain Ieng Sary and Pol Pot. Also in this leadership was Khieu Samphan. But the highlights were the first two.

We neither met Pol Pot nor had ever heard the name. He was kept secret, and Ieng Sary we met in person several times and our impression was not good. He was not a Marxist. Many of his views were not only shallow but also wrong.”[xv]

In his speech to the 8th Congress of the Party of Labour of Albania on November 1, 1981, Hoxha characterized relations with Vietnam, Laos and the DPRK as “developing in a friendly way”, while he viewed Chinese policy towards Albania as “hostile”. He summed up, without a hint of critical hindsight or retrospective insight, the Albanian position on Kampuchea:

In regard to Cambodia, our Party and state have condemned the bloodthirsty activities of the Pol Pot clique, a tool of the Chinese social-imperialists. We hope that the Cambodian people will surmount the difficulties they are encountering as soon as possible and decide their own fate and future in complete freedom without any «guardian». [xvi]

 Whether that <<guardian>> was Vietnamese wasn’t mentioned.

Today Cambodia has no diplomatic relations with the Republic of Albania.


[i] Friday May 1st, 1970 The Superpowers 1959-1984, Extracts from the Political Diary. Tirana: «8 Nentori » Publishing House 1986

[ii] Reflections on China Volume 1 1962 — 1972: Sunday – June 25, 1972: Extracts from the Political Diary. Tirana: The «8 Nentori » Publishing House 1979

[iii Albania Today #3 (10) 1973 p57 * Multi-language edition magazine from Tirana, Albania Today , was a political and informative review produced bi-monthly from 1971 to 1990 , had an emphasis on political statements and speeches and reports on the developments and ideas within Albanian society.

[iv] Telegram March 22 1973 in Albania Today #2 1973

[v]Albania Today #4 1975 p36

[vi] Albania Today #3 1974 p20

[vii] Speech with the electors of the Tirana No. 209 – October 3rd, 1974

[viii] Tuesday April 8, 1975 The Superpowers 1959-1984, Extracts from the Political Diary. Tirana: «8 Nentori » Publishing House 1986

[ix] Reflections on China Volume II 1973-1977: Extracts from the Political Diary. Tirana: The «8 Nentori » Publishing House 1979

[x] Albanian Charge in Hungary assigned to Phnom Penh November 12,1975  Stamo later served as Albanian Ambassador to China from 1981 to 1986. In 1987, he became Albanian Ambassador to Myanmar (then Burma). He died in November 2006.

[xi] “Moscow understood this well. Thus, in March 1979 the Soviet foreign ministry noted with regard to Albania that “Vietnamese friends” had generally supportive relationships with other fraternal countries. While Vietnam sent congratulations to Tirana on particular occasions, these messages did not constitute approval of the domestic and foreign policies of the Hoxha regime”

(Selivanov, Igor N. (2017) Moscow-Hanoi-Tirana relations in the context of the split in the “socialist camp”. SOJOURN: Journal of Social Issues in Southeast Asia).

[xii] see Report of visit by Tanjug, Yugoslavian news agency, who interview the Cambodian Premier, Pol Pot and discussion of the film Kampučija’ 78.

[xiii]The Chinese Leadership headed by Deng Xiaoping have Launched a Military Attack on Vietnam «Zëri i Popullit», February 21, 1979

[xiv] The Chinese Leadership headed by Deng Xiaoping have Launched a Military Attack on Vietnam published in the newspaper «Zëri i popullit», February 21, 1979 from Hoxha, Selected Works Vol V. November 1976-June 1980. Tirana :<8 Nentori> Publishing House pp220-228

[xv] Enver Hoxha Diary Vol. 12. Tirana: 8 Nentori Publishing House 1985 p. 14

[xvi] Selected Works Vol. VI July 1980 – December 1984. Tirana <8 Nentori> Publishing House 1987 p. 419.)


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