The Pol Pot dilemma

In relation to that war, the cables give insight into some of the tactics employed by the Vietnamese to topple the Khmer Rouge, including allegedly training up Cambodians to operate as subversives in their homeland. They also reported the Khmer Rouge assertion that the murder of British academic and Khmer Rouge sympathiser Malcolm Caldwell during a trip to Cambodia was perpetrated by infiltrating enemy agents. Elsewhere in the cable, they relayed reports that the killers had been dressed differently from most cadres, and noted that, at the very least, the killing would be great propaganda for the Vietnamese.

“That such an incident took place in their presumably heavily guarded compound in Phnom Penh will be a propaganda coup for the Vietnamese, who have been harping for months on how insecure the Pol Pot government is,” reads a cable from the China US Liason Office to the State Department on December 23, the day of Caldwell’s death.
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“[Chinese foreign minister] Huang Hua noted that having defeated the US and acquired large quantities of US arms, the Vietnamese had ‘swollen heads’, and that they have long harbored plans for an Indochinese Federation,” reads a cable from the US Embassy in Malaysia to the State Department on April 27, sent after a meeting with a member of a Swedish government delegation that had just visited China.

Op-Ed: The Phnom Penh Post

The Pol Pot dilemma

Khmer Rouge senior defence personnel look at a map during the 1970s

Khmer Rouge senior defence personnel look at a map during the 1970s. Cables from the State Department released on WikiLeaks earlier this week outline the US’s reluctant backing of the brutal Pol Pot regime. AFP

A trove of more than 500,000 US diplomatic cables from 1978 released by WikiLeaks on Wednesday includes hundreds that paint a vivid picture of a US administration torn between revulsion at the brutality of Pol Pot’s government and fear of Vietnamese influence should it collapse.

“We believe a national Cambodia must exist even though we believe the Pol Pot regime is the world’s worst violator of human rights,” reads a cable sent by the State Department to six US embassies in Asia on October 11, 1978. “We cannot support [the] Pol Pot government, but an independent Kampuchea must exist.”

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Anti-Democratic Politics: Book Review

Book Review

By Sophan Seng

Intervention & Change in Cambodia: Towards Democracy? By Sorpong Peou. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2000, Hardcover: 573pp.

Recent studies of Cambodia have extensively focused on democracy building including its challenges as a post-conflict country. In 23 October 1991 is considered the significant turning point and it is the renaissance for Cambodia to develop democracy. This date is the Paris Peace Agreement collectively signed. The United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) was appointed as the central body to implement all tasks stipulated by the Paris Peace Agreement. Among those key goals is to neutralize Cambodia’s politics that have been divisive among different political factions and ideologies. Building the capacity for democracy in Cambodia after the Paris Peace Agreement is the main focus written by Sorpong. In order to reflect the reality of democracy development in Cambodia, Sorpong has turned 90 degrees arguments to draw attention by contrasting many different approaches of his thesis. His work is engrossed and erudite through the combination of the topical, analytical, chronological and descriptive approaches. He put effort to justify his book as not substantially based on quantitative or statistic research, but his approach is academically prevalent. He used democracy development as the independent variable and he precisely included Cambodia’s political anti-democratic behavior, internal political structures, and external intervention as the based dependent variables to secure his debate[1].

Sorpong Peou presently is the Associate Professor of Political Science at Sophia University in Japan. He received his PhD in York University from Ontario, Canada. His researches interest is International relations in the Pacific Asia, comparative politics of East Asia, collective human security. His written books focusing on Cambodia potentially reflects his academic background in this area and his nationality as a Cambodian-born Canadian accredits his comprehension on Cambodia issues very well. This book is worthy to read for those who seek to read the academic works from Cambodian scholar writing about Cambodia. Sorpong has numerously written many books about Cambodia such as “Cambodia – The 1989 Paris Peace Conference : Background Analysis and Documents” in 1991, “Conflict Neutralization in the Cambodia War: from Battlefield to Ballot-Box” in 1997, “Intervention & Change in Cambodia: Towards Democracy?” in 2000, “Cambodia: Change and Continuity in Contemporary Politics” in 2001, “International Democracy Assistance for Peacebuilding: Cambodia and Beyond” in 2007, “Human Security in East Asia: Challenges for Collaborative Action” in 2008 and other numerous published articles relating Cambodia. So we can agree that Sorpong has well illustrated his expertise on Cambodia.

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