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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