An American Defense

As editor of The Call, newspaper of the American, Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist) / CPML Daniel Burstein providing glowing reports in the paper on the situation in Kampuchea, where he and three other Call staffers were the first U.S. journalists to visit since the Khmer Rouge took power, and was vociferous in protests against the Vietnamese invasion and occupation in 1979. [i]

Although prior to leaving the organisation in 1980 Burstein’s articles took on a different tone, arguing that Democratic Kampuchea could not be supported on the basis of its positive experience in building socialism or its revolutionary ideology. “It seems that on those scores, the Kampuchean communists made some grievous errors…. But Democratic Kampuchea is today in the front lines of the fight against Soviet hegemonism”, and should be support on that basis. However as the solidarity movement experienced, supporting Kampuchean self-determination and opposing Vietnam’s role in the country’s affairs was seen as tantamount to support for the previous DK regime.

“Looking back at my 1978 report from Kampuchea, I must say it was sorely one-sided. After only a one week visit to Kampuchea, in which I was positively impressed with some things I saw, I came back prepared to take on all the negative claims about human rights violations and other issues, claims being made by scholars, journalists, refugees, and others much more familiar with the situation in many ways than I. I set out to refute them all, charging many of them with being stooges in a propaganda war.” [ii]

The CPML contributed two publications in that propaganda war : The Call’s reports on Kampuchea were published as a Liberator Press pamphlet, Kampuchea Today: An Eyewitness Report from Cambodia [iii], and Kampuchea, a photo record of Kampuchea prior to the Vietnamese invasion  by two Call reporters traveling with Burstein, photos by Robert Brown, text by David Kline was also published [iv].

An early article published in the CP (ML)’s journal, Class Struggle , said to be extracted from a manuscript-in-progress, was written in a spirit that the demand for the end of Vietnamese occupation was the touchstone of proletarian internationalism. Burstein’s article “Kampuchea: Vietnam’s Vietnam” – as the editorial states –

“offers considerable background on the long standing differences between the parties of the two countries. He shows for instance, how the Vietnamese party has harbored a chauvinist line and practice towards other nations of Indochina for decades and ultimately, how the Soviet social-imperialists were able to make use of this opportunism for their own purposes.”

These views may have changed as Burstein has moved on from editorship of a small ML newspaper to become the founder of Millennium Technology Ventures, a New York-based venture capital firm. Before Millennium, he was a Senior Advisor at the Blackstone Group, a leading New York investment bank for 12 years. He is the author of thirteen books on global economics, technology, and popular culture; regarded as expert on the fiction of Dan Brown not least for the debunking Secrets of the Code: The Unauthorized Guide to the Mysteries Behind the Da Vinci Code (2005) that spawned the “Secrets” series including his 2011 book, The Tattooed Girl: The Enigma of Stieg Larsson and the Secrets Behind the Most Compelling Thrillers of our Time.


[i] See: Eyewitness Report from Kampuchea: Call Series, 1978

[ii] Setting the Record Straight on Kampuchea. The Call, Vol. 9, No. 34, October 20-November 2, 1980.

[iii] Contents: Eyewitness Report from Kampuchea; A visit to a cooperative; The great battle to liberate Phnom Penh; Angkor Wat; Why Phnom Penh was evacuated; Youth are a vital force in Kampuchea; The U.S. bombed Cambodia long after war; Interview with deputy Prime Minister leng Sary; Postscript; Toasts of Friendship between the peoples of Kampuchea and the U.S.; Speech by leng Sary; Speech by Daniel Burstein; News from the Call. Illustrated with photos. 1979


Italian delegation to Kampuchea, July 1978

The Unified Communist Party of Italy – Pcud’I delegation’s visit to Democratic Kampuchea from the 8 to 15 July 1978 was led by Party Secretary General, Osvaldo Pesce. Upon their return to Italy, the August 5th 1978 issue of the newspaper, Linea Proletaria / Proletarian Line, carried a report of the delegation of five visiting Democratic Kampuchea. In what was said (inaccurately) to be the first visit by western Europeans since liberation in April 1975, the report covered the itinerary of meeting with Pol Pot, banquets, visits to Takeo Province and Ang Knol cooperative then on to Angkor Wat, encountering seriously wounded combatants from the border fighting with Vietnam in that summer of 1978.

The Unified Communist Party of Italy – PCUd’I – had merged with two other small groups out of the faction ridden Italian anti-revisionist movement in May 1977. Politically it remained aligned to China after Mao’s death, endorsing the “Three World theory” and sent delegations to China in 1977 and 1978.

Included are an account of contemporary Cambodia history of the Italian Marxist-Leninist Party (PMLI) in their publication “Il Bolshevico” on the occasion of the death of Pol Pot and the verdicts in Case No.2 of the “Khmer Rouge Tribunal”  that reflects that organisation’s continuing fidelity to its political judgement.

Read Pcud’I and PMLI reports here

Stockholm Conference 17-18 November 1979

Solidarity with Kampuchea

The Kampuchea Conference, held in Stockholm mid-November 1979, was an attempt to build an international solidarity movement in support of Kampuchea’s national independence struggle against Vietnam. The event set about formulating clear demands and policies for developing solidarity with the Kampuchean peoples’ struggle against Vietnamese aggression.


The previous summer in Paris, several well-known personalities, anti-war activists and friendship associations had adopted an appeal for Vietnam to leave Kampuchea. [1979 Paris Appeal] It attracted academics, political personalities, representatives of mass organisations and solidarity movements. The international bulletin of the Norwegian AKP (ML) carried a report on the preparations for the Stockholm Conference

“Friends of Democratic Kampuchea from most countries in Europe as well as the USA and Canada held a conference on Kampuchea in Paris by the end of June and the beginning of July this summer. The conference decided to hold a big, international conference in Stockholm in November in order to support the resistance movement inside Kampuchea. The Stockholm conference will be an important event in the struggle to gain support for the Kampuchean people in their struggle against the Vietnamese occupants. The Kampucheans now fight a bitter struggle for survival as an independent nation.

The initiative for the Paris meeting came from famous authors as Han Suyin, Jan Myrdal and Alan Bouc. The fourth person to take this initiative was Dr. Robert Andrei, former leader of the French Viet-Nam Committee.

Representatives from countries, as for instance Bangla Desh and the Dominican Republic, also participated in the Paris meeting, along with members of the Organisation of Democratic Kampucheans in Paris. Independent intellectuals and members of the clergy also attended. It is the intention of the arranging committee to invite a number of internationally famous persons who support Kampuchea’s right to national independence to the Stockholm conference. Despite different opinions on various international questions, the participants of the Paris meeting agreed on presenting an appeal for having a conference in Stockholm. This appeal is the political foundation for the conference. Work is now in progress in many countries in order to get people to sign this appeal. In Sweden, the Swedish Cambodian Friendship Society will be the arrangers of the conference. The author and journalist Jon Michelet was the Norwegian delegate in Paris.”

AKPml, Class Struggle, international bulletin No.14 November 1979.

Conference Committee

Conference committee (R to L) Mr Dan Burstein, the Call editor from USA; Mr Count Pietersen, representative of the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania; Mr Gobinda Mukhoty, advocate at the Supreme Court of India; Mr Tokumatsu Sakamoto, director-general of the Japanese-Kampuchea Friendship Association; Mr Jan Myrdal, author and member of the Swedish organising Committee for the Kampuchea Conference and Mrs Marita Wikander, Chair of the Swedish-Kampuchea Friendship Association and member of the Swedish organising Committee for the Kampuchea Conference.

stockholm 1979

Addressing Conference, the academic Stephen Orlov of the Kampuchea Support Committee of Canada spoke on the principles of solidarity work:

“We should still uphold the position that the Government of Democratic Kampuchea is the government of Kampuchea. This stems from the fact that it was the government in the United Nations at the time of the invasion. This position stems from a principle of independence and national sovereignty. It is not based on any particularly assessment of the policies carried out by the Government of Democratic Kampuchea before the invasion nor from the type of social system they established in Kampuchea before 1979….

…The main thing for Kampuchea Support Committees to explain is that the source of the problems in Kampuchea today is the Vietnamese occupation…. Support Committees should not take formal positions on the internal situation before 1979 in principle. This goes beyond the basis of unity.”

— International Secretariat(1980) Kampuchea Conference Documents, Stockholm 1979

The aim of the conference was to unite the international opinion opposing the Vietnamese invasion of Kampuchea and to defend the national independence and sovereignty of the country. On this basis messages of support from a range of organisations and personalities were given at conference, and incorporated in the resolutions adopted. Present at the conference were delegates and observers representing a broad spectrum of political views, social position and religious beliefs from thirty three countries “united as one” as the general declaration declared.


Conference speeches were published by its International Secretariat as Kampuchea Conference Documents, Stockholm 1979 ISBN 9172603976 Mrs Ieng Thirith

It included the Statement at Stockholm International conference for Solidarity with Kampuchea from Ieng Thirith, who as the highest ranking women served as social affairs minister under her brother-in-law Pol Pot from 1975 to 1979 and was married to Ieng Sary, minister of foreign affairs in the regime.

[ Statement here – 1979_11_Thirth_Stockholm0001 ]

Among the speakers was the co-author of “Cambodia – Starvation and Revolution”, George C Hildebrand who stated “The policies of the Vietnamese government, Party, and the Army are totally wrong. They are a threat to the region and a threat to the world. They must be stopped – and they must be stopped now.” [Speech here-1979 Hilderbrand stockholm

JanJan Myrdal, the Swedish writer and an internationally known activist who opposed US aggression in South East Asia outline what was at stake in his speech. “The Kampuchean people faces extinction” he said. “Vietnam, a strong ‘military-power has made an all-out attempt to overrun a small neighbouring country ••• If the world were to accept the invasion and occupation of a small country by a larger and militarily powerful neighbour – then no country will be safe ••• The Vietnamese Government has set a precedent that points to the destruction of not only the United Nations but the existence of sovereign states in Asia and Europe and the whole world – it is opening the floodgates that will lead inevitably to a new world war if left unchecked“.

Jan Myrdal concluded his contribution, “We have a great task to perform and we have shouldered a heavy responsibility.But the cause of Kampuchean sovereignty and independence is the common cause of all nations who want to safeguard their own sovereignty and independence and the demand for the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of the Vietnamese aggressor forces is the common demand of all people who want to live in peace. The aid to the Kampuchean people must not go to the aggressor and his troops~ and must not be used as blackmail by the Soviet and Vietnamese Government~ but go under the control of United Nation’s observers to the whole Kampuchean people. Until that is possible the Red Cross of Democratic Kampuchea must receive a maximum of assistance in rescuing the people “.

—  RCLB, Class Struggle Vol.3 No.24 November 29th to December 12th 1979

peking review

Scant international coverage- Beijing Review / Peking Review #47, 1979 did carried straightforward reportage of the conference. More fulsome treatment of the event appeared in the far left media e.g.



RCLB, Class Struggle Vol.3 No.25 December 13th to December 26th 1979

“The two day International Conference of Solidarity with Kampuchea held on November 17th-18th ended with a commitment to build a powerful world-wide movement which “will not rest until the last Vietnamese soldier is removed from Kampuchea and the independence of the Kampuchean people and nation is once again secured”.

The Conference was attended by some 250 delegates and observers from 35 countries, and presided over by Ms Marita Wikander, Chairman of the Swedish Kampuchean Friendship Association. Mr Jan Myrdal, the outstanding Swedish writer who had toured the Kampuchean guerrilla base areas a few months ago, made an extremely important speech. (See Report in the last issue of Class Struggle.)

conference session

The highlight of the Conference was the statement by Madame Ieng Thirith, Minister of Social Affairs of the Democratic Kampuchean Government.

Madame Thirith described the plight of her people in moving terms and called for a halt to Vietnam’s genocidal war of aggression against Kampuchea.

She traced the historical background to the war, laying particular -emphasis on Vietnam’s unholy alliance with Russia.

“History and events show that the root cause of Vietnamese aggression against Kampuchea is the policy of expansion, domination and blocks of the Hanoi authorities … An independent Kampuchea refusing to align herself with the block of the so-called ‘natural allies of the non-aligned countries’ represents a major obstacle to the strategic aims of the Hanoi authorities”. She described these aims a “regional expansionism and world expansionism, which seek both dominance in south-east Asia and control of the strategic maritime waterways, particularly -the Straits of Malacca, which link Asia with Europe and Africa”.

Referring to the present situation in her country Madame Thirith said, “The Le Duan clique has failed completely in its attempts to establish a puppet army 220,000 Vietnamese soldiers are forced to continue fighting on Kampuchean battlefields”. She added, “as for the puppet regime in Phnom Penh, imported lock stock and barrel from Vietnam, it has no roots in our society and is but the shadowy reflection cast by 220,000 soldiers of occupation”.

She noted, “more than ten months have already passed since the Vietnamese invasion, but the People’s war of National Resistance, far from being extinguished, intensifies daily. The Revolutionary Army of Kampuchea, reorganised into a large number of guerrilla units, attacks the Vietnamese occupiers throughout the country”.

Condemning the brutal atrocities perpetrated against the people she said, “The Vietnamese aggressors are how using chemical weapons such as toxic gas and toxic chemicals spread by aeroplanes over the areas their infantry cannot reach in order to exterminate the Kampuchean people”.

On the solution to the war, she said, “The Government of Democratic Kampuchea calls on all countries, governments, political and mass organisations and all personages who cherish peace, justice and independence the world over, to pool their efforts in order: first, to exert adequate economic and diplomatic measures to compel Vietnam to withdraw immediately, totally and unconditionally its troops of aggression and its people’s settlements from Kampuchea. Second, to let the Kampuchean people use their sovereign right to decide by themselves their own destiny’ free from foreign interference. The internal problem of Kampuchea will then be solved in accordance with the Political Programme of the Patriotic and Democratic Front of Great National Union of Kampuchea, which means that the social and political regime of Kampuchea will be decided by the people of Kampuchea themselves through general and free elections, by direct and secret ballot, elections to be supervised by the United Nation’s Secretary General; third, to send their humanitarian aids directly to the Government of Democratic Kampuchea and not to the Vietnamese aggressors through their puppets in Phnom Penn”. Madame Ieng·Thirith stressed, “that is the one and only solution to the problem of war in Kampuchea.”

Dr Pierre Forcier, a Quebec Government Official and geographer gave a detailed historical analysis of the Vietnam-Kampuchea border question.

Representatives of the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania reaffirmed their determination to fight shoulder to shoulder with the Kampuchean people against imperialism and social imperialism. PAC had sent thirty of its members to train in Kampuchea after the 1976 Soweto uprising. They were trapped by the Vietnamese invasion and had spent eight months with the guerrillas fighting their way out of encirclement by the aggressors.

George Hildebrand, the American scholar on south east Asia made a spirited and detailed speech which tore to threads the lies about the Kampuchean-Vietnam war that eminate from the Russian lie machine. He pointed out that Laos and Mongolia, one occupied by Vietnam and the other by Russia are the only Asian countries to openly support the Vietnamese invasion.

T .Dastidar, of the Bangladesh Gano Front spoke with great authority on the unity of the Asian peoples in the struggle against imperialism and in support of Kampuchea.

Samuel Noumoff of McGill University, Canada examined Soviet aid to Vietnamese expansionism.

And the distinguished professor Tokumatsu Sakamoto described the large scale Kampuchean solidarity campaign in Japan.

In addition to adopting a general resolution of support for the Kampuchean people, the conference adopted a specific resolution on humanitarian aid, calling for international efforts to particularly aid the Red Cross of Democratic Kampuchea. In Bangkok, Thailand, an office has been set up by the Red Cross and it is now possible to send money directly for this purpose. The conference stressed that this type of aid could be assured of really reaching the Kampuchean people unlike much of the aid that is being delivered to the Phnom Pehn puppet authorities who are then diverting it to feed the Vietnamese troops.

The Conference ended on a high point of unity, agreeing to appoint Jan Myrdal, Japanese Professor Sakamoto; Count Petersen; Indian lawyer Gobinda Mukhoty; Marita Wikander of the Swedish Organising Committee of the Conference, and Dan Burstein of the USA – all of whom were co-Chairmen of the conference – as an interim international secretariat to ensure the publication of the conference documents and the implementation of its decisions.

A great many statements of support for the conference were received ranging from Vasco da Gama Fernandes, the former Portuguese Vice-President, British Young Conservatives and folksinger Joan Baez, to Khieu Samphan, President of Democratic Kampuchea and the Chinese Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries. • “

swede poster

Swedish solidarity poster

The response in Britain saw the circulation of the Declaration of the preparatory committee for a BRITISH KAMPUCHEA SUPPORT CAMPAIGN: “The war of aggression against Democratic Kampuchea (Cambodia) continues. The Vietnamese forces have invaded and devastated Kampuchea to overthrow its legitimate government, thus violating the sovereignty of Democratic Kampuchea, the United Nations Charter and the principles of non-alignment. We condemn the brutal occupation of Kampuchea by Vietnam, and demand that all Vietnamese forces withdraw immediately, without conditions from Kampuchea, that the national independence and state sovereignty of that country be respected, that the Kampuchean people recover the right to decide their own affairs. We ask all who love peace, independence and justice to extend support and material aid to the Kampuchean people and their legitimate Government in their struggle against the Vietnamese aggressors”.

Link to BKSC article

What is Happening in Norway

vietnam out

In October 12 1977, the Norway Kampuchea Friendship Association established a local branch in Oslo, an expansion which testifies to the increased activity of the association, and to the desire of the people to strengthen friendship with the people of Kampuchea.

One thousand friends of Kampuchea had responded to the call of the Norway Kampuchea Friendship Association to celebrate the 2nd anniversary of the victory of the Kampuchean people over US imperialism, filling the hall to capacity. On the program were speeches, poems and anti-imperialist and Kampuchean songs. The main speaker, from the Norway-Kampuchea Friendship Association, said there were only two possible attitudes towards Kampuchea. “One is to support Democratic Kampuchea, support this brave worker and poor peasant people who have risen against imperialism, liberated their country, made revolution, and built their country in complete independence by relying on their own forces. This stands corresponds to the interests of the people of Kampuchea, to the millions of people of the Third World who are oppressed by imperialism, racism and reaction, and of workers in the industrial countries. This is the stand against imperialism. “The other attitude is …… to open the gates wide open to slanders against Kampuchea, spread lies, create distrust and scepticism against Kampuchea. This is the road of imperialism. This is the road to terror bombing, genocide and a coup d’etat”, he concluded. AKP ml, Class Struggle No. 9, March 1977 

WCP Greets

AKP (m-l) greets the Communist Party of Kampuchea

“On occasion of the Communist Party of Kampuchea’s 19th anniversary, the Central Committee of AKP (m-l) sent its warmest greetings to Kampuchean comrades. The message of greeting underlines the fact that during the four years after the liberation from the US puppet regime of Lon Nol, the material demands of the Kampuchean people were safeguarded through the reconstruction of the country under the leadership of CPK. The message states that the Vietnamese occupants are ready to exterminate the Khmer people, and that they are responsible for the severe hunger catastrophe in Kampuchea. The message expresses a firm conviction that the Kampuchean liberation struggle will be victorious, even if the enemy is strong. «In alliance with peace loving peoples all over the world, we will join forces to isolate the Hanoi junta and do what we can to contribute to their final defeat», the message of greeting concludes.”

*  In the autumn 1978, the AKP (ml) sent a delegation to Cambodia. Elisabeth Eide, Tron Øgrim, Pål Steigan and Sveinung Mjelde traveled around Cambodia along with representatives of the Communist Party of Kampuchea. In their own statement, they went about freely, and had meetings with both Ieng Sary and Pol Pot. Radio Phnom Penh reported:

“A delegation from the Norwegian AKP (ML) on September 24th visited the Siem Reap-Angkor sector via the north-western region. The friendly guests left Phnom Penh and travelled to Sisophan by train and then proceeded to Siem Reap town by car. In the Siem Reap-Angkor sector, the friendly guests visited the western Baray reservoir and the Ta kev, Bayon and Angkor Wat temples.” (FBIS October 4th 1978, H5

The Vietnamese invasion of Democratic Kampuchea in January 1979, aroused a storm of protests all over Norway. In Oslo about 2000 people took part in a protest march at the 12th of January. Outside the Soviet embassy in Oslo the demonstration stopped. Paint and burning torches were thrown at the embassy. In many other towns and places people showed their firm support for the Kampuchean people in their just struggle against the aggressors.

banner 14

Source: Class Struggle, international bulletin No.14 November 1979.

The International Conference on Kampuchea in Stockholm, Sweden, November 17th — 18th, was, as many of the readers will know, prepared in many countries in Europe and the third world long time before the Conference started. In the beginning of September, a Working Committee for the Conference on Kampuchea was established in Norway. This committee has worked to create as much support as possible for the Conference in Norway.

Its work has mainly been centred on two tasks: to find as many supporters of the Conference as possible. In this, the committee stressed the work to persuade well-known people to sign an appeal on the Conference. The other task has been collecting money to support the Conference in Stockholm.

Now, the list of signatures contains the names of many well-known Norwegians. Among these are the pianist, Kjell Bkkelund; the author, Inger Hagerup; Pal Hougen, curator in Oslo and MC in a popular TV program ; the editor, Egil Ulateig; and two leading members of the youth organization of Kr. F Christian Democratic Party). Besides, well-known Norwegian actors, authors, university people and trade union leaders have signed the appeal.

The Norwegian «Free Cambodia Committee», which in April last year organized an international hearing in Oslo to denounce Democratic Kampuchea, has also strongly opposed the Vietnamese invasion. In a letter to the Stockholm conference, this committee expresses that it agrees with the conference inasmuch as it condemns the Vietnamese invasion and demands an immediate withdrawal of all foreign troops.

The working committee set itself the goal of collecting 10 000 kr for the conference. This amount was reached about one week before the conference. At the moment of writing, it is impossible to say how much has been collected in all, because money keeps pouring in. Right now, the sum is approximately 15 000 kr. Work in connection with the Stockholm Conference has shown that many support the demand for Vietnamese withdrawal from Kampuchea and the demand that the Khmer people is to rule its own country. This brings promises for work after the Conference. It is the first step on the road to create a world-wide opinion against the barbaric Vietnamese war-fare in Kampuchea. In Norway — as in all other countries — a most important task will be to carry out the aims of the Conference. Solidarity must be steeped up, it must not cease on November 18th.

Work has not been easy all the way. On Norwegian TV, several pro-Vietnamese programs have been shown, and many bourgeois newspapers have held campaigns for slandering the Pol Pot government. The SV revisionists are among the worst supporters of Vietnam, and they say, among other things, that no one helps Kampuchea more than Vietnam. The bourgeois newspapers have had no wish to print news about the Conference, and this has made propaganda work difficult.

But — all in all — the situation is much brighter now than it was when work started. By and by, a strong movement of support for Kampuchea’s struggle will grow forth in Norway.


 The Swedish-Kampuchea Friendship Association delegation to Democratic Kampuchea

A French Defense



Foreword by Unión Obrera Comunista (mlm) when republished in Workers Revolution · December 2nd, 2015

The following is a public material prepared by a French intellectual with the backing of his circle comrades, already made known in the labour movement by other revolutionaries. However, it also arrived to our mail a few weeks ago, through a reader abroad. We want to make the material known on our own, because it is excellent. In it a defense is made to the just popular war of the people of Cambodia in Southeast Asia, which the Colombian people must know to enrich their conviction in the justness of the armed rebellion and the invincibility of the people’s war.

It begins by recalling that Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia were three nationalities oppressed by imperialism, first French, then Japanese, then Yankee and then Soviet, to return to US domination. In these countries, under the guidance of the Third International, the Communist Party of Indochina was created, and then each party was constituted separately once the class struggle developed. While the Communist Party of Kampuchea maintained its consequent independence in the confrontation against imperialism (and this is the most important thing to emphasize in it), that of Vietnam gave way to Soviet social-imperialism.

Questioning who led the people’s war of liberation in Cambodia, is aimed at muddying communism and hiding the crime of these birds of prey against a people that was literally devastated by the fact to rebel against the barbaric western domination led by France and the USA. The bombing received by Cambodia at the hands of the greatest genocide that humanity has had, was much higher than that suffered by Japan in World War II, this being a society – unlike the Japanese – rural, backward and that depended exclusively on cultivation of rice. Imperialism burned entire countries like Cambodia for the sake of democracy, and today its purpose is demonstrated: implement the most atrocious wage slavery that has endured anywhere else on the planet.

The popular war of the people of Cambodia against their centuries-old enemies was justified, even though the chains of salaried exploitation today make them even more submissive, because they taught the working class and the peasants of the world how to confront the bloodthirsty imperialists, as well as made clear the traitorous role of revisionism. Other peoples have drunk from this experience and the Colombian must also do so in order to be able to triumph in their fight against the centenarians who oppress and exploit them.

What Vietnamese revisionism did in Cambodia is similar to what was done by the armed revisionism of the FARC in Colombia: to help a faction of imperialism to win the booty of oppression and exploitation. The FARC guaranteed by blood and fire – killing many other revolutionaries and fighters – the domination of strategic zones for the interests of capitalist profit. Today, their leaders share the revenue of this war that cost thousands of deaths and millions of victims. Revisionism is a traitor detachment of the workers movement, subservient to the interests of capital and anti-revolutionary, both in Colombia and in Cambodia.

Federico Lenzi | Introduction | París October 2015

On April 17, 2015, 40 years of the struggle of the Cambodian people for their freedom, independence and socialism were celebrated. It was on this occasion that Abel Kelen, comrade of our MLSM Debate Center, wrote this document, which summarizes in a dialectical materialist character, the recent history, of the events of the struggle of the Cambodian people and its glorious revolution led by the PCK (Party Communist of Kampuchea).

This document that reminds us, like Cambodia and later Democratic Kampuchea, was bombarded by the Yankee imperialists and allies, and the Vietnamese traitors and their Soviet social-imperialist allies to the point that in 1972 Henry Kissinger threatened (and then fulfilled) that strategic aircraft of USA would destroy Kampuchea in 72 hours.

Imperialist propaganda, after the destruction of Democratic Kampuchea, needed to imagine a scenario, destruction and death that was awarded to the Khmer Rouge, for all those deaths and destructions that they themselves committed, in their race for the domination of other towns.

This document, which puts us squarely in recent history, as well as in the lies about the Red Khmer spread by all the imperialist media, is enlightening, of the struggle of the Cambodian people, and reminds us of the only path of socialist revolution that which bequeathed to us Marx, Engels, Lenin Stalin and Mao, which is the way to spread, and to practice for all the revolutionary peoples.


Unité des cercles communistes

The imperialist historiography has always dirtied the memory of the past revolutions that broke their domination for a time. There are innumerable intellectuals of all kinds, feather-bearers of imperialism, “specialists” in the USSR of Lenin and Stalin, in the People’s Republic of China in Mao’s time, all of whom are responsible for the peoples’ endorsement of the fears and fears of the bourgeoisie; His task is therefore to describe to what extent the revolution is something disgusting; how the revolutionary leaders were monsters thirsting for blood and chaos and-oh, how much-Communism is an abomination.

Among those slandered revolutions, that of Cambodia occupies a particular place. In this case, we are facing a powerful and permanent campaign of historical falsification. It is possibly the only revolution before which even pretended “communists” who reject reformism and advocate the need for armed revolution give in to such ludicrous propaganda and share the indignation of the bourgeoisie, covering up their lies. This revolution has certainly led to many regrets. And even the most zealous (verbal) defenders of the anti-imperialist struggle become timid when the bourgeoisie waves the “Khmer Rouge” wild card, before which all are ordered to kneel and apologize for having supported and for having “believed »In that revolution, etc. In the face of a true revolution, even history becomes a taboo subject for all the propagandists of imperialism. Evoke the causes of the struggle of the Cambodian people, the class struggle in Cambodian society, the world political context of the time and the fact that the US government has given Cambodia the sad record of being the most bombed country in history, everyone does not care! Write, cry, sing, recite the words “genocide” and “dictatorship”, it is all that the bourgeoisie will allow you to do in relation to this question. Beyond the dominant thought, they will accuse you of doing revisionism! Some have learned the lesson well. All you have to do is remind Alain Badiou to excuse himself, during a television program, for writing “Kampuchea will win!” At the time when Vietnam invaded the country. Such an attitude of renunciation is to extend a red carpet to imperialism, which tries to reduce the history of the revolution in Cambodia to the work of four madmen from nowhere who imposed a blind terror on their people. Is there anything more practical than this idealistic scheme to disguise the barbaric crimes of the imperialists and deny the class struggle that took place in that country, as well as the heroic national liberation struggle led by the FUNK? But as Nuon Chea has said during his process:

«… those evil, immoral beings will not be able to deceive and hide reality in the eyes of the people and the popular masses, they will not be able to hide the reality of the courageous struggle of the Cambodian people and the support obtained from the peoples of the world that they love peace and justice ».

Even the repentant Suong Sikoeun came to testify in Le Monde on August 8, 2014:

“I am convinced that Pol Pot’s Marxist analysis of the socio-economic situation of Cambodia, a poor and sparsely populated country, was correct. The remedies he had imagined were also, in my opinion, the right ones. The question was: where to find the means that could ensure the development of Cambodia? The answer was clear: it had to rely on the ricicultura, in a country in which the cultivation of rice is essential. This, which could provide agricultural surpluses, would then have allowed to provide the necessary means to lay the foundations of an industrialization. It was a good policy in itself ».

A policy that, however, imperialism – Cambodia’s worst enemy – will punish. Thus, despite the underdevelopment caused by several decades of French colonialism, domination and the war of extermination carried out by the US, and the subsequent Vietnamese aggression with the support of Soviet imperialism, Cambodia has not stopped fighting for real independence. And the only true independence he has known in the imperialist era was that of the very short stage of Democratic Kampuchea. This is a fact that bothers many.

Today, reactionary intellectuals strive to work for public opinion so that Pol Pot is compared to Hitler, and Democratic Kampuchea is compared to the Islamic State. With this, what they intend is to deny the fundamentally different character of the social classes that hide behind these realities and the class nature of the conflicts that underlie them. Never will the bourgeois media dare to compare Nazi barbarism with French colonialism or with the US aggression army, and this despite the fact that they are undoubtedly three great forces of aggression and enslavement of the peoples in universal history No one can deny what the German fascists have done during the Second World War, or what the French and British colonialists did for centuries in their colonies in Africa and Asia. Slavery, mass rapes, racist massacres, raids on entire populations to perform forced labour and to participate in wars, displacements of peoples, organized famines, ethnic segregation, etc. As for the US, they have not only been black slavers and have carried out the genocide of the Indians, but they have also been the authors of the two most criminal attacks on civilians in history in Hiroshima and Nagasaki and have made suffer a terrible war to, among others, the peoples of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, and have destroyed Iraq, having submerged this country in a chaos that has not been able to leave for more than 10 years. Who is, therefore, the one who reviews the story?

Who is the main promoter of wars and genocides? Who is the guarantor of the survival of obscurantism? The world imperialist system, and only him! Comparing the armed movement led by the Communist Party of Kampuchea with the Nazis is tantamount to putting on the same level the resistance forces and the aggressor that they fight and betray their struggle for their freedom. It is the same dishonest way of proceeding that is used today to put the Palestinian armed resistance and the Zionist occupation forces on the same level.

For that very reason, defending the heroic struggle of the people of Cambodia against imperialism and its lackeys is a matter of principle. As for any legitimate criticism of the mistakes of the Cambodian comrades – a criticism that should be made against the working class and the poor peasants of Cambodia – this should not lead us to forget the necessary recommendation of Mao Tse Tung on the importance of drawing the line of demarcation between the revolution and the counterrevolution. The “Khmer Rouge” were revolutionaries who fought for independence and socialism In front of all the bureaucrats of the bourgeoisie who will appropriate this date of April 17, 2015 to attack the revolution and Communism, we must continue to reaffirm them, and always reaffirm them.

This task is even more important for us, communists of France, because of the historical ties that exist between the peoples of France and Cambodia. In our country, the Jemeres Student Association (AEK) was born, which worked to find ways to get Cambodia out of the clutches of imperialism and our country also hosted the headquarters of the Committee of Patriots of Democratic Kampuchea abroad and welcomed the various Cambodian comrades who were then active in the ranks of the French Communist Party. Proletarian internationalism is due to our Cambodian comrades, we do not forget them! The crimes committed against a brotherly people, we do not forgive them! From support for the revolutionary experience of Democratic Kampuchea, we do not regret it!


There is something that should not be forgotten. The entire historical period from the end of the Second World War to the end of the 70s was marked by the struggles of national liberation in the colonies and semi-colonies dominated by imperialism. From the victory of the insurrection that proclaimed the independence of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam in 1945 to that of the people’s war under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party in 1949, and of the Cuban revolution in 1959 to the revolutionary wars for the independence of the peoples of Cameroon, Algeria, the two Congo, Palestine, Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde, Angola and Mozambique, etc. The struggle of the Cambodian people is part of the numerous struggles that confront the oppressed peoples with imperialism.

Understanding the Cambodian revolution is impossible without understanding the time and context in which this revolution emerges. Since 1930, the year of the creation of the Indochinese Communist Party, which brought together the peoples of what was then called “French Indochina” (Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos), they organize at first the revolutionary armed struggle against French colonialism, then against the Japanese fascists when they take the place of France during the Nazi occupation, and later against the American imperialism that wanted to succeed the French colonialists in this vast territory of Southeast Asia.

After the proclamation of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam in 1945 and the evolution of the struggle of the three peoples of “French Indochina”, the Communist Party of Indochina, after verifying the particularities of the struggle in each country, makes the decision of dissolve in 1951 and leave thus each country that organizes the struggle autonomously. In 1953 the independence of Cambodia is recognized by France (Sihanouk had proclaimed it in 1945), although it was an independence of the kind that will be agreed upon by French colonialism in all its colonies in Africa, which meant the end of the direct administration of the country by France but instead continued the economic domination of French monopolies and the imposition, in fact, on Cambodia to follow a policy in accordance with the interests of those monopolies. In spite of everything, that exit of Cambodia of the French colonial empire is going to be taken advantage of by the American imperialists to obtain in the country a dominant position. Faced with this situation, the Communist Party of Kampuchea, founded on September 30, 1960, had to correctly determine the semi-colonial character of Cambodian society:

“Kampuchea at that time depended on imperialism, in particular on American imperialism … Has this analysis been possible without struggle? We had to fight within our ranks, we had to fight in certain media of society. At that time, within the nation, some argued that Kampuchea was independent since 1949, others claimed that independence had been conquered in 1954 thanks to the Geneva agreements. These two opinions, in short, despite the divergence in date, affirmed that Kampuchea was independent. But could one speak of independence given the true nature of the society of that time, of the true nature of the country? Neither the economy nor the culture were independent. Not even politics: some sectors were independent, but others were not. The same could be said about social life ».

Cambodia was in effect a semi-colonial and semi-feudal society, and in that framework it is in which the Cambodian communists fought. A country dominated by imperialism and its lackeys which were mainly: the comprador bourgeoisie-patrons of import-export companies on behalf of foreign companies, and the bureaucratic bourgeoisie-corrupt officials, especially army officers who got rich doing business with merchants and some landowners.

In their book “Phnom Penh libérée“, Jérôme and Jocelyne Steinbach described in this way the vicious exploitation that the comprador bourgeoisie made the Khmer peasants suffer:

«… this comprador bourgeoisie hoarded the agricultural riches in the form of usurious interest: between two harvests, the peasants who could not face the multiple family, administrative or religious expenses, went to the merchant of the town that bought them the rice before harvest at half their value or lend them the equivalent of 15 kg of reimbursable rice … for the price of 30 kg at the time of harvest.

The money he made this way – from the work of the peasants – he deposited it in foreign banks, and bought properties in France, gold or jewels. Some built in Phnom Penh chalets that they rented to rich foreigners, especially Americans – rent that used to be paid in foreign currencies ».

But for the Cambodian revolutionaries, the class struggle in Cambodia is a complex problem and requires adopting a fair strategy and tactics. Prince Norodom Sihanouk, champion of opportunism and fine political strategist, knew how to use the reforms but also the contradictions between the different foreign forces with influence in the country to perpetuate his regime. On the one hand, it accepts US economic aid and represses the revolutionary movement and, on the other hand, participates in the Bandung conference and recognizes People’s China. In addition, he refuses to integrate Cambodia into the SEATO, the anti-communist military organization of Asia created by the US to wage war on the revolutionaries of Vietnam and undertake the nationalization of foreign trade and the banking sector. The danger posed by the CIA’s manoeuvres to destabilize the Sihanouk government (armed aggression by the Thai army, financial support to the fascist organization “Khmer Serei”) forces the revolutionaries to determine who are the main and secondary enemies.

The PCK will understand, therefore, the need to play on two boards: a legal struggle, using the parliamentary tribune to defend the rights of workers and peasants and support the policy of Sihanouk when it hits blows to imperialism and a struggle clandestine that rests on several factors: to avoid the repression of the police of Lon Nol that persecutes the revolutionaries and in prevention of a coup d’etat of the Lon Nol-Sirik Matak clique. The PCK will remember how the tragic events in Indonesia in 1965 convinced him to have chosen the right path by preparing for the clandestine struggle while organizing the legal struggle, which led him to introduce very strict security measures. The party undertakes an important work in the bosom of the masses:

“At nightfall, between 5 and 10 men, not all armed, enter a town where some residents of confidence usually wait for them. The security measures are very discreet and are installed in the house as simple visitors, sometimes in the room of the pagoda, where neighbours traditionally come together to listen to those who come from afar. They talk, joke and laugh, but above all they help the peasants to express their complaints about the officials and the police, and to become aware of the social injustices they suffer. Then, after having slipped some suggestions about the means to protect themselves from State agents and after going to respectfully greet the superior of the Buddhist monastery, the small group continues its route. A few hours before, the group itself has sent a neighbour to the nearest military post with the mission of discovering the presence of the rebels before they accuse the people of being favourable to them … The next visit of the rebels will allow analysing corruption and the infamies of the great mandarins and the environment of the head of state, leaving the inhabitants, some leaflets against the regime and the Lon Nol-Sirik Matak clique. The “Khmer Rouge” always strive to avoid confrontations with the government troops, since what they want above all is to try to do a deep work of masses ».

An in-depth work that will assure the PCK the direction of the people’s struggles. Demonstrations take place in the cities of Phnom Penh and Battambang and the organization of peasant struggles. In a country where more than 80% of the population are peasants, the struggles in the countryside were numerous. The peasants rebelled above all against landlords and corrupt officials who expelled them from their lands to increase their profits. The peasant revolts in Samlaut and Stung Kragnoung in 1967 marked a turning point. The repression of the men of Lon Nol is terrible, the reactionary troops massacre thousands of peasants. The communist deputies, who until that moment continued carrying out a legal work in the Assembly, are attacked by the regime that indicates them like people in charge of the revolt. Lon Nol demands the lifting of his parliamentary immunity and his appearance before the Military Court. Khieu Samphan and Hou Yuon are forced to enter the revolutionary underground resistance to escape repression. Several of his supporters follow them.

In 1968, the PCK, with strong peasant support, made the decision to unleash armed insurrections in several areas of the country following the strategy of the people’s war. Since then, the communists develop their bases of support and expand their guerrilla bases.

The American imperialists, for their part, no longer withstanding Sihanouk’s resistance to their policy, organize with the help of their servants Lon Nol and Prince Sirik Matak a coup against the government while Sihanouk was in France. Sihanouk is dismissed on March 18, 1970. This coup will result in the liberalization of the economy for the benefit of the United States and the establishment of a stronger support base to fight against the Vietnamese revolutionaries. Lon Nol troops support the American Marines in their war against Vietnam. In the interior of Cambodia they carry out massacres against the national minorities, in particular against the Vietnamese, but this base of support will be shown to be not very solid. Sihanouk, who had found refuge in the People’s Republic of China, is going to call the armed resistance against the traitor Lon Nol, thereby expanding the resistance led by the PCK.

On March 23, 1970, the National United Front of Kampuchea was created. Sihanouk announces that the only legitimate government is the Royal Government of the National Union of Kampuchea created on May 5, 1970. The Cambodian resistance will unleash a formidable popular war that neither the intervention of the US troops nor those of Saigon put his service will get her back. Intensive bombings that will reach their highest levels in 1973, spills of chemical products and numerous tons of nails in the rice fields … are some of the genocidal practices by which the US government will try to subdue a town of 8 million inhabitants. But the men and women of the resistance of the people, between the fires of war, organize agricultural cooperatives to face the needs of the front and the people and build factories of plowing and armament instruments as the liberated zones expanded. The most combative workers of the popular struggles join the resistance. In the course of the year 1970 the resistance is already imposed in the middle of the country. In the liberated zones, the peasants celebrate their hydraulic constructions and the agricultural production reached with a revolutionary song whose lyrics are sublime:

We no longer depend on the sky for our crops,
Let’s lean on the collective strength,
Dry season or rainy season,
Let’s grow rice all year long!
We will fish,
Let’s move the heavy stones,
Let’s throw the trees that bother us,
The virgin lands become fertile fields!
Let’s ride on our back, on the tip of our seesaws,
Let’s declare war on nature,
Let’s annihilate imperialism and its lackeys,
The grain in abundance, the life always more beautiful!
The rice ripens in the fields,
Its branches wave in the wind,
The revolution illuminates the earth,
Immense golden extensions that are our joy.

The Cambodian revolution is like that; a liberation struggle in the course of which the masses begin to build the new revolutionary power based on socialist relations of production to improve their living conditions. The bourgeois commentators, in reality pseudo experts as only the bourgeoisie can produce, have fun spreading the slander that the “Khmer Rouge” were bad combatants who only had to face combatants even worse than them. Make no mistake, that has nothing to do with reality but rather with the hatred of the lackeys of imperialism before the ineffectiveness of the powerful weapons of their masters in front of the people in struggle, much less equipped but carrying out a just war . The Chinese journalists who covered the Phnom Penh front before the seizure of power by the “Khmer Rouge” have offered us, for their part, an amusing testimony:

«The most interesting thing is that they use airframes and tanks to produce casseroles. A tool factory in the east of the country produces between 1,500 and 1,800 aluminium pots per month, which is long enough to cover the needs of the local population. The rest is sent to the front. Upon arriving in the liberated regions, a Cambodian friend told us: “Now, enemy planes no longer scare people. When they see the planes, they say they are being sent steel.” When the planes fly over the fields, the peasants laugh as they say: “You can bomb us whenever you want. One day you will become casseroles ». Check to what extent these words make note the indifference and irony of a revolutionary people before the imperialists who so much rejoice in the power of their modern weapons! ”

Bad fighters who turn planes into pans! As for Kissinger’s threats to erase the country from the map in 72 hours if the liberation forces do not disarm, it shows nothing other than the lapdog nature of this hangman of the people. Confident of the victory of the people in arms, which carries out a fight without concessions, the FAPLNK (Armed Forces of National Liberation of Kampuchea) surround Phnom Penh, bastion of Lon Nol, which survives only thanks to the help of American imperialism. But, in the month of April 1975, Lon Nol must resign. The blessings of the monks, the magic amulets, all the Buddhist superstition that he trusted so much will not prevent his defeat. You will learn first-hand that the people are the only ones who make history and not the gods and the spirits. The US, for its part, stops helping the reactionary troops of the “Khmer Republic”. by the luck that the town reserves to them, the traitors go parading. Marshal Lon Nol will find refuge in the United States and General Sosthène Fernández will be forced to ask for political asylum in France. On April 17, 1975, revolutionaries liberated Phnom Penh without fighting except for brief exchanges of fire.

For the masses the joy is great, which is an important fact to underline, even though they want to forbid us today to say that Phnom Penh was “liberated”. On the contrary, among the representatives of imperialism who lived inside the city, it is panic. In the embassy of France, the Steinbach marriage is treated as a collaborationist. The French bourgeois of Phnom Penh who see “the end of civilization” in Cambodia, describe the revolutionaries as “Nazis”. The revolutionaries, meanwhile, will account for several traitors as, for example, Sirik Matak, executed after his capture. The victory of the FUNK is guaranteed but the difficulties have not ended. Because of the murderous bombings of the Americans, millions of refugees from the countryside have been crowded into the city of Phnom Penh. Of 600,000 inhabitants before 1970, the population has increased to 3,000,000 inhabitants! The PCK had anticipated long before the liberation of the city that the supply of the population of Phnom Penh, totally dependent on parachute food launches organized by the US, would be a serious problem.. This leads him to make a historical decision, described by all the bourgeoisies of the world and their agents as one of the worst horrors of the last century: the total evacuation of the city. On this event, the reactionaries in the service of imperialism compete in fabulations and gossip: madness of the “Khmer Rouge”, agrarian utopia, gratuitous barbarism, etc. Let us restore the facts in the light of historical materialism. The declarations of the main actors of this decision will contribute to this:

On August 12, 1975, Khieu Samphan, then Deputy Prime Minister and Commander-in-Chief of the FAPLNK, thus presented the situation to the representative of the Information Agency of Kampuchea:

“For more than 5 years, American imperialism and its servants outside the country, carried out an unprecedented war of destruction, the most barbaric, the most cruel, against the nation and the people of Kampuchea. Our economy was largely destroyed, factories, rice fields, fields, communication routes, schools, hospitals, housing, pagodas of cities and fields, were largely destroyed.

Our compatriots were forcibly imprisoned by millions and imprisoned in concentration camps in Phnom Penh and in the other cities provisionally controlled by the enemy. The victims had no food, cholera was irreparably decimated, families were painfully separated and scattered throughout the country. Immediately after the liberation, the GRUNK, the FUNK and all the people and the popular army are determined to solve all these problems, which were but the aftermath of the wildest war of destruction and aggression of American imperialism and its agents. How to solve these problems?

On the one hand, the inhabitants of the countryside had accepted all the sacrifices to win in the war of aggression and destruction of the American imperialists and their lackeys and suffered for many years. On the other hand, the inhabitants of the cities, by millions, who had just been liberated, suffered from famine because of the enemy and were in a sorry state. This problem was of an unprecedented severity, we had to solve it without losing a moment, since it was a vital issue for our nation and our people ».

On September 4, the GRUNK Deputy Prime Minister, Ieng Sary, returns to this matter in an interview with Newsweek Latin America about the two main reasons for the evacuation of Phnom Penh:

“There were two reasons, and the first one was the food. We had estimated that the population of Phnom Penh was about 2 million inhabitants, but we had found almost 3 million when we entered the city.. Until then, the Americans had supplied between 30,000 and 40,000 tons of food each month to Phnom Penh. We lacked the means to transport the same amount of food to the capital. At the same time, the population had to look for food wherever they were, and we had to feed that population preserving our independence and dignity without demanding help from any country. ”

The second reason:

“We had discovered an enemy document that revealed all the details of a secret political-military plan of the American CIA and the Lon Nol regime to provoke unrest after our victory. That plan had three points:

We would not be able to solve the problem of the lack of provisions for the population: the enemy would foment incidents among the population provoked by its agents infiltrated among the population.

Numerous soldiers of Lon Nol who had surrendered, actually hid their weapons with which they intended to attack us once we had taken Phnom Penh;

They had planned to corrupt our fighters, weakening their fighting spirit with women, alcohol and money. ”

In adopting the decision to evacuate Phnom Penh, the PCK made a political decision, perhaps the most difficult but also the most courageous and the boldest that has ever been taken. The mobilization of the masses for agriculture in the agricultural cooperatives made it possible to escape from the terrible famine that the US government suffered. I had expected it to happen in the country. The evacuation of the population of Phnom Penh allowed at the same time to make a masterful move: to neutralize in less than 24 hours the organized counterrevolution in the city. But, deprived of adequate means, the consequences will be tragic for many of the evacuees. Most of them were poor, especially peasants who had fled the bombed fields, but there were also beggars and coolies who, however, later saw their living standards improve in the cooperatives. The workers – and also many peasants who swell the ranks of the working class – will gradually return to the city to repair and build new factories. Another part of the population of Phnom Penh was made up of a tiny minority who lived in luxury and who had to share with much regret the work of the people for the reconstruction of the country. Assured the military victory and solved the main problem that was posed in Phnom Penh, the revolution imposes an essential priority: Everything is about to rebuild.

One of the poorest countries on the planet, sparsely populated, largely decimated by many years of war, is going to launch into a gigantic productive battle of which its historical scope has never been underlined. The task was hard, very hard. But on this occasion, the people work for themselves, to build an independent and prosperous country. Once free of exploitative landlords, of usurers guilty of the misery of the peasants, and free of the capitalists of the city and of the bureaucratic bourgeoisie and buyer in the service of foreign companies, Cambodia recovers its riches and decides its own way, what that will not stop enraging all the imperialists who had an interest in the country, since the victory of the revolution in Cambodia follows the liberation of Saigon by the troops of the FNL and the total debacle of the American Marines. History has taught once again that little matter the capital invested in the war, technology and modern weapons of American imperialism: the people’s war is invincible! And the hope that the victories of the peoples of Asia aroused among the other peoples of the world in struggle was great. In the imperialist metropolises, in turn, communist and popular forces celebrate the victory of the revolutionary wars of Southeast Asia.

From then on, the capitalist press launched a smear campaign against the Cambodian revolution. Le Figaro was one of the first bourgeois newspapers to speak of genocide. In a racist style that does not surprise coming from his side, he declared on May 12, 1975:

“What the Khmer Rouge do (which mix Asian barbarism and revolutionary fanaticism) is a pure and simple genocide.”

The journalists compete in lies while the French Interior Ministry seals the Cambodian embassy in Paris and occupies its premises. The communists of Cambodia do not ignore the slander and actions directed against them from abroad. They will try to the extent of their ability to show, through the press, visits of foreign guests and reports, the conquests of the revolution. As we have pointed out above, the struggle of the Cambodian people is part of the many struggles that oppose the oppressed peoples with imperialism. However, the Cambodian revolution has certain specificities. In the first place, it is one of the rare revolutions in a country dominated, after the Chinese revolution, in which the revolutionary leadership did not carry out the armed conquest of independence with the support of the masses to move towards a new form dependence on foreign powers but did everything possible to preserve their independence and not become a semi-colony. The case of the Cuban and Vietnamese revolutions, for example, is significant. The revolution does not stop with the seizure of power. Once power is conquered, economic and political transformations have an essential character to build true independence, which is impossible without radically questioning the unequal international division of labour. In the case of Cuba, as in Vietnam, the revolutionary leaders subjected their country and its people to these unequal relations for the benefit of the social-imperialist USSR by joining COMECON, which has led to dramatic consequences from the point of view of view of its economic development as well as the political dramas that it has supposed. Without an ideologically firm direction that applies the principles of having its own forces and that understands that socialism cannot be reduced to state ownership of the means of production, it is impossible to carry out correctly the construction of socialism. This is why the experience of Democratic Kampuchea is important.

We must not forget that the context in which the construction of socialism in Cambodia takes place is unprecedented. Indeed, while the other socialist states had been able to count on the internationalist economic aid of Stalin’s USSR, Cambodia had to make its revolution under totally different conditions. The USSR, after the seizure of power by the Khrushchevite revisionists, became “social imperialism.” The People’s Republic of China, which until that time represented the only consistent aid to the Cambodian revolutionaries, fell in 1976 into the hands of the revisionist clique led by Deng Xiaoping, with which the economic cooperation that will continue to exist with the Deng regime will not be a solid guarantee in view of the new orientations of the Chinese revisionists. Having your own strength is going to be a vital principle for the PCK that will never beg for help anyway: Carrying out the task that had been proposed to be developed in these certain conditions, the PCK traces the course of its economic line in the following major features:

“In the work of national construction, we rely on the realities of our country, a backward agricultural country and destroyed by the war of aggression and devastation … We take agriculture as the fundamental factor and we use the capital accumulated by agriculture to build progressively industry and to transform Kampuchea, which has a backward agriculture, into a short period of time, into a modern country, into an industrial country, firmly clinging to the line of independence and sovereignty and having our own forces. ”

“In the field of agriculture, we give priority to solving the water problem, which is the key factor in obtaining maximum production of rice, our basic food crop.”

. Not only the collectivization of agriculture takes place but also the construction of new factories for the work of metals and the development of shipbuilding. Thus, the economy is reorganized and, in spite of the obvious difficulties, an economic boom is going to take place. A document written by a researcher illustrates this fact well and, although it suffers from certain bourgeois prejudices, it has the merit of fairly honestly exposing the accomplishments and achievements of the PCK in economic matters:

On the one hand, the principle of self-sufficiency according to which the country must produce, as far as possible, what is necessary for its survival. This principle will be followed profusely and the Cambodian leaders will not resort to foreign aid with the exception of the supply of machines and the technical training of the workers (Chinese, Korean, Yugoslav, and Romanian). It was not for the Cambodians to import finished products, it was necessary to manufacture them themselves. And, on the other hand, the gigantic extension of agriculture and, above all, the hydraulic constructions, made it necessary to obtain the corresponding tools: picks, shovels, motor pumps, plows, rice threshing machines, tractors …

Phnom Penh will specialize in the construction of agricultural machines, in the manufacture of spare parts and in the assembly of heavy machinery (tractors) »

But economic construction becomes a context of permanent threats. Indeed, Vietnam is going through difficulties but does not face these problems in the same way as Cambodians: for the mobilization of the masses for the reconstruction of the country. He is going to choose another way, consequence of the political betrayal of his leaders. Vietnam, after having resisted for a while, adheres to COMECOM. And this one has projects for Cambodia. The Soviets arrived at that time to an agreement with the clique of Vietnamese traitors to subject Democratic Kampuchea to a specialization of the work that Kampuchea rejects. In its economic framework, Cambodia should be limited to rice monoculture. It is the same procedure with which the USSR has subjected the Cuban economy to sugar. The Vietnamese leaders agree with this. With a population of 50 million inhabitants to feed and taking into account the monumental destructions caused by the imperialist war, the Vietnamese undertake the task of subjugating their neighbours, once brothers of struggle.

The occupation and predation of Laos and its 2 million inhabitants and that of Cambodia and its 8 million inhabitants and their abundant lands are the objectives that have been set.

Already in 1977, an attempt at a coup d’état fomented by Vietnamese agents in order to overthrow the government of Democratic Kampuchea was frustrated. Since then, the investigations to find the traitors who act masked under the orders of the Vietnam Labour Party intensify. And with them, repression. Some conspirators manage to escape. Among them, Hun Sen, current president of Cambodia, who will return in 1979 thanks to the Vietnamese tanks. In December 1977, a first armed aggression was carried out by the Vietnamese army; later, in April 1978, a second aggression took place, but both were rejected by the armed forces of Kampuchea.

In September 1978, a delegation from the PCMLF (Marxist-Leninist Communist Party of France) visited Democratic Kampuchea. In his farewell, the secretary general of the PCK will refer to the future of the conflict in these terms:

“French comrades, you return to your country. In a short time you will know the news that Vietnam, supported by the Soviet social-imperialism, will have launched a new attack of great magnitude against Kampuchea and will try to invade the country.

At that moment, there will be two options: either our forces will fall apart, and that will show that the people were not satisfied with our policy; or else our forces will resist victoriously and reject the Vietnamese aggressors, which will prove that our people are satisfied with our policy and, consequently, will support it. ”

A few months later, Vietnam launches a major offensive on Cambodia. A powerful offensive in which 100,000 men enter the country supported by Soviet material and manage to overthrow the government of Democratic Kampuchea.. The Vietnamese will be the first, along with the Soviets, to foment a powerful propaganda machine against the government of Democratic Kampuchea in order to impose a new one under their boots. The stacks of skulls, of which all reactionary propaganda is still used today to show the barbarism of the “Khmer Rouge” will be one of its staging. The Cambodians must thereafter reorganize the struggle through guerrilla warfare against a party and a people apparently “brother”. We are therefore facing a tragic event that will tarnish the sacrifices of the struggle of the Asian peoples for their liberation. Even more so considering that the invading army is led by General Vo Nguyen Giap, Dien Bien Phu’s hero. This betrayal of proletarian internationalism by the “socialist” Republic of Vietnam was a hard lesson and a bitter disappointment for the international communist movement. In addition, it took place at a time when the economy and conditions of workers began to improve, the result of three years of very hard work. The consequences of Vietnam’s accession to COMECON clearly illustrate the imperialist policy of the Soviet revisionists. During the invasion, the crops are looted and the industrial machines are dismantled and taken to Vietnam. Thousands of Vietnamese peasants are taken to occupy the lands of Cambodia. Vietnam creates and imposes a “communist” party and a new government at its service with the help of Cambodian traitors and Khmer Khroms (Cambodian minority of Vietnam). A practice of colonization, in short, tending to deliver Cambodia to the Khmer minority, which clearly demonstrates the way of action of the Vietnamese revisionists and their betrayal of a brotherly people. For the Cambodian revolutionaries, in spite of a strong resistance, it is the debacle. This new situation entails a radical change of strategy. In order to face this aggression, it is necessary then to organize “a broad national front of all the patriotic and democratic forces both inside and outside the country” against the invader. A political program for the constitution of a “National Patriotic and Democratic Great Front of Kampuchea Front” is drawn up. The bourgeois democratic orientation of the Front’s program and the class alliances that take place in the Resistance struggle are proof that the Cambodian society had not reached the “great concord” as naively assumed in the 1976 constitution.

The Khmer-Vietnamese war will involve other foreign actors with their own interests. The US, anxious not to let the influence of the USSR extend into Asia, is going to support the government of Democratic Kampuchea against Vietnam, like Deng Xiaoping’s China, in this case also because of its conflicts with the USSR. What is important to underline is that the UN missions in Cambodia (MIPRENUC and APRONUC) fail to impose the disarmament of the resistant Khmer Rouge or their strategy of peace agreements with a view to holding “democratic” elections. And that despite the commitments they tried to impose on Chinese leaders. The Vietnamese occupation will withdraw from the country in 1991 and the UN will end its mission in 1993, after having left the sad memory of numerous cases of child rapes committed by UNTAC soldiers. The “Khmer Rouge” continued to be a major guerrilla force until 1998, date of the implosion of the movement. In 1996, Ieng Sary took the path of treachery taking with him 4,000 fighters. The movement will be weakened with a last pocket of resistance in Anlong Veng. The betrayal of Ta Mok, organizing a parody of popular court against the former leader Pol Pot and other cadres, will mean the final fall of the “Khmer Rouge.” The last “Khmer Rouge” who judged Pol Pot to be a “traitor” will be the same ones who will liquidate the armed movement, which will lead to the abandonment of the riches of Cambodia and its labour force for the benefit of the imperialists. History has ruled who the traitors were.


Imperialism is merciful. He has no problem in paying tribute to Mandela for having extended his arms to the oppressors of his people and joining his cause. But like the God of the Bible, his mercy is only comparable to his revenge against the rebels. He condemns them to life imprisonment in his material life and undertakes the task of dirtying his memory and his struggle in the heads of the people for centuries of the centuries, when he does not kill them as in the case of Ernesto Guevara, Amilcar Cabral, Um Nyobé, Thomas Sankara, Edith Lagos and many other worthy sons and daughters of the town.

It is convenient at this point to return to the recent sentence in perpetuity of the last still alive leaders of Democratic Kampuchea pronounced by the imperialist court that takes the name of “extraordinary Chambers in the bosom of the Cambodian Courts” (CETC). It is not a secret that this court has been established thanks to the money of the imperialists, among which are the exploiters of Cambodia: USA and France. Other countries that helped with equipment and military training to the Lon Nol regime, such as Japan and Australia, also participated:

“The payment of the salaries of national personnel depends entirely (underlined by us) of the voluntary contributions of the friendly countries of the CETC. The main donor countries according to their national composition are Japan, the European Union, Australia, Germany and the United Kingdom. ”

It will easily be understood that this court is not that of “Justice” with a big “J” as they want to present it, but that of the organized revenge of the imperialist plunderers in a great campaign of criminalization of Communism and submission of Kampuchea.

Nuon Chea’s lawyer, Victor Koppe, had the courage to question the legitimacy of the court, stating that it was intended to actually carry out “a generalized offensive against communism as such”. Indeed, did not the court reproach Nuon Chea, who still considers himself Marxist-Leninist, to have read Stalin and Mao?

Leaving aside the dishonest manoeuvres of the court, such as the fact that the majority of the witnesses were from the prosecution -35 witnesses by the co-prosecutors, against 4 for the defence (!) – and that neither Norodom Sihanouk nor six senior officials of the party in power did not respond to the summons of the judges, the essential thing is in the sentence pronounced by the court. On August 7, 2014, Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan were sentenced to life imprisonment. His crime? “Crime against humanity”, of course! Here in the words of the court, what constitutes a crime against humanity?

«… Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan, together with the other members of the Standing Committee and the Central Committee and the government ministers and the Zona secretaries, participated in a common criminal enterprise. This group of people had as a common project to realize a rapid socialist revolution, by all means, in favour of a “great leap forward”. The Chamber is convinced that this common project was implemented with the help, among other means, of policies that aimed to forcibly transfer the inhabitants of the cities and proceed to forced displacements of populations between the different rural areas. As a result, in April 1975, during the first phase of population displacement, Khmer Rouge soldiers proceeded to carry out the forced evacuation of Phnom Penh and to displace at least two million people under false pretences and threats, often under the pressure of arms, practically without warning, and in a situation dominated by terror and acts of violence. Once expelled, the population of Phnom Penh suffered a prolonged siege characterized by food shortages, in such a way that it was seriously weakened. It is in such a state of weakening that the population was forced to march to the rural areas during the warmest month of the year, practically without food, without water or medical care, accommodation or means of transport. The whole population of Phnom Penh without exception was evacuated, including monks, the elderly and children, the sick and wounded who were in hospitals, pregnant women and those who had just given birth. There are numerous cases in which Khmer Rouge soldiers shot and killed civilians during the evacuation and many people died of exhaustion, malnutrition or disease. ”

“The Chamber of First Instance is equally convinced that Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan put the common project into action by resorting to a policy of carrying out specific measures against the former soldiers and officials of the Khmer Republic. This policy had in particular the result of the execution of Tuol Po Chrey immediately after April 17, 1975, and of at least 250 soldiers and officials of the Khmer Republic who had been taken from Pursat. ”

It is clear that nowhere in the court report is the word “genocide” mentioned, which we are sure will not prevent bourgeois media and reactionary intellectuals from spreading the word whenever they refer to Pol Pot and Democratic Kampuchea ( the term aims to scare public opinion). Thus, what has been considered a “crime against humanity” is mainly:

The evacuation of the population of Phnom Penh.

The execution of former soldiers and officials of the dictator Lon Nol.

We have seen above why the leaders of the PCK had made the decision to evacuate Phnom Penh.. But the accusers pretend that they do not know the circumstances of this decision. They did not dare to give their opinion on what should have been done. Thus, the document of the sentence itself stipulates:

“Once expelled, the population of Phnom Penh suffered a prolonged siege characterized by food shortages, in such a way that it was seriously weakened.”

But of course the court does not know that the evacuees were taken to the cooperatives precisely to solve the food problem, and that, therefore, they were not displaced free of charge with the aim of making them die. And of this situation that crossed Phnom Penh, the court tried to blame the “Khmer Rouge” and not the guilty ones of that situation; that is, to the American imperialists and their terrible bombings. And we must also take into account the situation in which all the dominated countries were located, most of them agricultural countries that could feed themselves but were subject – due to the division of labour imposed by the large foreign companies – to having to to export their food crops for the benefit of the imperialist countries and to be obliged to import food from those same countries. But far from it was the intention of the accusers – annals of imperialism – to question a catastrophic situation created by the economic system of their masters. And not to mention disgusting denialism regarding the intensity of the American bombings and their consequences on the country’s economy and the danger they represented for the future of the people of Kampuchea those conditions, not evacuating the city would have meant death for all its inhabitants. If there is no one or too few arms to farm the land in a war-ravaged country whose economy is essentially dominated by agriculture, it is clear that the famine would have hit hard and that a considerable mass of people would end up dying. Who does not recognize this simple truth is either a hypocrite or a cretin!

What the miserable people who are horrified by the evacuation of the city really mean is that the Resistance forces should not have won the war, and that Phnom Penh should have been under the control of the Americans and their lackeys of the Lon Nol clique – Sirik Matak. What they are really attacking is the change of class in power in society that followed the fall of Phnom Penh.

As for the accusation made against the Cambodian leaders of having killed – in time of war – their most dangerous enemies, it is very ridiculous and does not serve, neither more nor less, than to attack the revolution as such. The influence of the Cambodian diaspora abroad, including former officials and supporters of the coup regime of Lon Nol-Sirik Matak, who found refuge in the US and France, protective countries, is perceived in this case. Both Lon Nol, who died under the Miami sun, and Sosthène Fernández, who after living a comfortable life in “the country of the rights of Man”, returned to Cambodia where his good business flourished after the liberalization of the economy.

Obviously, it is easy to be right when monopolizing the word, information, etc. “The lie travels with the expenses paid by the government,” said Robespierre. Before the overwhelming propaganda media of imperialism it is difficult to re-establish the historical truth about Democratic Kampuchea. In this way, the history of Cambodia does not begin on April 17, 1975, contrary to the speculations about “the year zero” of the priest Ponchaud and the newspaper France Soir. However, we can share here some statements of Nuon Chea during his process. They are words too just to be silenced. On the other hand, as far as the other versions are concerned, we have not yet finished listening to them.

“… I would like to respond to the prosecutors’ allegations that the PCK used revolutionary violence even before 1975. These statements show that they address the events in Cambodia from a single point of view. They pretend not to know anything, have not seen anything and have not heard any other point of view. In legal jargon, this is called “the justice of the victors.” I remind you that before deciding to undertake the armed struggle for the liberation of the country, many members of the PCK as well as civilians were executed, detained, tortured and disappeared clandestinely every day. All Cambodians still remember those events. This type of violence existed under all the regimes that ruled Cambodia, and the victims were peasants and all of them innocent. To begin, let’s take the case of French colonialism. France colonized Cambodia for close to a century. This regime always resorted to violence through arrests, executions of unarmed peasants … in the village of Krang Leav, in the province of Kampong Chnang, these peasants did not have the means to pay taxes and demonstrated to demand justice. But, finally, the peasants were the losers and the name of their people was changed by the French to be called “People of bestiality”, or “Phum Tearunakamm” in the Khmer language. Is not that violence?

In Sangkum Reastr Niyum, the bulldozers demolished the houses and rice fields that belonged to the peasants of Andaeuk Haeb, in Samlaut, in the province of Battambang. They seized the lands of the people who had lived there for several generations. When they protested in order to protect their property, the soldiers shot at those people who were unarmed without worrying if they were men, women, young or old. And, what is even worse, the authorities tried to kill more people who had taken fear and fled to the forest. Later, the authorities accused the owners of these lands of being Khmer Rouge. Is it not in cases like this where the origins of the violence and suffering of the population are found?

Under the regime of Lon Nol, supported by the United States, the soldiers raped the women, stole the goods of the people and killed wherever they went. They decapitated the people and stuck their heads on stakes, simply because they suspected that the population was opposed to the regime or because they were involved in the Khmer Rouge revolution. Lon Nol soldiers’ systematically raped women, looted their belongings and forcibly expelled people from their homes.

The Vietnamese minorities were massacred throughout Cambodia. The United States threw tons of bombs on the villages, the houses, the rice fields and the pagodas. Tens of thousands of people, including civilians, children, the elderly and pregnant women and people with disabilities were killed. Is not this a crime against humanity or a genocide?

In 1979, Vietnam invaded and occupied Cambodia. In the following years they moved the artillery to bomb the refugee camps along the border between Cambodia and Thailand. (…) The houses were burned, the properties destroyed, many people lost their lives, including children, women, elderly and disabled people. »(…)

“If it is claimed that the PCK resorted to violence before 1975, why do not the co-prosecutors present the reality concerning the events that occurred on the other side, committed against the Cambodian people?. I want to note that the co-prosecutors have insisted on emphasizing the executions during the war and have tried to establish a relationship with the executions that occurred immediately after the end of the war. Working in this way, they try to show the camera that the PCK had a systematic plan. But it is unfair to establish this relationship. If killing during a war is a systematic plan, why then is the opposing party in that war not prosecuted by the co-prosecutors?

The PCK had a plan to wage war in order to liberate the country from destruction. The strategy in combat was to defeat the enemy, which in itself is not an illegal act. In many countries of the world, people fight against their government in the name of the cause in which they believe, and demand changes and, in particular, the right to decide their own destiny and that of their countries.

To cite some examples, Sri Lanka, Syria, Libya, Vietnam and Iraq. All these countries have known a civil war and, during those wars, the various factions developed plans to destroy the enemy.

If the Chamber considers that the planning of a war constitutes a criminal intention, as the co-prosecutors claim, then the leaders of those countries must be persecuted, and the governments … and the opposition leaders, and above all, the United, Vietnam and the current Cambodian leaders. It is not enough to chase only the crocodile’s body and allow the head and tail to escape the law. ”

“The co-prosecutors claim that the PCK encircled Phnom Penh and that this caused food shortages. The indictment also states that it was inhumane to bomb the military bases of Lon Nol established in the city. However, the indictment does not say that Lon Nol’s soldiers were equipped with US-supplied artillery and that they threw millions of ammunition, as well as more than 500,000 tons of bombs that devastated the country, destroyed houses, property, animals, farms … and killed tens of thousands of people (…) Is not this a crime or an inhumane act?

The Americans launched three times more bombs on Cambodia than on Japan during the Second World War. For the PCK, the inhabitants of the cities were not enemies, contrary to what the accusation advances. The inhabitants of Phnom Penh were mainly workers, peasants, petty-bourgeois and intellectuals, of whom the PCK needed to rely on their forces to build the revolution. ”

“I would also like to respond to the allegations of the prosecution that the regime of Democratic Kampuchea would have been a slave state. That is not true. My compatriots know that the PCK did not fight to liberate the country with the objective of subjugating the population, as the accusation states. Quite the contrary, the PCK liberated the people, who were being subjugated. We must all understand that before the liberation of April 17, 1975, most of the peasants were poor: they could not meet their daily basic needs, they were faced with great difficulties, there were no public services or social protection for the poor, corruption it was omnipresent, corruption and injustice were deeply rooted in the high Cambodian hierarchies … Thus, people became increasingly poor. The poor had to borrow money from the rich to cover their basic needs, go to the doctor and pay their taxes. The rich, for their part, took advantage of this situation and harassed the poor, demanding an interest at their discretion and practicing usurious rates. Monthly interest could reach not less than 50 percent of the loaned capital. Considering this type of excessive interest, people did not have the necessary means to pay back their debts. In this way, the creditors confiscated their farm, their rice and their house, and when the people no longer had a farm, rice or house, they were forced to work as slaves in order to repay a debt that could never be repaid. Very often, they were forced to sell their children to work as slaves for other people in exchange for food. This type of exploitation and the misery of the population was one of the numerous problems that the PCK was determined to solve by freeing the country and its people from slavery, the exploitation of human beings and the invasion of their territory by from other countries. And, for that, we had to build a country where everyone lived in equality, benefiting from independence, from autonomy; a country that decided for itself its destiny (…) the PCK never conceived any policy or a plan destined to reduce the population to slavery, to deprive them of food, to force them to work or to kill them. On the contrary, in mid-1976, the Standing Committee prepared and adopted a four-year plan for the construction of socialism in all domains. ”

Nuon Chea, and Pol Pot before him, never denied that there have been errors and crimes, but they resituate them in their context: lies of certain local cadres about working conditions in the cooperatives, personal vendettas against the inhabitants of the cities by part of the peasants who had suffered during the war, the inexperience and the pressures exerted by the Vietnamese plots, etc. It is also evident that the cadres of the PCK have great responsibilities. For example, weakness in the application of democratic centralism, a metaphysical view of the class struggle under socialism, etc But objective historical conditions should not be forgotten. “The revolutionaries are the heirs of poisoned situations,” as Catherine Quiminal rightly said. It must be taken into account that Democratic Kampuchea has not had more than three years and eight months to rebuild and develop, and both the isolation of the Cambodian revolution and the degree of destruction suffered during the war, in addition to the betrayal of Vietnam, has not been chosen by the revolutionaries of Cambodia, but they have had to face it. It was that or not to continue with the revolution.

And then the imperialist monopolies impose on Cambodia the unequal international division of labour that the working masses pay with their lives. The scoundrel of prosecutor Andrew Cayley had the shame of declaring: “The defendants who are before you are time robbers and vulgar murderers of a whole generation of Cambodians. They have stolen decades of development and prosperity in that country. “They wanted to make the masses believe that it is not imperialism that is responsible for the past and present misery of Cambodia, which is not the one that “steals decades of development and prosperity in that country. Obviously Democratic Kampuchea has not carried out the reconstruction of the country with the help of international financial institutions that deliver the wealth of the people into the hands of imperialist monopolies. Evidently when neither the land nor the factories belong to the imperialists and their local puppets, when the exploiters cannot overexploit the labour power of the dominated peoples, they regard the agricultural production of Democratic Kampuchea as a “subjection to slavery.”

Lies and huge slanders have been thrown against this revolution! And you do not have to be a communist to recognize it. The American intellectual Noam Chomsky, who cannot be accused of sympathy for Communism, honestly declared the following about the term “the genocide of the Khmer Rouge”:

“You have to be a little cautious about this matter of” genocide …. It is not evident that Pol Pot has killed so many people, or even simply more people than the United States killed in Cambodia in the first half of the 70s. We do not speak of “genocide” more than when it is the others who massacre [United States bombed and invaded Cambodia from 1969, and supported the anti-parliamentary rights forces during a civil war that lasted until 1975; Pol Pot ruled the country between 1975 and 1978There is, therefore, much uncertainty as to the exact importance of the massacre perpetrated by Pol Pot, but the best study that exists today estimates the deaths in Cambodia, among all possible causes, during the period of Pol Pot, in a figure from several hundred thousand to a maximum of one million. So, just take a look at the massacre that took place between 1970 and 1975, the period in which we are responsible, in this case the dead were also hundreds of thousands.

Also, if you really want to take this story seriously – let’s say that a million people died during the Pol Pot years, to take the higher figure – it is necessary to remember that when the United States put an end to its attacks in the interior of Cambodia In 1975, American officials predicted that in the postwar period around one million Cambodians would die more because of the effects of the American war. At the time when the United States withdrew from Cambodia, only in Phnom Penh – forgetting the rest of the country – people were dying of hunger at a rate of 100,000 people a year. The last mission of USAID [the agency of cooperation and American development] in Cambodia predicted that it would take two years of slave labour and famine before the country can barely start working again. Thus, it is not so easy to calculate the number of deaths that must be attributed to the United States during the Pol Pot period, although it is clearly a large figure: when the agricultural system of a country is annihilated and a million people are displaced from their homes to the cities in which they become refugees, of course many people will die, and the responsibility of their death is not the regime that took the baton but those who traced the path ».

“In conclusion, if we are honest about the term” genocide “, we will distinguish between the deaths in the Pol Pot era a main part that are our responsibility, the responsibility of the United States.”

But the imperialists have invented many other slanders and have spread many other nonsense, as is the case with the stupid lie that the “Khmer Rouge” repressed all those who wore glasses (!).Here is a lie in the style of Goebbels: the bigger, more people will believe it. “Lie, lie, lie, something will remain,” as the Nazi propagandist proclaimed. Thus, Democratic Kampuchea would have supposed nothing other than “chaos”, “nothing” and “obscurantism”; How can one characterize the productive struggle for the reconstruction of a country devastated by war? And the hydraulic constructions and the works carried out by the people that allowed to provide two harvests per year (the never seen in that country until then)? And the reconstruction of roads and bridges and the appearance of the first infrastructures for heavy industry? It is an insult against the people and their history. Obscurantism? The heroic partisans of Democratic Kampuchea could testify to this. The role they played in the revolution was immense, both in the armed struggle and in production, in a country in which women had no rights. Today, they have been disarmed in order to integrate them more easily into the sex tourism economy that the capitalists call the “entertainment sector”. And, proof that feudalism and obscurantism survive thanks to imperialism, is that even young virgins are sold. Women workers are killed in response to their strikes in the textile industry. And they still try to equate the “Khmer Rouge” with the mercenaries of the Islamic State! It is necessary to remember that prostitution had been eradicated in Democratic Kampuchea, and that in order that each woman could find the necessary means to live in that way having a role to play in the common task of building socialism. Intellectual charlatans describe prostitution as an inevitable evil of all human societies under the pretext that it is “the oldest profession in the world.” History shows that only the Dictatorship of the proletariat manages to sweep away prostitution, and it does so by attacking the social roots of sexual exploitation and the mafias, and that from the Paris Commune! But, obviously, for many western bourgeois it is better to go on vacation to the Cambodia of the prostitutes than to the Cambodia of the partisans. A woman with a rifle and a job is less easy to prostitute…

It is said that the “Khmer Rouge” were racists. It is certainly easy to accuse of racism a people assaulted by foreign armed forces.. We will therefore forgo refuting the accusation of anti-Vietnamese racism, even more so given that we could accuse the Corsicans, the Kanaks and even the Comorians towards the French, for example, of racism. Nor would we accuse the French of racism against those who, in the 1940s, were called “boches”. The accusation of racism towards the Vietnamese and the Chinese of Cambodia categorically ignores the fact that, in a given country, the different nationalities can have a class character. The historical development of Cambodia has given rise to the fact that there were many – if not almost all – of the buyers traders who were of Chinese origin, or Chinese-Khmer, and it is from this objective fact that the repression of «Khmer Rouge» against the Cambodian Chinese.

And, of course, there is another fact that exasperates the bourgeois intellectuals: the abolition of the currency. The philistines educated in bourgeois prejudices conceive the currency as something indispensable for humanity, but currency does not appear in nature in the same way as trees and birds, but it has a social history that is inscribed in the relations of production of exploitation between humans. Introduced by colonialism to, among other reasons, make the peasants pay taxes, the currency has played a destructive role in all the colonized countries. So, it is normal for the capitalist press to make a lot of noise around this issue. In the capitalist society in which everything is bought and everything is sold, the currency is the supreme God. Without it, the human being would be separated from all social relationships. Even our teenagers, under the influence of the dominant ideology, do not stop praising its virtues. We will never stop listening to say how much you need and how much you want. However, currency does not exist in societies in which pre-capitalist economic formations subsist, as was the case in Cambodia. On the question of currency and wages, Pol Pot responded thus to the French comrades who visited Cambodia in 1978:

“With regard to the role of currency, the wage system and trade, I wanted to say the following: in 1970-1971, we had already released between 75 and 80% of our country. At that time, we had the political power and the military power, but we did not have the economic power, since the economy was in the hands of the landlords and the capitalists. In turn, the latter hoarded the entire production because they had the money (…)

The population suffered many difficulties in the alimentary plane, like our army. These difficulties had a negative impact on the National Liberation War. Thus, after having studied this situation well, we decided to create cooperatives in order to control the economy and agricultural production in the countryside and deal with the management, distribution, procurement and exchanges between cooperatives, on the one hand, and between cooperatives and the State, on the other hand. This is how we could control agricultural production and solve the problems of the living conditions of the people. The people were enthusiastic about this situation and sent their children to the army to fight the enemy. When cooperatives began to collaborate and develop product exchanges among themselves, the role of the currency was progressively diminishing. In 1974, the currency decreased by 80%. Before the liberation, only the State [refers to the revolutionary government] used the currency, and used it to buy various products in the area that was not yet released to cover the needs of the liberated area that was under its control. After these experiences, we consulted the people and the latter felt that the money did not have any use because the cooperatives could carry out the exchanges between them without having to resort to money. Thus, at that moment, in the liberated zone that extended over more than 90% of the country with close to 6 million inhabitants, we had already solved that problem. When the inhabitants of the cities were transferred to the countryside, the cooperatives took charge of them in their entirety. In short, this experience led us to not use the currency so far. What will happen in the future? If the population thinks that the currency should be used again, we will use it, but if it thinks that this is not necessary, it will be decided accordingly (…)

In relation to the wage system, also the practices acquired in the past in the revolutionary movement, especially during the National Liberation War, which determined that both the cadres and the army had no salary. Before the liberation, in the liberated zone, the cadres, the army, the population … that is, close to 6 million people, became accustomed to living without salary.. We had emphasized that previously, most of our people had no salary, except for the officials. Thus, with these acquired practices, the population of the cities joined the cooperatives. The civil and military cadres, the men and women combatants of the army and the workers continued with this supply regime in force during the war. We believe that this prevents a heavy burden from falling on the backs of the people and allows us to reserve money mainly for national defense and construction. What will happen in the future in relation to this issue? That will depend on the concrete situation and the people. ”

We have not said that Cambodia would have been able to carry out its development project following this route had Soviet-Vietnamese aggression not taken place. The economist Samir Amin had made in 1977 a positive critique of the economic orientation followed by the PCK in the construction of socialism, analysing that it could be applied to other countries with similar characteristics (especially in Africa). Without forgetting that the construction of socialism is determined above all by its political orientation – it is politics that guides the economy – the experience of Democratic Kampuchea, studied in a critical way, could serve the future struggles of the proletariat and the peoples of the underdeveloped countries.

If the imperialists and the reaction in power in Cambodia want to soil the achievements of Democratic Kampuchea, it is because, on the one hand, the process against the Khmer Rouge provides an important opportunity to make anti-communist propaganda before the whole world, and, On the other hand, there is an intense class struggle in Cambodia, to the point that Hun Sen had to resort last year to a state of emergency in the face of workers’ strikes. What will the peasants expelled from their lands and the textile workers who are hard-hit and repressed do if they take the revolutionary heritage back into their own hands? Will the Marxist analysis of society carried out by the Cambodian proletarians continue to make the Cambodian people understand where real independence lies in a country torn between US imperialism and Chinese imperialism? Where is the true independence when a subsidiary of EDF (French) manages electricity in Phnom Penh? Or where is it when the Australian Toll controls railroads and agriculture? During the period of Democratic Kampuchea, were not their children the ones who took care of the electrical installations? Today, our imperialists will tell us without a doubt that they are occupied because they have the “savoir faire”. Cambodians have had to forget how electricity works …

The imperialist tribunal has not only condemned the old resistance “Khmer Rouge” but has also announced projects whose objective is the confiscation of the memory of the people of Cambodia in order to direct it towards the path of submission: the establishment of a day national memorial service and the construction in Phnom Penh of a commemorative monument in honor of the victims of forced evacuations as well as a ridiculous “peace learning center” (or how to teach “peace” to the people to maintain the monopoly of the violence. Let us hope that the Cambodian people, inheritors of a long tradition of fighting against colonialism since the 19th century, will not allow their exploiters of their land and their children to dictate for a long time their history and their future. As for the internationalist communists, they must celebrate April 17 as the day of the victory of a heroic people over imperialism.

Abel Kelen, April 17, 2015


CPB (ML) reporting on Cambodia

Along with the mainstream media, the reportage in the far left publications of the time, would reflect the dire state of the Lon Nol regime, largely restricted to the areas around the capital Phnom Penh and the few other major urban sites in Cambodia. There would be systematic statements about the heroic struggle and likelihood of victory as in this 1972 report from The Worker:

“The puppet regime in Cambodia is on the brink of total disintegration following the major victories of the Cambodian People’s National Liberation Armed Forces (C. P. N. L.A. F.). During the 1971-72 dry season the CPNLAF wiped out 56,000 enemy troops and won a big victory on Highway 6, In this year’s rainy season campaigns the CPNLAF put 54,000 enemy troops out of action, captured nearly 10,000 weapons and over 2 70 tons of war materials, shot down or destroyed on the ground 46 aircraft, destroyed 258 important enemy positions and liberated 480,000 people. Phnom Penh, the last stronghold of the puppet Lon Nol regime, lies isolated with Highways 1, 2 and 5 and the railway between Phnom Penh and Battambang Province finally under CPNLA F control.

Close to 90% of the land and more than 5 million out of the 7 million people of Cambodia have been liberated. Production in the liberated areas is developing quickly and the peoples’ livelihood has improved. The liberated areas have provided a strong base for the continuation of the war against US aggression, the sacrifices and heroism of the Cambodian people will soon bring their just rewards.”

~ The Worker #19 Dec 15th 1972

In its coverage of events in south east Asia, the largest of the British maoist groups, the Communist Party of Britain (ML) had expressed its solidarity with the anti-American struggles. This article from July 1973 was exceptional in the focus and detail it gave to life in liberated zone in Cambodia.


~ The Worker #14 July 12th 1973 p3

The events after 1975 in the new state of Democratic Kampuchea and the unified Socialist Republic of Vietnam did not loom large in the coverage provided by The Worker – a couple of articles a year with the generalities of solidarity. The CPB (ML) had been one of the few leftists groups in Britain (along with Healey’s Socialist Labour League) not to be involved in the late 1960s anti-war Vietnam Solidarity movement. Vietnam was covered more substantially than its neighbour, however Albania increasingly throughout the late 1970s received the lion share of newspaper columns given over to the socialist countries. Reporting on Cambodia in the pages of The Worker was sparse, superficial and unpersuasive advocacy.


from strength to strength

The imperialists are never satisfied. Not content with raining high explosive and napalm down on the beautiful country of Cambodia, destroying people, livestock, land and architectural relics, in their defeat they now turn to other forms of attack. Hence- the stream; of anti-Cambodian propaganda currently emanating from the bar-rooms and brothels of Bangkok.

The Cambodian people are going from success to success. They have begun the long process, not only of reconstruction, itself a mighty task, but also the establishment of people’s power. A state run by the workers and peasants in the interest of all who labour. To the imperialist, in decline creating nothing but destruction and barbarity, these developments are anathema, to, be attacked and slandered.

These attacks will not fool the Cambodian people, for they know the truth. Nor will they deter the workers and peasants’ of the world from following in the footsteps of the Cambodian people and the peoples of South East Asia. In our era all advance lies with those who work, the key is Marxist Leninist leadership. Hence the Imperialists’ onslaught, now verbal following military defeat, the onslaught which stems from fear and hatred and decline.

~ The Worker #9 May 3rd 1976

worker july77

The advocacy of solidarity removed any critical engagement so the accounts provided relied exclusively on the news despatches from either official Chinese sources or those emanating from Phnom Penh reproduced without comment as in this, the longest article on Cambodia carried by The Worker throughout the late 1970s reporting a press conference during the elusive Pol Pot’s visit to Beijing. In this speech controversial issues that provoked international debate and condemnation were raised, however there is no explanatory commentary in the 629 words of reportage that simply records and presents the official views.worker oct77

People’s politics guide growth in Cambodia

POL POT, Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Kampuchea, recently gave a press conference during a visit to Peking. He outlined the great achievements of the Cambodian people before and after the liberation of their country in 1975. He explained that their struggle had always been brave, but nevertheless beset by failure.

“Finally, we came to see that the fundamental reason for the failures lay in the absence of a political party to lead the revolution and a correct political line to guide it. The lesson learned is of crucial importance for our revolution. Consequently, we set up a committee in 1957 to formulate the line and policies of the party.”

By analysing the concrete conditions in Cambodia at the time, the Party formulated the tasks for the national democratic revolution.

“By carrying out the national revolution, we mean to combat imperialism, win liberation and independence of the country and liberate the people, the peasants in particular. The revolution has continued to make progress since we found this correct line and followed it.”

An important decision which came from their growing’ success was to do with the economy.

“Analysing the concrete situation in Kampuchea, the CPK Central Committee decided in 1973 to establish cooperatives in the liberated areas, because this would enable the people to handle the economy themselves and solve the problems in the peasants, livelihood and at the same time benefit the efforts in support of the front.

Pol Pot stressed the importance of the development of a revolutionary army which was self-reliant and could fight in a guerrilla fashion. “Our party called on ‘the army units to solve the problem of equipment self-reliantly and stressed that they must capture weapons from the enemy to arm themselves. During the five years of war, 80 per cent of the weapons in the hands of the revolutionary army were captured from the enemy. Many divisional units had been formed in the large administrative regions by 1974 but guerrilla operation remained the principal form of warfare. This made it possible for the regular forces to concentrate their strength to wipe out the enemy and capture major communications lines and strategic positions.”

He then spoke of two major victories for the Cambodian people since liberation in April 1975. “After the nation-wide victory in the revolutionary war, though there were many complex problems, the initiative is in our hands. We have successfully safeguarded the fruits of revolution, the people’s revolutionary state power and democratic Kampuchea. Factors for are success are legion. One of the most important factors is the evacuation of city residents to the countryside. This was decided before victory was won, that is, in February 1975, because we knew that before smashing of all sorts of enemy spy organisations, our strength was not strong enough to defend the revolutionary regime. Judging from the struggles waged from 1976 to 1977, the enemy’s secret agent network lying low in our country was very massive and complicated. But when we crushed them, it was difficult for them to stage a comeback. Their forces were scattered in various cooperatives which are in our grip. Thus we have the initiative in our hands. The enemy dare not attack from outside…”

“The second success is the solution of our people’s livelihood. Our 1976 harvest can in the main meet the people’s needs for livelihood. After the war, we must first of all solve the problem of grain and the problem of livelihood. A guarantee is thus provided for defending the people’s revolutionary political power and democratic Kampuchea…. We are convinced that under the leadership of the party and the masses fully mobilised, the situation will grow even better. Although there will still be difficulties on our road ahead, our future is bright.”

~ The Worker #21 October 29th 1977


The reader of “the Worker” would not have been informed about the major foreign policy “difficulties on our road ahead” that of the splintering relationship between the neighbouring states that resulted in escalating armed clashes and border inclusions until politically the organisation had chosen sides. So in the clashes between Vietnam and Democratic Kampuchea, The Worker publicised, without explanation or commentary, the viewpoint from Hanoi:

Vietnam on border issue

ON February 5 the Socialist Republic of Vietnam issued a statement calling for negotiations on the border dispute with Cambodia:

“The Government of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam and the Vietnamese people once again reaffirm that their unswerving principled position is to resolutely defend the independence, freedom, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Vietnam and at the same time to constantly respect the independence, freedom , sovereignty and territorial integrity of Kampuchea (Cambodia ) as well as other countries and to uphold the solidarity with the Kampuchean people, to make ceaseless effort’s to rapidly settle pr6blems concerning the relations between the two countries through negotiations.

“Vietnam and Kampuchea are two neighbouring countries; the two peoples have long been together in the struggle against the common enemy – imperialist aggressors – to secure independence and freedom. Now they share the earnest aspirations to strengthen their solidarity, long-term cooperation and mutual assistance in building their respective countries into prosperous ones in keeping with the specific conditions of each country …”

The 1962 border agreement between the People’s Revolutionary Government of South Vietnam and the then ruler of Kampuchea Prince Sihanouk, worked very well all through the years of war against US imperialism. We hope the two fraternal socialist countries will be able to sit around the conference table and agree on such a border settlement now.

~ The Worker #6 February 16th 1978

When in July 3, 1978, the Chinese Government decided to cut all economic and technical aid to Vietnam and withdraw all Chinese technicians working at the remaining Chinese aid projects in Vietnam. The Worker – hostile to China because of its actions around Albania – drew a parallel with the previous break within the international communist movement, back in the early 1960s , when the Soviet Government unilaterally cutting off all aid to China, breaking all contracts and withdrawing Soviet experts:

“Completely disregarding the principles guiding relations among, fraternal Parties and countries which were laid down in the 1957 Declaration, the leaders of the CPSU, eager to curry favour with US imperialism, engaged in unbridled activities against China … They thought they had solved their internal problems and had ‘stabilised’ their own position and could therefore step up their policy of ‘being friendly to enemies and tough with friends …”

“Apparently the leaders of the CPSU imagined that once they waved their immense political and economic pressures, they could force the Chinese Communist Party to abandon its Marxist-Leninist and proletarian internationalist stand and submit to their revisionist and great power chauvinist behests”.

~ The Worker #26 July 20th 1978

In this case the bad guys were the Chinese. By October that year, the judgement was that with regard to China:

“Today the giants of the Chinese Revolution – of the Long March, the Civil War and the creation of socialist China – are all dead. Chu Teh, Chou En-lai and Mao have all gone and with them appears to have perished the banner of socialism.”

~ The Worker #34 October 5th 1978

The former allies quickly ratchet-up the political criticisms:

“The Vietnamese, having defeated the military might of the US, refuse to be dominated by their big neighbour, once socialist now imperialist China.”

~ The Worker #41 November 23rd 1978

In a commentary on this cutting off of all aid NHAN DAN (the People’s Daily of Vietnam) stated on July 7:

“It is natural that the Vietnamese people are indignant at this treacherous act. But they do not confuse the ruling circle with the genuine revolutionaries and with the fraternal Chinese people who have united with them in fighting for the victory of the revolution of each country. The Vietnamese people have not forgotten and will never forget the valuable support and assistance given them by the Chinese people who … made such an important contribution to the success of our people’s resistance against US aggression. Neither will we forget the bright examples set by many Chinese specialists and workers who for the common interest and friendship of our two peoples worked devotedly for Vietnam until their departure. “

~ The Worker #26 July 20th 1978

See: Kampuchean People reject Pol Pot regime ~ Failure of Chinese plots against Vietnam,  The Worker #4 January 1979

precious 78

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.)


Political Tourists


From the archives an account, originally in Arabic, of a two week visit to Kampuchea in February 1976 by a sympathetic activist, Hamad Abudal Aziz al Aiya, published in part in the Australian newsletter, News from Kampuchea.

Link here to Modern Kampuchea.



While residential western media were absent from the country, there were choreographed tours of the chaotic country as when in February 1976 ambassadors from Sweden, Zambia, Egypt Tunisia, Afghanistan and Palestine were taken on a trip to Siem Reap. Reports produced were shared by the diplomatic community e.g. the 15 day visit by Swedish ambassador to Beijing, Kaje Bjork Report of the Swedish Ambassadors. Then in September 1976 the Beijing-based Ambassadors from Senegal West African Guinea and Egypt were taken for a trip around some temples around Angkor Wat.

There were a few friendly journalist delegation, one of the first was from Vietnam in April 1976 that reported “Kampuchea Today – Construction Sites Every where. . .” and interview Pol Pot.

A Chinese journalist delegation, including leading officials of Xinhua News Agency and the Central Party Film department, visited and toured Cambodia in December 1976. Reported in Beijing Review on the eve of the 2nd anniversary of Phnom Penh’s liberation, under the title: A Heroic People Building their Fatherland [Peking Review No. 16 April 15th 1977] and The Revolutionary Army Making New Contributions [Peking Review No. 17 April 22nd 1977].

Other individual accounts received less publicity and exposure, among the invited guests to Democratic Kampuchea, from the Pan-Africanist Congress, was Esrom Makgakala who spent 11 months in the country prior to the Vietnamese invasion. The account of their stay in the country was later printed in the Azanian Marxist-Leninist journal Ikwezi.

There were limited circulation of accounts offering glimpses of Cambodia (details here in 1978) of a seemingly unending stream of mostly left-wing sympathizers on guided tours to the country from Yugoslavia, Romania, North America, Norway, Belgium, France, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Turkey, and China. At the end of the year there was the visit by American journalists Richard Dudman and Elizabeth Becker and Dr Malcolm Caldwell of SAOS.


A Visit With the Khmer Rouge

March 9, 1980

By Daniel Burstein; Daniel Burstein is an American journalist who is writing a book about Cambodia. In 1978, as editor of The Call and a Marxist-Leninist he visited Cambodia.

Day breaks in a banyan forest. The sound of tropical birds mingles with the soft sunlight to offer the visitor a picture of unparalleled calm and tranquility.

Yet not 20 miles from here, Vietnamese armor is rolling and Khmer Rouge guerrillas are staging hit-and-run raids against it. This is Cambodia, a nation that has known little but war for the last 10 years and is now engulfed in a struggle for existence with the far bigger and better equipped Vietnamese army.

The banyan forest, home to a secret base of the side that calls itself Democratic Kampuchea, has become a momentary island in this war. It is here that Khieu Samphan, the new chief spokesman of the movement better known as the Khmer Rouge, has invited a small group of foreign journalists to hear his version of what has happened since the January 1979 Vietnamese invasion that drove the Khmer Rouge from power in Phnom Penh and into their current jungle bases.

Samphan, 49, who holds a doctorate in economics from the University of Paris and was once referred to by Prince Sihanouk as “my only honest minister,” has replaced Pol Pot as prime minister of Democratic Kampuchea. The change is part of an effort to improve the international image of the Khmer Rouge and win wider support for their anti-Vietnamese resistance. Pol Pot continues as leader of the guerrilla army, which still claims 50,000 troops and which apparently has survived Vietnamese “mopping up” operations during the current dry season.

With three guerrilla troop perimeters stretched out around this 20-square-mile base in northern Cambodia, and the whole area booby-trapped, mined and inlaid with the famous pungi stakes that have been the stock-in-trade of Khmer guerrillas since ancient times, Samphan is able to explain what he calls his movement’s “new strategic policy” without much anxiety over Vietnamese attack.

What emerges from the two-day visit is bound to be a limited and superficial picture of the war in Cambodia. But it strongly suggests that the Khmer Rouge are by no means finished. Rather, they appear to remain a formidable fighting force, capable of fulfilling Samphan’s promise of waging a “protracted people’s war” against the Vietnamese and their client regime in Phnom Phenh.

The figure of 50,000 troops claimed by Samphan probably exaggerates the strength of the Khmer Rouge. It is derived from the fact that before the Vietnamese invasion, Cambodia had a standing army of more than 80,000, and that Pol Pot’s forces have suffered about 30,000 battlefield casualties — a figure cited by both the Khmer Rouge and their enemies. But in addition to the battle casualties, it must be assumed the rampant hunger and disease of last summer and fall took a heavy toll of the Khmer Rouge forces.

Now, however, the guerrillas have been able to reorganize and regroup. They are dispersed throughout a string of base areas that stretches from Poipet to the Cardamom Mountains along the Thai border, as well as a number of key pockets deep inside the country. Able to operate in small guerrilla teams, intimately familiar with the terrain, highly disciplined and fiercely loyal, the Khmer Rouge are a military force far more potent than their numbers. And it is these factors which help explain why, after 14 months, the Vietnamese have not been able to eradicate the resistance, even with the tremendous firepower of their 200,000-man occupation army.

Although their guerrillas have proven capable of survival, the Khmer Rouge are in no position to even contemplate winning a military victory by themselves. It is here that Khieu Samphan’s new policy enters into the picture.

If — and it is a certainly a gigantic if — the Khmer Rouge could succeed in putting the past behind them and forging a united front with Sihanouk, Son Sann and other elements of the anti-Vietnamese, anti-Communist Khmer Serei, then two important changes would take place.

First, the guerrilla forces would be augmented not only by the combined strength of the existing groups but by having a single front into which young people from the refugee camps and from the zones controlled by the Vietnamese-backed Heng Samrin government could be recruited.

Second, aid and political support from abroad, and particularly from the United States and its Western allies, could be greatly expanded.

Under those conditions, Vietnam, which is already suffering food shortages and morale problems at home as a result of its Cambodian operation, might find continuing the war simply too costly. Even if the Vietnamese did push on, the conditions for military success in a genuine national liberation war waged by the majority of Cambodians would be greatly enhanced.

But there is a long road to travel before any such scenario could possibly unfold. In the meantime, the Khmer Rouge are concentrating on their guerrilla war, taking pains to preserve their remaining forces while putting enough pressure on the Vietnamese to keep them off balance. In another six weeks the rainy season will come, and with it a setup in guerrilla activity.

Seventeen-year-old Ket Mon, in green Chinese fatigues with an ak47 rifle slung over his shoulder, offers a glimpse of the dedication that characterizes the Khmer Rouge guerrilla. “Earlier in the fighting,” he says, “I was pushed by Vietnamese forces three times into Thailand. But always I came back to fight. It does not matter if I die. So many of our people have already died. What matters is to oust the Vietnamese from Kampuchea.”

The commander of the 105-man unit of the Second Division that has been assembled especially for review by the foreign visitors says candidly, “I can tell you that when we fight the Vietnamese we do not fight like his, in big units with heavy weapons. When we go on missions against the Vietnamese, we go in small units of four of six, or, at the most, 12. We can send our guerrillas almost anywhere in the country. They need almost nothing, because they are used to living on only a few spoonfuls of rice a day. They can fight even if they run out of weapons and ammunition. That is the way we have trained them.”

The village adjacent to Khieu Samphan’s temporary headquarters gives every indication of being the guerrilla effort. This is another characteristic of the Khmer Rouge movement: There is little distinction between civilian and solider, as every individual is seen as having some role to play in the war.

Among 600 adults in the village there are few men; it is said that most are off fighting. Women are cultivating rice and tuber crops to be sent to the front, despite the parched earth of the dry season. There are many healthy babies — a rarity in Cambodia these days — suggesting that the Khmer Rouge believe they will be around long enough to repopulate their depleted ranks. Boys no older than 8 or 9 hone pungi stakes with swift flashes of sharp knives.

In a makeshift school, students are taking apart radios and rebuilding them, preparing for the day when these skills will be needed to keep their guerrilla unit in touch with its command center. A small field hospital, where a dozen patients are being treated for malaria, exhibits a wide variety of medicines from Thailand, China, Switzerland Italy and France. No longer is falling prey to disease the certain death warrant it was earlier in the fighting.

Late in the afternoon, an unannounced return to the same village brings a more candid look at daily life among the Khmer Rouge. A large group is having dinner. It consists of three spoonfuls of rice for each person in a soup made from leaves.

A political meeting is apparently taking place. About 16 people — perhaps one working team from the village — are gathered in a semicircle discussing the day’s events. Their leader, a beautiful young woman in the traditional black pajama-style outfit and checkered Khmai scarf, is explaining to the villagers why it is important for foreigners to visit Kampuchea. It is an object lesson in the “new strategic policy.”

The extremism and rigidity of the Khmer Rouge political system has led to international condemnation of the Pol Pot regime. But now, according to Khieu Samphan, the Khmer Rouge are making an effort to break with many of the most radical and controversial policies of the past. While stopping short of directly criticizing the Pol Pot years, Samphan acknowledges that the former prime minister was removed from his post because of opposition to his policies by many of the Khmer people as well as critics abroad.

The total evacuation of Cambodia’s cities, the restrictions of freedom of movement and religion, the abandonment of currency and other policies that characterized the Pol Pot regime between 1975 and 1978 would not be repeated if the Khmer Rouge returned to power in Phnom Penh, either alone or in coalition, according to Samphan. Although he rejects charges that his government carried out a policy of genocide or mass murder, the Khmer Rouge spokesman admits that 10,000 execution took place under Pol Pot.

Asked if he really believes the past can be put aside and a new united front forged with Sihanouk after the prince’s denunciations of the Khmer Rouge, Samphan says, “I know the prince. He is a patriot. . . . He knows we can fight on and, on the other hand, he also knows that he himself has no forces. This struggle will be a very long one, but on its road, eventually, all patriots will meet.”

Although many observers take Pol Pot’s replacement to be only a symbolic gesture, since he remains the army chief, the Khmer Rouge are serious about bringing Sihanouk’s old associates and prominent intellectuals into their ranks with at least nominal status. My Man, an aging former leader of Cambodia’s Democratic Party, smokes a pipe in his hammock in the base area, reading the Bangkok Post and Time magazine. “No, life was not easy fro the intellectuals before,” he says. “But now there is an important place for them.” Thiounn Mumm, a leading Cambodian scientist who was trapped behind the Vietnamese lines and only recently reached Thailand as a refugee, now is chief of science and technology in the reshuffled Khmer Rouge government.

The Khmer Rouge want American help very badly. Samphan does not want to discuss past disputes with the United States, such as the Mayaguez affair of American press criticism of the Pol Pot regime.

“These things are in the past,” he says, “and should not be brought up.”

Perhaps in an effort to clear the air with the press, Samphan now acknowledges that all 21 Western journalists who disappeared in Cambodia in the early years of the war are probably dead. As president of Kampuchea since 1975, he says, he would have known if there were any Western journalists in the country.

Samphan says he appreciates the U.S. opposition to the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia, expressed at the United Nations. He is careful to link Soviet support for Vietnamese ambitions in Indochina with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. “There is a worldwide problem of Soviet expansion,” he says, “and a worldwide front must be built to stop it.” Stopping the Vietnamese in Southeast Asia, he argues, is a key step in preserving world peace.

At a banquet for the newsmen in their jungle redoubt, Khieu Samphan and Foreign Minister Ieng Sary fuss over their guests, explaining the intricacies of how to eat the traditional 14-course meal whose fresh ingredients have been trucked in from Thailand. The food is exquisite, accompanied by rounds of Kloster beer and Johnny Walker.

This is a meal with a message. And the message is that, even here inside Cambodia, 18 miles from a major Vietnamese position, the Khmer Rouge are confident enough to entertain the outside world with traditionally lavish Khmer hospitality.




Speeches and interviews by Pol Pot

1963–1981 Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Kampuchea

1981–1985 General Secretary of the Party of Democratic Kampuchea

1985–1997 Director of the Higher Institute of National Defence

[Supplemented by secondary accounts]

+ Translated primary sources for the Cambodian communist leader are pretty rare. The only collection that contain them, Pol Pot Plans the Future: Confidential Leadership Documents from Democratic Kampuchea, 1976-1977 Yale University, Southeast Asia Studies (1988) and an earlier volume Communist Party Power in Kampuchea Documents and Discussion Cornell University. Southeast Asia Program No 106 (1977) by Timothy M. Carney. There are very few places on the web where you can find them so follow the sources.

+ That individuals leaders become identified with a revolution has led some activists to promote the concept of a “Guiding Thought” that epitomises the application of Marxism to the national struggle. Pol Pot, the Cambodian revolutionary leader, had been part of a cohesive and enduring core leadership that worked together for decades engaged in insurrectionary warfare, puncture by a few years of wielding state power.

+ Reading these texts – that date largely from that interregnum in power – offers the perspective, modified by the collective analysis, of one of the least likely candidates for a “Guiding Thought” or even a “Personality cult”. The sparse biographical notes issued by the regime noted that Pol Pot “likes to live and work in the calm”. The bland anonymity of the person remains despite being the subject of numerous biographies in which the personal becomes submerged into the larger narrative. [See David P. Chandler (2000) Brother Number One, a Political Biography of Pol Pot. Silkworm Books; Ben Kiernan (2004) How Pol Pot Came to Power. Yale University Press, and Philip Short (2005) Pol Pot: The History of a Nightmare. John Murray]

+ Cambodia was never a gentle land, the focus of international intrigue and military assault, it had its own social tensions and contradictions. These interviews and speeches subjectively reflects how the Cambodian communist leadership saw the events that shaped Cambodian history in the latter half of the last century. It is a bland truism that history never starts completely anew and disregarding the historical context in which leaders operated and to which they reacted undermines the attempt to understanding such actions. This contentious history, and the accuracy of Pol Pot’s accounts have been challenged, framed by charges of genocide and subject to partisan historical selection, was a complex period of tumultuous struggles and heavy costs in social transformation. A clear theme and concern in the political compass of the Cambodian movement was its use of revolutionary nationalism and focus on the independent sovereignty of Cambodia and its people’s struggle. This looms large when Pol Pot talks.

+ September 1981 saw the patriot win over the marxist when the dissolution of the CPK   saw the nationalism of Democratic Kampuchea come to define their political discourse and abandon their revolutionary mission. The Standing Committee led by Pol Pot argued, and no flight of rhetoric was spared, that the nation and people of Kampuchea were threatened with extinction by the Vietnamese. The post-invasion adopted strategic line of the Patriotic and Democratic Front of Great National Unity was for “tens or even hundreds of years to come”. The sole ambition to “Save the Nation” transcended any class ambition or identification, and whether that would have reasserted itself was curtailed by the disintegration of the CPK’s replacement organisation, the Party of Democratic Kampuchea, on the cusp of the new century.

+ Pol Pot died in 1998, a prisoner of former comrades that he once spoke for. This selection of texts introduces the themes and analysis for the English speaker of what motivated the movement he led.


Speeches and Interviews, 1976-1998

  1. 1976 JulyInterview to Tran Thanh Xuan, Vice-Director General of Viet Nam News Agency, head of the Vietnamese press and television delegation on a visit to Kampuchea. The interview was given in Phnom Penh. From the Journal of Contemporary Asia. 1976 Pol Pot Interview
  2. 1976 Sept – Pol Pot Speech at Commemorative Meeting for Mao Zedong, Phnom Penh September 13th 1976. Peking Review Vol.19 No.41 October 8th 1976 1976 Sept Pol Pot Speech at Commemorative Meeting for Mao Zedong
  3. 1977 SeptLong live the 17th anniversary of the Communist Party of Kampuchea: speech provides an account of the Kampuchean revolutionary organisation referred to as Angkar. Unofficial translation prepared by Group of Kampuchean Residents in America [G. K. Ran.]. Chicago: Liberator Press 1977 1977 17 CPK_Anniversry
  4. 1977 Sept – “Discussion between Hua Guofeng and Pol Pot,” September 29, 1977, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, CWIHP Working Paper 22, “77 Conversations.”
  5. 1977 SeptSpeech at banquet given by Chinese authorities reprinted in Perking Review Vol.20 No.41 October 7th, 1977 1977 October Peking Review-41
  6. 1977 October – Supplement: Pol Pot’s visit to North Korea. Telegram 066764 from the Romanian Embassy in Pyongyang to the Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Pol Pot’s Visit to the DPRK,” October 10, 1977, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, Archive of the Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Folder 931/1977, Issue 220/E, Bilateral relations between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and socialist countries in Asia (the People’s Republic of China and the People’s Republic of Kampuchea), February – October 1977.
  7. 1977 November Supplement: Canadian Communist League (Marxist-Leninist) receives message from Communist Party of Kampuchea. The Forge, Vol. 2, No. 22, November 25, 1977 1977 November Supplement
  8. 1978 JanuarySpeech commemorating 10th anniversary of the Revolutionary Army of Kampuchea. At mass meeting in Phnom Penh, January 17th 1978. Dept. of Press and Information, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Democratic Kampuchea. 1978_Jan17_dk-army
  9. 1978 MarchInterview of Pol Pot with the delegation of Yugoslav journalists to Democratic Kampuchea, March 17, 1978. Dept. of Press and Information, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Democratic Kampuchea. 1978 March_ Yugo Journalists
  10. 1978 April Brother No.1. Pol Pot interviewed by DK Press Agency about Vietnam’s invasion of Kampuchean territory. DC-Cam, Searching for the Truth. Number 16, April 2001: 2- 5 1978 April Interview with Brother Number One
  11. 1978 AugTalks with the delegation of the Association Belgium-Kampuchea, Phnom Penh, August 5, 1978 – Dept. of Press and Information, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Democratic Kampuchea, 1978 Supplementary translation from DC-Cam 1978 Aug_ Beligum Delegation
  12. 1978 AugTalks with the delegation of the Sweden-Kampuchea Friendship Association – Dept. of Press and Information, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Democratic Kampuchea, [August 1978] 1978 Aug_ Swedish Delegation
  13. 1978 AugInterview with Jan Myrdal for Swedish television. Dept. of Press and Information, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Democratic Kampuchea, [August 1978] 1978 Aug _jan-mydral
  14. 1978 SeptInterview with the Turkish magazine, AYDINLIK. Phnom Penh, September 14th 1978. Translated transcript 1978_Sept_14aydinlik
  15. 1978 SeptInterview to the representatives of the Hong Kong’s newspapers Wen Wei Po and Ta Kun Pao, Phnom Penh, September 21, 1978 – Dept. of Press and Information, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Democratic Kampuchea. 1978 Sept-hongkong_newspapers
  16. 1978 Sept– On the occasion of the 18th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of Kampuchea, Phnom Penh, September 27, 1978. Let us continue to firmly hold aloft the banner of the victory of the glorious Communist Party of Kampuchea in order to defend Democratic Kampuchea, carry on socialist revolution and build up socialism. Dept. of Press and Information, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Democratic Kampuchea. 1978_18 CPK_Anniversry
  17. 1978 Sept : Biographical notes on Pol Pot from Dept. of Press and Information, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Democratic Kampuchea, 1978 1978 Sept_ Biography
  18. 1978 November – Speech At the banquet given in honour of the delegation of the Communist Party of China and the government of the People’s Republic of China. Phnom Penh, November 5, 1978.” Dept. of Press and Information, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Democratic Kampuchea. 1978 Nov Pol pot Banquet speech Phnom Penh
  19. 1978 DecemberInterview with Xinhua News Agency Dept. of Press and Information, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Democratic Kampuchea.  1978_Dec_xinhua-interview  
  20. 1978 December Supplement: Canadian M-L delegation visits Kampuchea. The Call, Vol. 8, No. 23, January 22, 1979.  1978 December Supplement
  21. 1979 December – Jungle interview with Japanese journalists. Peking Review Vol 22 No.41 December 21st 1979.  1979 Interview Peking Review December 21st
  22. 1979 December Supplement- Deposed Pol Pot gives interview in the jungle. The Guardian , 11 December 1979  1979 Dec_ Jungle interview
  23. 1979 December Supplement: Unclassified US Diplomatic cable , December 11, 1979  1979 JAPANESE PRESS INTERVIEWS POL POT
  24. 1981 Communique on the dissolution of the Communist Party of Kampuchea. Dept. of Press and Information, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Democratic Kampuchea 1981-dissolution-of-the-cpk
  25. 1997 October– Nate Thayer. Pol Pot: Unrepentant. Far Eastern Economic Review October 30, 1997.    1997 exclusive interview Nate Thayer
  26. Supplement reporting on Thayer’s interview: New York Times October 23, 1997  1997reporting on Thayer interview
  27. 1998 April Interview with Pol Pot, Radio Free Asia    1998 April Interview Radio Free Asia
  28. 1998 April Supplement: Elizabeth Becker, Pol Pot Remembered. April 20, 1998 BBC’s Radio 4 ‘From Our Own Correspondent’  1998 suppement Becker
  29. 1998 April – Dying Breath by Nate Thayer , The Far Eastern Economic Review   April 30, 1998   1998 April 30, Dying Breath   



As early as April 1975 a special National Congress outlined the principles of Democratic Kampuchea’s foreign policy; the new authorities in Phnom Penh made it clear that they would not be a compliant understudy to any foreign patron:

The long-standing strategic position of our Cambodia is to firmly pursue the policy of independence, peace, neutrality, and nonalignment. Our people absolutely will not allow any country to establish military bases in Cambodia and are firmly and irrevocably opposed to all forms of foreign interference in Cambodia’s internal affairs from outside, whether military, political, economic, cultural, social or diplomatic.

 Admittedly although Phnom Penh’s sole functioning air link was to Beijing, and Hanoi for a short period of time, the frequent depiction of Democratic Kampuchea as a hermetically sealed hermit state belies the state to state relations, continuing engagement in the Non-Aligned Movement and diplomatic and trading relations that existed, let alone the issues surrounding the border disputes that involved the fledgling state.

Throughout 1975, formal diplomatic relations were limited to China and North Korea, Democratic Kampuchea’s only international allies for years to come, as well as DK’s immediate neighbours Vietnam and Thailand, there was attention given to the “forging of international contacts” with significant political activity of the new regime in 1975 [i]

By the end of 1977, DK had diplomatic relations with around 100 states, mostly non-aligned countries, however the diplomatic missions active in the Cambodian capital remained restricted to China, North Korea, Vietnam (until December 1977), Laos, Cuba, Albania, Romania, Yugoslavia, and Egypt with little, if any, freedom of movement for the diplomatic corps.

In Ieng Sary’s speeches before the tiny diplomatic corps in Phnom Penh during the 1977 New Year’s reception he described, “the revolution of Kampuchea as a modest contribution to the common cause of the revolution in the world and to the struggle of all peace- and justice-loving peoples, especially to the struggle of the peoples of the non-aligned countries and the Third World[ii]

* *   *   *

Sino-Cambodian relations today

In 2010 the Chinese ambassador to the Kingdom of Cambodia, Zhang Jinfeng announced that the People’s Republic of China had never politically engaged with Pol Pot or the Democratic Kampuchea regime, she argued instead that Chinese assistance was humanitarian and limited to “food, hoes, and scythes.” [iii]

What could she mean?

China had supported the pre-1975 National United Front of Kampuchea (FUNK), and maintained close diplomatic ties with the regime after they came to power. It was one of only nine countries to keep an embassy in the country after April 1975. China had been the principal international supporter of the Democratic Kampuchea regime, acting as its main aid supplier, China was the only country to have any substantial presence there; there were thousands of Chinese technical experts living in the country. After the Vietnamese occupation of 1979 maintained material and diplomatic support for the resistance forces and eventually the formation of a four-party government.

Pol Pot’s only official visit outside Cambodia while in power as the leader Democratic Kampuchea was to China and North Korea. He arrived in Beijing 28 September 1977 and departed for Pyongyang on October 4, returning China a week later and returning to Cambodia on 22 October 1977. He signed agreements for increased military aid, training, and other assistance with both countries during this trip

.The People's Daily welcomes comrade-in-arms Pol Pot to China in 1977 Deng and Pol Pot During his visit to China, Pol Pot (on the left) met both Deng Xiaoping and Hua Guofeng. Official undated Chinese photograph. People’s Daily on Pol Pot’s visit.

To suggest that “after their victory in April 1975, the Khmer Rouge revolutionaries turned to China largely by default” [iv] downplays the previous relationship that saw the Cambodian resistance have Beijing as its principal oversea location, supplier and international supporter.

True the People’s Republic of China hardly had an unblemished record of supporting Cambodian communists. China had backed the royalist Prince Norodom Sihanouk during the 1960s, rallied slowly behind Cambodian insurgents after Lon Nol took power in 1970, and pursued rapprochement with the United States in 1971–72.

But China housed Sihanouk in 1970 when he was overthrown by General Lon Nol. China still remained a good relationship with exiled Sihanouk, treated with all the honors due a head of state, providing him with sanctuary and the means to struggle against Lon Nol, Zhou Enlai conveyed a message to Sihanouk from Mao Zedong which stated:

The People’s Republic of China will scrupulously respect whatever decision Prince Norodom Sihanouk makes; if he wishes to put an end to his political career, following the coup d’etat two days ago. China will bow to that decision; but if Prince Sihanouk does not accept the fait accompli and decided to lead a national movement of anti-American resistance for the liberation of Cambodia, China will fully support Prince Sihanouk and will grant him all possible help, except aid in Chinese troops, to ensure that the just and patriotic struggle is successful. Nevertheless, the prince should be told that the struggle will be long and arduous and will have its discouraging moments. Therefore, Prince Sihanouk should take time to reflect deeply on this before making a decision.[v]

In 1971, Zhou Enlai told Henry Kissinger that the big difference between China and the United States was that while the Chinese helped the Vietnamese in their struggle against the USA, they never involved themselves with Vietnamese affairs and in the case of Sihanouk’s government, China followed the same principle.[vi]

There are often internal disputes within their government, and sometimes when they ask for our mediation, we say we will not stick our hands into it. But the amount of articles we carry in our press concerning publications and reports regarding the Royal Government of National Union of Cambodia (GRUNC) is unprecedented in our press and world history. Norodom Sihanouk has already published 21 proclamations to his people, and we have published them in our press and we have published them without changing a word. I really can find no example of a head of state invited abroad who has such extensive freedom”.[vii]

So ‘China Played No Role in Democratic Kampuchea Politics’?

It is difficult to imagine the Chinese were completely unaware of what was going on in the country. Academics have argued that at least 5,000 Chinese people were classified as technicians and working in the then-Democratic Kampuchea as advisors to Pol Pot and his Standing Committee. In August 1975 the first team of experts from the Chinese Ministry of Defence arrived in Phnom Penh followed on 13 September 1975 by General Deng Kun-an, appointed Head of the Chinese Group of Experts. And to show how important Cambodia was to China, on 12 October 1975, the Deputy Chief of Staff of the People’s Liberation Army arrived in Cambodia.   Chinese Dignitaries and Foreign Experts, Chinese Embassy, Phnom Penh, September 1978.Chinese Dignitaries and Foreign Experts, Chinese Embassy, Phnom Penh, September 1978. Note in the middle of the first row (from left) Hu Yaobang, Yu Qiuli, and Wang Dongxing

Several analyses imply that Chinese advisers in Democratic Kampuchea, by doing nothing or by somehow benefiting from DK policy, were somehow complicit in the horrors of what was occurring in DK. Henri Locard implies that the ambassador, as “dean of the diplomatic corps,” enjoyed a unique and influential perch in Phnom Penh and served as the node through which radical Maoist policy was disseminated into DK. A judgement which over inflates the influence of the Chinese ambassador and is analytical flawed in its understanding of the workings of the regime. Democratic Kampuchea demonstrate it was not a client or vassal state but an authentic independent entity. Locard’s interpretation and argument is that China was somehow complicit in the regime’s policies and performance. Not surprisingly the Judgment of the People’s Revolutionary Tribunal of August 1979 also reflected that view: China ‘massively increased their military aid and set up a thick network of advisors to supervise all the activities’ of the DK leadership, ‘encouraged this clique to carry out a savage genocidal policy against our people . . . [and] war of aggression against Vietnam,’ and served as ‘the invidious instigators of this plan.

These charges are not true.

Looking at the question of China’s diplomatic role, the degree of ideological affinity and engagement and the material aid in national building provided by the Chinese authorities, and the involvement in the armed conflict involving China, Vietnam and Kampuchea provides some basis to interrogate the statement that ‘China Played No Role in Democratic Kampuchea Politics’.

This raises the question of the nature and extent of China’s influence in Democratic Kampuchea. In terms of aid, did China became very influential in the country by sending thousands of technicians to help the Khmer Rouge revolution, or was there a pre-existing ideological affinity that underlie the relationship?

When the United States, in an intrusion by its aircraft into the airspace of Democratic Kampuchea on February 25 1976, bombed Siem Reap, killing and wounding dozens of people and causing heavy damage to the city, the Chinese government declared in People’s Daily:

The Chinese people and Cambodian people are close comrades-in-arms- and brothers. They have always enjoyed each other’s sympathy and support in protracted revolutionary struggles. The Chinese people highly appraise the remarkable successes achieved by the Cambodian “people in the great cause of consolidating the fruits of victory in the revolution and building up their country, and resolutely support their just struggle to defend their independence, territory, sovereignty and national dignity. We are convinced that, confronted by the heroic Cambodian people, all provocations and aggression by imperialism and other reactionaries are doomed to ignominious defeat.[viii]

While the communist parties of the two states often emphasised ideological solidarity in speeches and newsletters, Beijing not happy: Sihanouk’s press secretary Nouth Choeum asserted: ‘the Chinese are worried. They say the CPK ‘walk too fast . . . [the Khmer Rouge] do not have the backing of the Chinese who are above all realists when it comes to making revolution.’ [ix]

Foreign commentary normally alluded to the Cambodian leadership as ‘Following Peking’s Revolutionary Model’.[x] The argument that the Chinese revolutionary state—particularly the more radical phases such as the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution—provided both a blueprint and an inspiration for the Cambodian revolution.

A standard view that developed is seen in the work of Locard that “Extremists in China used Cambodia as an experimental laboratory to test diehard Maoist policies, which were in the process of failing in China: the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution whose concept involved, in part, abolishing all institutions and starting from scratch.”

Again there is assertion rather than evidence of a process of command and control. The idea of Chinese control of the Kampuchean movement goes against the known provable behaviour of that movement’s leadership and its endeavours to avoid control from Hanoi.

It may be that Chinese theorists inspired them, it was nevertheless Cambodians who headed the regime based on “the ideology of a minuscule group of individuals pretending to be assigned the mission of resurrecting their civilization,” as Locard argues. His position reflects a particular analysis (that tends to ignore inconvenient development realities of the short-lived regime) of a policy goal of a return of Cambodia to some mythical pure state that supposedly existed in its distant past during the golden age of Angkor (c 800-1400 AD) where the Khmers flourished and to do so by instituting a cultural revolution modelled on Mao’s cultural revolution in China, that seeks to exceed his in its comprehensiveness.

This meant that everything foreign had to go, which included education and the educated, and all foreign influences, so that those who lived in the cities and were therefore tainted by foreign influences were driven out of them and became the “New People” forced to live in slave like conditions in the countryside, whilst being murdered if they showed any sign of foreignness, such as being educated, or any sign of disobedience. The “Old People”, those already living in the countryside as peasants, about half the population, were pretty much left alone.

This apocalyptic scenario forms a simplistic “Year Zero” thesis that is easy to grasp however undermined by a more detail look at the social cost of the radical transformation and the context in which it was started. There was no simple deindustrialisation of society undertaken and the failure to stabilise the new state and its development strategies in the aftermath of civil war proved less attractive explanation than the presentation of the DK regime as a product of fanatical xenophobia.

The Cambodians were publically referred to as “comrades-in-arms[xi] and received by the leading figures in China’s political and government structures. In return, the praised “the great, splendid and solid militant unity and brotherly revolutionary friendship between the Kampuchean revolutionary organisation and the Communist Party of China and between the people of the two countries.” [xii] This was not simply revolutionary rhetoric but reflected a genuine relationship. The Kampuchean response to the death of Mao Zedong in September 1976 saw a public display of “most profound condolences” with its political leadership visiting Sun Hao, China’s ambassador in Phnom Penh.

On behalf of the Kampuchean revolutionary organisation[xiii] Pol Pot expressed their “extreme grief and regret to extend our boundless revolutionary affection and esteem to the memory of the sublime soul of Chairman Mao Tsetung[xiv]

Fulsome praise for “the closest and most warm hearted comrades-in-arms of the Kampuchean people” was evident in the memorial address given by Pol Pot on September 18th in Phnom Penh to a meeting of around 1,000 people including all the ministers of the new state. It would be fair to draw the conclusion by the tone of the address and its content, of a close identification and admiration for the late Chairman explicitly described as “the best and most valuable example for the contemporary world revolutionary movement[xv] . While the admiration for Mao and the Communist Party of China was expressed, Pol Pot underlined that their relationship was based “firmly on Marxism-Leninism and on the principles of genuine equality, mutual respect, mutual respect for each other’s sovereignty and independence and non-interference in each other’s internal affairs”. The steadfastness of these principles enunciated partly explains the Kampuchean response that “warmly acclaim the victory of smashing the counter-revolutionary “gang of four” anti-party clique[xvi] – theirs was not to interfere in China’s domestic politics and the expectation was China refraining from meddling in theirs. There may be elements of realpolitik with regard to their principle international supporter, but the Cambodian communists went beyond flattering lip service and placed Mao at the centre of the political universe, invoking the anti-revisionist Marxist-Leninist pantheon: “his name and his revolutionary thought will always be a beacon for the Chinese revolution and the world revolution just as Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin are beacons guiding the road of revolution.” [xvii]

This would place Cambodian communists within the Maoist paradigm. However their political practice once in power did not use well-identified Maoist techniques such as the mass line and united front politics, the rhetoric and similarities with Cultural Revolution mass mobilisation were selective and has led judgements that identified the Kampuchean revolutionary organisation as ‘maoist’ when arguably its lesser known indigenous and independent influence were more influential in shaping and directing its politics. [xviii]

Matthew Galway [xix]does argue that Pol Pot visited Beijing in 1965–1966, was awoken fully to Mao’s ideas, and return to Cambodia a Maoist convert. Although he concludes that despite some similarities, Mao’s application of Marxism in China—as he outlined in “On New Democracy”—and his vision for a new revolutionary culture were vastly different from Pol Pot’s domestication of Maoism in Kampuchea.

Pol Pot’s radical social transformation implementation of his Maoist vision, however, entailed surpassing all ideas and programs—including those of China, Vietnam, and North Korea—which he believed had not gone far enough in achieving pure socialism. Also, as part of Kampucheanization, Pol Pot emphasized landlordism, as if the Cambodian agrarian situation were commensurable with that of China. But in adapting Maoist doctrine to Cambodian conditions, he ignored that the situation in Cambodia’s rural sector lacked the same degrees of destitution and concentration of rice lands in the hands of big landlords that had characterized the Chinese situation [xx]

Pol Pot emphasized landlordism as if the Cambodian agrarian situation resembled that of China, despite the fact that the “rural merchant was the major exploiter of the Khmer peasantry” through usury and inequitable pricing systems that prevented peasants from maximizing agricultural surpluses.  [xxi]

Academics contest the degree of the influence of Maoist thought on the CPK leadership under Pol Pot but point to the similarities between the Chinese experiences under Mao and the radical domestic policies of the DK regime. Whereas Kenneth Quinn [xxii] sees Pol Pot declaring himself Maoist, Craig Etcheson sees the identified Maoist faction of the CPK losing out in top level purge. These nuisances in argument are not to the forefront of a public debate set firmly in the framework of genocidal regime.

The standard academic study, Andrew Mertha’s Brothers in Arms [xxiii] explores the central question of why was a powerful state like China unable to influence its far weaker and ostensibly dependent client state, Democratic Kampuchea (DK). His study shows that in the deeply uneven bilateral relationship, on the policy front at least, China was the one that ended up as the subordinate party. In China’s relationship with DK, the expected outcome—a relationship in which Beijing dictated critical strategic terms to Phnom Penh—never came to pass. According to Mertha the idea of Cambodia being China’s “revolutionary brethren” only went so far. While there is a common link made between Maoism and the CPK, particularly when comparing Pol Pot’s Four Year Plan in 1976 and China’s Great Leap Forward, the reality of the relationship between the two communist states was quite different, and this was reflected in the relationship between officials in Cambodia. He said: “By 1975, the Chinese, having learned from bitter experience, were warning the Cambodians against rushing too quickly towards realising their revolutionary goals. Khieu Samphan and Ieng Thirith are said to have smiled condescendingly.”

John Ciorciari, [xxiv]agreed with Mertha that politically speaking, China’s influence in Democratic Kampuchea was not as great as some might think, adding that its “support for disastrous Khmer Rouge policies can easily be overstated”.

He continued: “Mertha has shown that important limits to Chinese influence also existed at the bureaucratic level, as fragmented Chinese aid-administering agencies struggled to work with mismatched, underdeveloped, and sometimes obstinate Democratic Kampuchea institutions.”

Observers assume a tacit alliance whereas John Ciorciari argues that, “The evidence reveals a complex partnership characterised by mutual suspicion and held together more by convergent strategic aims and functional cooperation than ideational affinity. China developed significant bureaucratic and technical influence at key nodes throughout Democratic Kampuchea, but evidence suggests that China’s influence over high-level Khmer Rouge policies on security and domestic affairs was weak. Some Chinese officials disapproved of DK policies and urged moderation, but the xenophobic DK leadership defended its autonomy fiercely, and China trod gingerly, even when brutal and reckless DK policies jeopardised Democratic Kampuchea’s viability, embarrassed China abroad, and invited war with Vietnam. China’s conception of its strategic interests weakened Beijing’s leverage and enabled the DK leadership to manage the relationship to a significant degree.”[xxv]

So ‘China Played No Role in Democratic Kampuchea Politics’

Not strictly true. Chinese authorities offered advice in talks with Cambodian leaders – e.g. Mao Zedong did, at a meeting in Beijing in June 1975, cautioned Pol Pot:   CAMBODIA-GENOCIDE-TRIBUNAL-UN-FILES

You should not completely copy China’s experience, and should think for yourself. According to Marx, his theory is a guideline for action but not a doctrine.[xxvi]

There are other known occurrences of advice offered.

On August 26, 1975, Zhou Enlai received Norodom Sihanouk and his wife, accompanied by a Khmer Rouge delegation composed of Khieu Samphan and Madame Ieng Sary, at the hospital. Zhou was still fully lucid but much weakened by his illness and the treatment. This did not, however, prevent him from telling the Khmer Rouge leaders present at the hospital that “we the Chinese Communists must bear the distressing consequences of our own mistakes. We take the liberty of advising you not to attempt to reach the final stages of Communism with one great leap forward. You must proceed with much caution and proceed slowly with wisdom on the path leading to Communism.”

According to Jeldres, Prince Sihanouk’s private secretary , “From mid-1973, Zhou Enlai began a series of diplomatic discussions to try to establish a coalition in Cambodia, led by his friend Sihanouk, so as not to allow the Khmer Rouge to take over the country alone. Zhou Enlai was convinced that the Cambodian extremists’ takeover of the country would not be in Cambodia’s interests. He spoke to Henry Kissinger and to several ambassadors in Beijing. He tried to induce French president Georges Pompidou to raise the issue of Cambodia, and of his friend Sihanouk, with the Americans.

However, Zhou’s failing health and internal political developments in China worked against his efforts to see his friend Sihanouk at the helm of a coalition in Cambodia.

The French historian Henri Locard’s book, “Pourquoi les Khmers Rouges,” (Vendemiaire 2013) looking into the whys of the DK regime repeats the alleged story that the Chinese political theorist Zhang Chunqiao first drafted the constitution of Democratic Kampuchea, promulgated in January 1976. Zhang Chunqiao was a member of the Gang of Four who played a leading role in China’s Cultural Revolution. Jeldres has also alluded to Zhang’s “long association with the Khmer Rouge leadership”:

In Beijing, Sary began meeting regularly with members of the Shanghai radicals, also known as the “Gang of Four”, in particular with the leading member of the Gang of Four, Zhang Chunqiao, who had a long association with the Khmer Rouge leadership, and would visit Cambodia secretly in mid-April 1976 to help draft the constitution of the new Democratic Kampuchea. [xxvii]

why-could-the-khmer-rouge-seize-power-on-17th-april-1975-dr-henri-locard-8-638However this alleged episode gets repeated although it is dubious to endorse the veracity of this story- it only has a single source, a Hong Kong journal article [xxviii] Given the conceit of the CPK leadership it would be out of character that it relied on an outside source as this story suggests. That Zhang Chunqiao was so directly involved in Kampuchean policies, was said Mr. Locard “mind-boggling”. What also undermines the story is that the Kampuchean leadership led by Pol Pot ,following the arrest of the Gang of Four, issuing a public statement denouncing the ‘counter-revolutionary Gang of Four anti-Party clique.’ The regime thus rallied quickly to the new Chinese leadership headed by Hua Guofeng despite their supposed ideological preference for the Gang of Four, confident in China’s continued strategic commitment to Cambodia.


One of the “Gang of Four,” Zhang Chunqiao, who had taken a personal interest in the Cambodian issue, escorts Prince Norodom Sihanouk, Princess Monique, and Ieng Sary, a Khmer Rouge leader, to a banquet in Beijing. [xxix]

So ‘China Played No Role in Democratic Kampuchea Politics’

True in the sense that ‘the Chinese government never took part in or intervened into the politics of Democratic Kampuchea’.

Even if Jeldres argues that it did provide guidance, the question is how far this advice was influential or followed. Chinese involvement and assistance to the new regime in Cambodia began immediately. On 24 April 1975, on board the same plane taking Ieng Sary back to Cambodia was Shen Chia, deputy Director of the International Liaison Department of the Central Committee of the CCP, who was travelling to Phnom Penh to assess with the new leaders their immediate needs.[xxx] The Chinese conveyed a message to Pol Pot, through Ieng Sary, to replace the troops who had seized Phnom Penh with new units and to entrust its management to a civilian administration, citing their own example in Beijing in the aftermath of their victory in 1949.[xxxi] As history records, there were different policy decision taken such as the mass evacuation of the capital.

Deng counselled that as the National United Front of Kampuchea (FUNK) had fought and won a victory together it should in future maintain national union and keep the cooperation of Sihanouk, Penn Nouth and other nationalist personalities in order to create political stability in the country. China’s repeated insistence on the importance of Sihanouk’s continuing role as leader of FUNK and Head of State of GRUNC was not translated into influence in the new state where Sihanouk remained an isolated figure-head under virtual house arrest.

So ‘China Played No Role in Democratic Kampuchea Politics’

Again, not true if one assesses the impact of politics in China as understood and processed by Cambodian leftists. However China cannot be held responsible for others conclusions and actions.

In early May 1975, the Chinese embassy reopened. Reports by Chinese officials stationed in Democratic Kampuchea was that their access to information about events outside of their immediate workplace, including atrocities, was quite limited and dependent on rumours and euphemistic reports from their Cambodian counterparts and handlers – quests who avoided getting ensnared in what they called the internal affairs of DK.

Andrew Mertha observed, “Although my interviewees—retired Chinese technicians who managed infrastructure projects in Democratic Kampuchea—tended to become a bit guarded when discussing this, it became clear that they did not, nor could not, know the extent of the killings that were taking place, even as they were aware that something sinister was afoot…… And since they knew well what being on the wrong end of a political purge was like, they tended to show as much compassion and humanity to their Cambodian colleagues as was possible without raising the suspicion of DK cadres. Former CPK soldiers press-ganged into building the Chinese-supervised Krang Leav airfield project in Kampong Chhnang Province recalled the Chinese as being constructive in their advice, and, when DK cadres were not looking, giving the Cambodians extra food rations and cigarettes”.[xxxii]

Elizabeth Becker’s account also conveys something of the isolation felt by the representatives of China in Kampuchea in which a senior Chinese diplomat reports that PRC diplomats had restricted access and were closely guarded but adding that: ‘We heard about violence. Not exact stories but rumors. We did guess many were dying in the countryside at the hands of local functionaries’[xxxiii]

Talking to newspaper reporters, Suong Sikoeun, a former Ministry of Foreign Affairs official during the Democratic Kampu­chea regime, said the people who blame China for the death and destruction caused under the DK regime are wrong. “We should not blame China,” he said. “We should blame ourselves. China has no responsibility for the Khmer Rouge. Chinese leaders taught Cambodian leaders about modernization, not extermination.” [xxxiv]

In Sopheap, another DK Foreign Ministry official who lives in Pailin, agrees with Suong Sikoeun and said he doesnot understand why people are angry at China. If people want to judge China, then you should also judge the US, France and other countries. The great powers (particularly the United States) have no interest in providing an honest accounting of why the KR came to power in the first place, or how the United States supported them and shielded them from justice for decades, even after they were driven from power.

I don’t know why people are making an issue about this,” he said. “I cannot find any evidence of interference in Cambodian affairs from China. At that time, China advised us to broaden our relationship with other countries and not be too harsh on the US. It is a mistake of Democratic Kam­puchea that we didn’t listen to them.” [xxxv]

BookcoverSummary of Brother-in-Arms content 

  1. 1. The Khmer Rouge Bureaucracy

This chapter describes the political and policy apparatus of Democratic Kampuchea (DK), tracing how power and authority were refracted throughout the system along functional and spatial dimensions, respectively, to underscore the variation in institutional integrity necessary to translate the power emerging from it into concrete policy locally. It shows that the state apparatus in DK did provide a modicum of governance despite the fact that it took some time to establish them, and even after they were up and running, they were unable to function effectively because of the deadly political atmosphere. However, by the latter half of the regime, the intuitive and flexible approach to governance and administration had ossified into a rigidly cellular and risk-averse collection of individual officials throughout the system, all of whom had little reason to trust any of their colleagues. Ultimately, the Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK) imploded on itself as the search for enemies seeking to undermine the state led to a series of purges that decimated its ranks.

  1. The Bureaucratic Structure of Chinese Overseas Assistance

This chapter considers the environment encountered by the thousands of Chinese technicians, skilled workers, and other expatriates working in Democratic Kampuchea (DK). It shows that, unlike the conventional wisdom, there appears to have been little sense of socialist brotherhood. Rather, Chinese workers appeared to have expected a professional experience in which they might act as mentors to a rising class of technical workers in DK. Although these Chinese experts were almost certainly aware that some horrific political violence was afoot—given their own, less lethal but nonetheless highly violent experiences in China—there was absolutely nothing that they could do about it, except perhaps help in a modest way by helping the Cambodians with whom they worked when their Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK) supervisors were not looking. Finally, while assistance to DK afforded Chinese experts the opportunity to ply their trades, there was always a possibility that organizational and institutional problems would prevent them from doing so. In fact, Chinese foreign assistance projects were often at the mercy of institutional constraints among Chinese bureaucracies as well as the state apparatus of the recipient country.

  1. DK Pushback and Military Institutional Integrity

This chapter presents the first of three case studies driving the argument of this book, namely that Chinese influence was largely insignificant when it came to shaping Democratic Kampuchea (DK) goals and means of achieving them. The case involves the planning and construction of Krang Leav airfield, located just outside the Cambodian village of Palarng. First, the case shows that decision to place the airfield in Kampong Chhnang is just one of many instances where DK preferences won out over Chinese ones. Second, even if China wanted to, it was unable to influence DK in the implementation of policy because the bureaucracy in charge of the airfield, the Revolutionary Army of Kampuchea’s (RAK) Division 502, was among the strongest and most centralized in the country. As a result, Krang Leav is a rare instance in which a major Chinese assistance project in DK was an unqualified success; indeed, the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia in December 1978 was the only thing that prevented the airfield from becoming fully operational.

  1. The Failure of the Kampong Som Petroleum Refinery Project

This chapter presents a case study of the repair and refitting of the Kampong Som petroleum refinery, describing the project as one of the most spectacular failures of Chinese assistance to Democratic Kampuchea (DK). China was unable to shape the DK policy area of infrastructure development for two reasons. First, DK institutions were simply incapable of managing the complex tasks assigned to them, particularly once the internal political purges began. Skilled Cambodians had either been killed during the early stages of the revolution or were hiding their identities in order to avoid such a fate. Thus, the majority of managers as well as laborers at Kampong Som were Cambodian children, aged eight to fifteen. The second reason has to do with the fact that the Chinese institutions were themselves fragmented and incapable of effectively planning and coordinating the various technical and managerial dimensions of the project, let alone of exploiting DK institutional weakness, however modestly, to influence DK policy.

  1. China’s Development of Democratic Kampuchean Trade

This chapter looks at trade and commerce, the one area where China was able to shape Democratic Kampuchea (DK) practices significantly—as well as the institutions involved. This was because Chinese commercial institutions did not suffer from significant fragmentation and lack of coordination, and because DK’s Ministry of Commerce was institutionally complex and fragmented. This allowed China to colonize the institution structurally and especially procedurally in ways unimaginable in the case of military assistance. Like much that was being constructed and initiated at the time, this commercial infrastructure was modest in scale, and it was cut short by the Vietnamese invasion of 1979. Yet it appears to have been a viable forum for the exchange of ideas and expertise, one that could have been developed into an important asset in terms of creating revenue and maintaining informal contacts with a wider range of international actors than was willing to admit public dealings with the Phnom Penh regime.

According to Mertha, two main factors prevented China from effectively influencing leaders of the Khmer Rouge in their military and economic policies.

The first was there was a real suspicion on the part of the leaders of Democratic Kampuchea against any outsiders, even including China which was their best friend at that time,” he said, adding that the regime was cautious of efforts by Beijing to colonize their country. The DK leadership would accept Chinese aid and technical guidance but would defend its policy freedom. “The second was, I think, [that] China was unable to work with the lack of infrastructure and trained personnel on the ground in Cambodia.”

Mertha said that the regime resisted Chinese influence on its military; there was no compelling proof of Chinese involvement in the internal security apparatus. In March 1976, the DK Central Committee decided that it needed Chinese military support to fortify the state against Vietnam, but in terms of internal security, ‘inside the country, we can master it.’ [xxxvi]

However he suggests that the regime’s inattention to Democratic Kampuchea’s commercial sector allowed Beijing to benefit from essentially controlling the country’s exports.

So ‘China Played No Role in Democratic Kampuchea Politics’

True given the condition-free nature of Chinese aid: and it was a bit more than the suggested “assistance through food, hoes and scythes”. Foreign aid, mainly from China secured promises of economic aid, technical assistance, and military training. Clearly, the intense involvement of Chinese advisors and technicians in the economic infrastructure of the country reflected a commitment of support from China for the development plans of the DK regime. However those domestic objectives were not dictated by a Chinese plan but a Kampuchean commitment one. Drawing on Mertha’s work illustrates the extent of that support given by China:

  • Chinese technical advisors were also engaged in supervising factories and infrastructure. CPK officials requested extensive Chinese technical support on at least eight sites: a weapons factory, an ammunition factory, a metal production site, a weapons warehouse, an airport, a seaport, a paper mill, and a rubber treatment factory.
  • This assistance extended to advising on banking and finance, While the DK leadership had abolished the currency China had printed for them, in 2012, the former deputy director general of the DK Overseas Commercial Bank testified at the Khmer Rouge tribunal, describing how China helped fund and establish the bank and train Cambodian officials to facilitate a developing trade relationship, whereby products at Kampuchean factories were shipped to China in exchange for machinery and other PRC exports to Democratic Kampuchea.
  • Numerous Chinese advisors reportedly visited the dam and reservoir construction project at Trapeang Thma in northwest Cambodia,
  • Former DK cadres indicate that PRC advisors also made regular visits to a rubber factory in Kampong Cham province and that many Chinese worked with or helped supervise Cambodians in the field. At a tyre factory in Kandal, a former worker also recalls extended visits by up to 20 Chinese advisors and technicians and saw them regularly in the town of Ta Khmau. All of these worksites are located near mass burial pits from Khmer Rouge killings, though it is unclear whether Chinese officials witnessed extrajudicial killings.

Mertha said. “Chinese assistance dwarfed that of all the other countries combined. China was treated by the Democratic Kampuchea leaders as a different type of entity than the others,

This was because of the vast quantity of aid it gave to the DK: firstly, in military form, before and after 1975 with tons of weapons and deliver them through the port of Kampong Saom. It continued throughout the party’s rule in other forms: the building of roads and railways; the establishing of the Kampong Som petroleum refinery and the airfield at Kampong Chhnang; the processing of Chinese crude oil from Daqing oil fields. The relationship also meant that China could exploit Cambodia’s natural rubber production, and work on its electricity grid. Mertha suggested that Phnom Penh’s increased electricity production at the time may have been geared towards eventually repopulating the capital as part of the development plans for the Cambodian economy.

Economic aid also flowed in the form of rice, fuel, and other products. Chinese ships holding 200,000–400,000 tons of cargo began arriving every month with aid supplies. Initial shipments included large quantities of rice and civilian goods, and by mid-summer, China reportedly began to supply weapons as well. Chinese leaders saw support to Cambodia as an important hedge against a deteriorating relationship with Vietnam –

In October, Chinese deputy chief-of-staff Wang Shanrong travelled to Phnom Penh and announced a draft military aid plan. Chinese trade grew, and a former DK official working in Kampong Saom estimates that up to 80% of Kampuchean imports came from China in the 1975–76 period. A former DK Commerce Ministry official reports that in exchange for machinery, Democratic Kampuchea sent large regular shipments of rice, grain products, and other materials to China.

Chinese officials were sometimes frustrated by the Khmer Rouge refusal to accept aid and advice. When Chinese official Fang Yi travelled to Phnom Penh in December 1976, he asserted that the Cambodians ‘have gone too far in promoting self-reliance,’ noting that the DK regime had not even used the $20 million worth of grant-in-aid commodities that the PRC had provided in 1975. Chinese officials believed that the regime had gone ‘too far in practicing egalitarianism and self-reliance.’ Sentiments repeated a decade later when, Xinhua journalist, Yang Mu identified what was agreed as gone wrong: “Officials made mistakes in trying too hard to implement policies…trying to establish socialism too quickly, not taking progress a step at a time, being excessive in all activities…purges and fear were not a good tactic of ruling” (Reports from the Jungle of Kampuchea, 1987:225-226 – although not reprinted in the second English language edition produced in 2010 by Red Sun Publishing).

In February 1976, Wang Shanrong returned to Phnom Penh and concluded a more extensive military aid agreement. China planned to provide 320 military advisors; equipment for radar, anti-aircraft artillery, and a military airport; four escort ships and torpedo boats; and equipment for a tank regiment, signal regiment, three artillery field regiments, and a pontoon battalion for the army. Wang also said China would assume responsibility for construction of a naval base, airport, munitions depot, and enlargement of a weapons-repair facility Chinese army trainers/ advisors and did not command operations in the field.

DK military reports show that by August 1976, technical advisors from the Chinese government were providing advice and training to CPK officers on how to construct the airfield. An estimated 10,000 people are believed to have laboured at the site, and many perished. Hundreds of Chinese technicians and advisors arrived to help build the airport and undertake other military preparations. Those working on the Krang Leav airfield lived in a foreign experts building about three kilometers east of the site—that is, outside of the city of Kampong Chhnang—and not far from the field kitchen and barracks housing the Cambodian labour forcel. Although one could see the residence from the airfield, the Chinese workers had no contact with the Cambodian workers except on site. Every morning at 7:00 a.m., four or five small buses would arrive and take the hundred or so Chinese workers to various sections, including the control tower, an airstrip, a garage for cars, a concrete road to and from Kampong Chhnang, a timber processing site, and a testing ground for assessing the correct pressure for the concrete.[xxxvii]

Given that the Khmer Rouge had no air force and that the base included a command center built into a nearby mountain, speculation was raised that PLA engineers supervised the facility intended as a forward base for the PLA air force. Whereas, in reality, China’s first overseas military base did not get established until forty years later in 2017 in the Horn of Africa state of Djibouti.

The port at Kampong Saom – the primary conduit for bilateral trade and a significant site for military cooperation, with DK troops in Kampong Saom were training under Chinese military advisors and learning how to operate the Chinese naval vessels dispatched to Democratic Kampuchea; at least one hundred Chinese workers were stationed around the port.

The Case of the Petroleum Refinery at Kampong Som provides Mertha with evidence of China’s assistance and the problems those advisors faced. The project was beset by problems. An on-site worker summed up the situation at the oil refinery in brusque and dire, but nonetheless accurate, terms that matched the general mood of workers who had been working on the project on a long-term basis:

It has been three years since we have been working on this refinery. We have to recover the operating room, but there have been so many problems, especially with electricity. Also, the supply chain from China to here has simply been disconnected. The Cambodian side seems to refuse to learn about what we are doing. We also need to train translators. The Cambodians who should be in charge of production are poorly educated, and too young. The techniques and methods of operation for oil refinery are unique, and workers need a basic industrial knowledge base.[xxxviii]

building railways

Within the narrow scope of their technical advisory roles Andrew Mertha has shown, through a series of recent interviews with former Chinese personnel stationed in Cambodia, that PRC employees generally had very limited contact with the local population beyond their professional interactions. Their experience was less one of fraternal solidarity and mentorship than disdain for the technical incompetence of their (mostly young) Cambodian counterparts and frustration with the inefficient, opaque DK bureaucracy.

So ‘China Played No Role in Democratic Kampuchea Politics’

Clearly China’s alliance with Democratic Kampuchea was a strategic necessity that came out of the larger Sino-Soviet split and China’s increasing nervousness about Vietnamese behavior.

In late 1977, Vietnam began developing contacts with DK rebel groups in eastern Kampuchea, including So Phim, and Vietnam launched a military strike across the border. Chinese vice premier Chen Yonggui visited Democratic Kampuchea as an apparent show of support, while in Beijing the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee authorised dispatching higher levels of arms and other military equipment.

On 31 December Democratic Kampuchea severed diplomatic ties, and China cut off all military cooperation with Vietnam, accusing Vietnam of ‘aggression.’

Zhou Enlai’s widow was sent to Phnom Penh on an official visit. Although the visit was geared in part to show PRC support for the Pol Pot regime, she appears to have borne a message from Beijing advising the CPK to moderate its approach to the border dispute

In March 1978, a harsh Vietnamese crackdown on private businesses of the ethnic Chinese Hoa population led to waves of refugees and exacerbated the growing rift. Chinese rhetoric hardened, and its policy shifted from encouraging negotiation towards deterring Vietnam from invading Cambodia. It sent a team of engineers to rebuild the railway between Kampong Sam and Phnom Penh, which passed near the Vietnamese border, and the engineers remained in place even after completing their task, perhaps to establish a Chinese ‘trip-wire’. Deng promised Son Sen enough equipment for three divisions and enough food, medicine, and ammunition for approximately 100,000 troops by the end of 1978. With more weaponry and advisors, the DK army increased the frequency of its forays into Vietnam.

Similar border disputes with Thailand proved to be non-escalating and limited economic cooperation between both states could be maintained throughout the period of Democratic Kampuchea , in the case of Pol Pot, attacking Vietnamese villages inside Vietnam, both provoked (and used to excuse ) the subsequent invasion of Cambodia.

Vietnam asked:

Who are behind these hangmen whose hands are smeared with the blood of the Kampuchean people, including the Cham, who have been almost wiped out as an ethnic group, the Viet, and the Hoa? This is no mystery to the world. The Pol Pot-Ieng Sary clique are only a cheap instrument of the bitterest enemy of peace and mankind.[xxxix]

By autumn, an estimated 6,000 Chinese military advisors were in the country, along with considerably more Chinese technicians. China continued to voice strong support for Democratic Kampuchea, and DK officials reported ‘agreement on all issues’, especially ‘mutual support to win victory against the invasion of the Soviets’ and ‘their satellite, the land-encroaching Vietnam’.

Unwilling to abandon the DK regime but seeing war as nearly inevitable, China sent additional aid, including arms, radio equipment, and canned food into Cambodia for a protracted guerrilla campaign that could bleed Vietnam. Reports circulated that China refused a request to provide Chinese ground troops. An alleged Chinese document from 1979 (the ‘Geng Biao report’) – Keng Piao’s Report on the Situation of the Indochinese Peninsula, -indicated that Chinese officials deemed it imperative to support their allies ‘no matter what kinds of mistakes the Cambodian Communist Party . . .committed in the past.’[xl]

As Vietnamese forces swept into Cambodia and approached Phnom Penh in early January 1979, China evacuated its advisors and diplomatic personnel, destroyed embassy documents, ferried Sihanouk and his family to Thailand, and soon set up an embassy in the Cardammon Mountains to help support the reconstituted National Army of Kampuchea. [xli] China, working with Thailand, continuously supplied weapons to three Cambodian resistance factions, and supporting the diplomatic integrity of the Coalition Government of Democratic Kampuchea in the international arena.

After the Paris Agreements of October 1991 were signed, China’s presences inside Cambodia increased as Hun Sen started informal relationship with Beijing after the coup in 1997. Hun Sen Visited Beijing in 1999. Following the past decades, Hun Sen has cultivated ties with China, expelling Taiwan’s unofficial liaison office from Phnom Penh, and now buried the past and is embracing China, which he sees as a means of bringing economic development to Cambodia. Sino-Cambodian relations remains strong even with the experiences during the interlude of the few years of the DK regime in the late 1970s. It has become a major source of foreign assistance and foreign investment in Cambodia. Most PRC aid programs and projects in Cambodia today involve technical assistance, grants or low-interest loans, and construction of public buildings and infrastructure involving Chinese companies.

Whether China plays a role in Cambodia today is not in dispute. Since the late 1990s, China has provided military assistance to the kingdom in the form of military barracks, school, hospital, trucks, and ambulances. China reportedly also has provided military and police training and in return, Cambodia has voiced its support of the “one-China” principle, despite its significant economic relations with Taiwan. The normalisation of relations were signalled when Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao visited Cambodia in April 2006, he pledged US$600 million in aid reinforcing the tie between the two countries (Cambodia, 2006). .




[i] Ragos-Espinas, M. (1983) Democratic Kampuchea 1975-1978, Quezon City: Asian Center, University of the Philippines. p. 44

[ii] Reprinted in: Democratic Kampuchea, a Workers’ and Peas­ants’ State in Southeast Asia, (Embassy of Democratic Kampuchea in Berlin, GDR. March 1977).

[iii] Kong Sothanarith, “China Played No Role in Khmer Rouge Politics: Ambassador,” CAAINews Media, January 23, 2010,

[iv] John D. Ciorciari, China and the Pol Pot regime Cold War History, 2013

[v] Ibid.

[vi] Nixon Presidential Library, Box 1034, Polo II-HAK China Trip – October 1971, Transcript of meetings, NARA II, College Park, Maryland

[vii] China, King Sihanouk and Democratic Kampuchea: A Case Study of Twin-track Diplomacy by Julio A. Jeldres

[viii] Resolute Support – for Cambodia’s Just Stand. Renmin Ribao Commentator, March 5 1976

[ix] Is Sihanouk’s Exile Coming to an End?’ Far Eastern Economic Review, 1 Aug. 1975, 22;

[x] see Ian Dunbar with Edith Lenart, Far Eastern Economic Review, 23 May 1975, 22–23

[xi]    Peking Review No.39 September 24th 1976

[xii]  Peking Review No.41 October 8th 1976

[xiii] The existence of the Communist Party of Kampuchea was not publically acknowledge until April 1977

[xiv] Peking Review No.40 September 30th 1976

[xv]  Peking Review No.41 October 8th 1976

[xvi] Peking Review No.45 November 5th 1976

[xvii] Peking Review No.41 October 8th 1976:32

[xviii] Contending analysis of the ideological nature of the Communist Party of Kampuchea –  see note xx and amongst others, Grabowsky, V. Democratic Kampuchea: Theses on the Kampuchean Revolution 1975-78 Kampuchea Bulletin Nos 9-10 Sept/Dec 1981; and Condescending Saviours: What Went Wrong with the Pol Pot Regime. A World To Win No.25 1999; Michael Vickery (1984) Cambodia 1975-1982, George Allen & Unwin; and Kiernan, Ben (2008) The Pol Pot Regime: Race, Power, and Genocide in Cambodia Under the Khmer Rouge, 1975-79 Yale University Press.

[xix] From Revolutionary Culture to Original Culture and Back: “On New Democracy” and the Kampucheanization of Marxism-Leninism, 1940–1965. Cross-Currents: East Asian History and Culture Review E-Journal No. 24 (September 2017) • Confidential 1977 CPK Party Centre document that reveals the extent to which Mao’s rebranding of Marxism-Leninism influenced his engagement with Maoism was published in Pol Pot Plans the Future: Confidential Leadership Documents from Democratic Kampuchea, 1976-1977 (Southeast Asia Studies Monograph Series) 1988.

[xx] Willmott, W.E. (1981) The Analytical Errors of the Kampuchean Communist Party. Pacific Affairs Vol.54 No.2 Summer 1981, 215–216; and Frieson, Kate (1988). The Political Nature of Democratic Kampuchea. Pacific Affairs, Vol.61 No.3 pp.405-427

[xxi] Willmott 1981, 220.

[xxii] “Explaining the Terror,” Cambodia 1975-1978: Rendezvous with Death (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press) 1989

[xxiii] Andrew Mertha (2014) Brothers in Arms: Chinese Aid to the Khmer Rouge, 1975-1979 (Cornell University Press)

[xxiv] Assistant professor in public policy at the University of Michigan and co-author (with Anne Heindel) of Hybrid Justice: The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia. University of Michigan Press 2014

[xxv] Ciorciari, John D. (2013) China and the Pol Pot regime Cold War History,

[xxvi] Cold War International History Project Working Paper 22, 77 Conversations Between Chinese and Foreign Leaders on the Wars in Indochina, 1964-77 (May 1998) :191

[xxvii] Quoted in China, King Sihanouk and Democratic Kampuchea: A Case Study of Twin-track D Diplomacy by Julio A Jeldres

[xxviii] Hu Ben and Huang Zhangjin, “Shen pan hong se gao mian” (Trial of the Khmer Rouge), Hong Kong, Feng Huang Zhou Khan (Phoenix Weekly) 5 March 2008, p. 28.

[xxix] A Personal Reflection on Norodom Sihanouk and Zhou Enlai: An Extraordinary Friendship on the Fringes of the Cold War. Cross-Currents: East Asian History and Culture Review E-Journal No. 4 (September 2012) • (

[xxx] Suong Sikoeun lived in China during three periods to do work for the Khmer Rouge—from 1970 to 1974, from 1979 to 1980 and from 1990 to 1992—and said he learned much from his fellow revolutionaries. His biography “Itineraire d’un intellectuel khmer rouge,” [Itinerary of a Khmer Rouge Intellectual.] Paris: Les Editions du Cerf Paris. 2013:189

[xxxi] Ibid. op. cit. p. 191 see: China Not To Blame, Ex-Khmer Rouge Say by Gina Chon and Thet Sambath | The Cambodian Daily , November 10, 2000

[xxxii] Andrew Mertha, ‘Surrealpolitik: The Experience of Chinese Experts in Democratic Kampuchea, 1975–1979’, Cross-Currents No. 4 (Sept. 2012)

[xxxiii] Becker, E. (1998) When the War Was Over: Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge Revolution (New York: Public Affairs, 278

[xxxiv] The Cambodian Daily November 10, 2000

[xxxv] Ditto

[xxxvi] in Chandler et al,(1988) Pol Pot Plans the Future: Confidential Leadership Documents from Democratic Kampuchea, 1976-1977 (Southeast Asia Studies Monograph Series) p 8.

[xxxvii] Mertha, Cross-Currents: East Asian History and Culture Review

E-Journal No. 4 (September 2012) • (

[xxxviii] Ditto

[xxxix] Foreign Broadcast Information Service APA-78–119, 20 June 1978.

[xl] Keng Piao, “Report on the Situation on the Indochinese Peninsula”, Issues and Studies (Taiwan) 17: 1, 1981, 82. This report, also known as the Geng Biao Report, is regarded as China’s internal Document, translated by the Taiwan intelligence officer in English. China still does not say whether the content of the report is correct or not. But scholar Brantly Womack said the document “did come from official Chinese sources.” Brantly Womack (2003) “Asymmetry and Systemic Misperception: China, Vietnam and Cambodia during the 1970s”, Journal of Strategic Studies 26: 2, p119, note 48.

[xli] See Yun Shui, (2002)‘An Account of Chinese Diplomats Accompanying the Government of Democratic Kampuchea’s Move to the Cardamom Mountains’, Critical Asian Studies 34: 4 pp 497–519.


China Played No Role in Khmer Rouge Politics: Ambassador

By Kong Sothanarith, VOA Khmer Saturday, 23 January 2010
[Original report from Phnom Penh 22 January 2010 via CAAI News Media]
China’s ambassador to Cambodia told a group Friday that the Chinese had not aided the Khmer Rouge but had sought to keep Cambodians from suffering under the regime.
“The Chinese government never took part in or intervened into the politics of Democratic Kampuchea,” the ambassador, Zhang Jin Feng, told the opening class at Khong Cheu Institute.
The Chinese did not support the wrongful policies of the regime, but instead tried to provide assistance through food, hoes and scythes, Zhang said.
“If there were no food [assistance], the Cambodian people would have suffered more famine,” she said.
The comments come as the Khmer Rouge tribunal prepares for its second trial, of five high-ranking members of the regime.
However, a leading documentarian of the regime said the Chinese may want to revise that statement, given all the evidence that points to their involvement with the Khmer Rouge.
“According to documents, China intervened in all domains from the top to lower level: security, including the export of natural resources from Cambodia, like rice, bile of tigers, bears and animal skins to exchange for agriculture instruments,” said Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia.
“In the domain of security, Chinese advisers trained units to catch the enemy, and some of the trainers went to inspect the outcome of the training at the local level,” he said.

British-Kampuchea Support Campaign (2)


1979 pamphlet picket leafletmeeting leaflet

Kbul 1 may 1980KBUL 4 Nov 1980KBUL 3 Sept 1980

Link to article index for the Kampuchea Bulletin




1980 meeting leaflet

The Kampuchea Bulletin, produced by the British-Kampuchea Support Campaign (1980- 1986), carried a regular section providing an international ‘News & Press Survey’ as well as the documents and statements of patriotic forces. At the core of the BKSC were independent leftist- inclined academics providing a wider analytical geo-political focus. As can be seen by a selection of articles it carried, the Kampuchea Bulletin firmly placed the struggle in its wider international context.

KBUL 9-10 Sept 1981KBUL 13 July 1982KBUL 12 April 1982KBUL 11 Jan 1982KBUL 14 OCT 1982KBUL 15 Jan 1983KBUL 16 April 1983KBUL 17-18 July 1983KBUL 19 Jan 1984KBUL 20 Apr 1984

Selection of Bulletin Articles & Reviews

Grabowsky, V. Cambodia 1975-1982 by Michael Vickery. No. 21 Jul/Sept 1985  KB 21 1985 Vickery
Grabowsky, V. Democratic Kampuchea: Theses on the Kampuchean Revolution 1975-78 Nos 9-10 Sep/Dec1981 KB 10-11 1981 Theses
Guide to Kampuchean Organisations and Personalities No.4   Nov / Dec 1980 KB 4 1980 Personalities
Jordan M. & McColgan M. Aftermath by Pilger & Barnett No.12 April/June 1982 KB 12 1982 Aftermath
Jordan, M, From Socialism to Expansionism No.8   July/Aug 1981 KB 8 July 1981 
Keleman, P. Analysts or Apologists? The ‘Left’ media on Kampuchea No.3     Sept/Oct 1980 KB 3 1980
Keleman, P. ASEAN: between the superpowers Vol.7   May/June 1981
McColgan, M. Inside Democratic Kampuchea No.11     Jan/March 1982 KB 11 1982 VISIT
McLean, N. Answering the Lie Machine (Malaya News Service) October 1979 Pamphlet  1979 Answering the lie machine
Mohan, J. Coalition: A great step forward No.13   July/Sept 1982 KB 13 1982 Coalition
Mohan, J. China and Indo-China Vol.16   April /June 1983 KB 16 1983 China
Mohan, J. Why Vietnam Invaded No.4   Nov / Dec 1980 KB 4 1980
P.K. How Pol Pot Came to Power by Ben kiernan No.22 1986 KB 22 1986 Kieran
Quiminal, C. Le Kampuchea: Vietnam-Cambodge Guerres et Independance Nos. 17-18 July/Dec 1983 KB 17-18 1983
Summers, L. Kampuchea: Vietnam’s Vietnam? No.2   July/August 1980 KB 2 1980
Vincent, E. Vietnam Re-Colonised: Soviet expansionism in SE Asia Vol.15 Jan/March 1983 KB 15 1983
Willmott, W.E. The Analytical errors of the Kampuchean Communist Party No.11 Jan/March 1982 KB 11 1982 ERRORS


KBUL 21 JUL 1985KBUL 22 1986