1970: Prince Sihanouk ousted and Lon No1 takes over;
Cambodia begins fighting the communists with support U.S.
U.S. Congress ends military assistance to Cambodia 1975: The Khmer Rouge takes ; U.s. Embassy staff evacuated Phnom Penh
1975-1979: Up to two million Cambodians die under the Khmer Rouge
Vietnam invades and topples Pol Pot Cambodia
Prince Sihanouk's efforts throughout the previous decade to keep
Cambodia out of the war in and walk a tightrope between superpowers had failed. In March 1970, while he vacationed in Vietnam , the National Assembly voted unanimously to withdraw its confidence from Prince Sihanouk. France
Lon Nol would become the new head of state and oversee the drafting of a new constitution. In October 1970, he proclaimed the
Khmer Republic, with the removal of Vietnamese Communists from Cambodian lands at the center of its agenda.
The Prince and the communist powers-the governments of North Vietnam, the Soviet Union and China-claimed that the CIA was behind the coup, while President Nixon and Henry Kissinger, then National Security Advisor, expressed surprise at the take-over, stating the United States was in no way involved. Many scholars now believe that the
knew that Sihanouk might be overthrown, but whether or not it had a hand in the coup has never been certain. The exiled Prince would go on to form a government in United States called the Gouvernement Royal d'Union Nationale de Kampuchea, or GRUNK, while encouraging Cambodians to join the rising Khmer Rouge party. Paris
United States military had become increasingly suspicious of the Prince and viewed him as an obstacle to its objectives in Southeast Asia. The trafficking of weapons and supplies for Vietnamese communists through the Cambodian had long been an issue of concern, as were Sihanouk's overtures to the North Vietnamese. Given these issues, the new regime in port of Sihanoukville Cambodia was viewed as a positive change in the recently re-established diplomatic relations between the United States and . The Cambodia was quick to recognize and back Lon Nol's government. United States
Initially, the U.S. Embassy staff remained small, with the primary task of resuming dialogue with
; it was composed of Charge d' Affaires Lloyd M. Rives, a military attache, an administrative officer, a political officer, two secretaries, and a communicator. On September 15, 1970, Ambassador Emory C. Swank presented his credentials in Cambodia . He would remain in the post for three years. Phnom Penh
United States and Cambodia now shared the same goal: to get communist Vietnamese troops out of . To this end, Lon Nol entered into an entente with the South Vietnamese, ending Cambodia 's long-time position of neutrality. In doing so, Cambodia officially began to fight the communists. Cambodia
But Lon Nol would not be the strong military leader
needed. Within the first few months of his rule, his Force Armee National Khmere, or FANK, would suffer major casualties and setbacks, desperately looking on as more than half of Cambodia fell to the North Vietnamese army. Cambodia
On April 30, 1970, President Nixon informed a shocked American public that
U.S. and South Vietnamese troops were entering in order to defeat the over 40,000 Viet Cong and North Vietnamese soldiers that had amassed in the east of the country. Few people outside of the President's circle knew about the plan, including Secretary of State William P. Rogers, who only five days earlier had testified to the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations that the Cambodia United States had no intention of intervening in . Cambodia
The strategy, known as the Cambodia Campaign or Cambodia Incursion, had several aims: to upset the supply system to the Vietnamese communists, relieve pressure on
U.S. and South Vietnamese soldiers in South Vietnam, facilitate the imminent withdrawal of U.S. troops from Vietnam, and help rid of the communist threat. Cambodia was no longer simply a sideshow in the Vietnam War; it was now part of it. Cambodia
Nations around the world condemned the military action. At home, with the
in the throes of the anti-war movement, Nixon's announcement ignited college campuses across the country. In one of the era's most infamous incidents, four student demonstrators were killed by the National Guard at United States on May 4. Kent State University
The U.S. Congress had been kept in the dark on the Cambodia Incursion. Its Committee on Foreign Relations, with Senator William J. Fulbright taking the lead, demanded to know the legal basis for the troops being sent to
. Fifty Cambodia Senators voiced their opposition to the campaign; 21 supported it. Shortly thereafter, the Cooper-Church Amendment was introduced to the U.S. Senate, which included a stipulation that the official number of U.S. U.S. personnel in could never exceed 200 at any given time. Cambodia
But the incursion did not have the intended results. Fleeing from the attacks, the Vietnamese communists retreated deeper into
Cambodia, bringing them within a few miles of . President Nixon did not lose resolve, taking the view that it was essential to Phnom Penh U.S. policy that not fall to the communists. He was committed to preserving Cambodia 's independence. To show his support, the President sent Vice President Spiro Agnew to Cambodia . Nixon was also determined to increase Phnom Penh U.S. military assistance to , seeking to increase aid from $8.9 million in 1970 to $40 million in 1971. A few months later, the President requested an additional $255 million for Cambodia . Congress would grant $185 million; in total, the Cambodia would provide $1.6 billion to the Lon Nol regime. Controversially, some of these funds were delivered without Congressional approval. United States
Vice President Spiro Agnew on his visit to
in September in 1970. Cambodia
The U.S. Embassy grew as
U.S. military personnel arrived in Phnom Penh and forces provided significant air power to assist the Cambodians. But both the Department of Defense and the Embassy feared for u.s. 's future. Lon Nol continued to be a weak leader, ineffectively managing the army and a government that seemed to be falling deeper and deeper into corruption and incompetence. The country needed a strong, central character that would win the war. Cambodia
Meanwhile, the Khmer Rouge forces, or FUNK, were becoming an increasing threat as their ranks swelled with new recruits, who were both students and peasants. FUNK was bolstered by the return of some 5,000 young Cambodians who had been indoctrinated and trained by the Viet Minh in the 15 years following the wars for independence with
France, after the Vietnamese forces had withdrawn from . These now seasoned soldiers were ready to train Cambodians to join them. Cambodia
The Embassy estimated that FUNK forces had grown to 15,000 by August 1971, while other accounts suggested the number might be as high as 50,000.
The August 1971 Chenla II campaign, whose main goal was to a regain control of a key transportation link, was the last offensive led by Lon Nol's FANK troops. The North Vietnamese and Viet Cong crushed the Cambodian army, killing 3,000 soldiers and sending some 15,000 demoralized troops in retreat.
The situation in
continued to deteriorate. To consolidate his power, Lon Nol would become increasingly anti-democratic and begin violent crackdowns on student protests and labor strikes. When an election was called in the spring of 1972, the Phnom Penh hoped that Lon Nol, who had recently suffered a stroke, would graciously bow out and a reform-minded group would assume power. Not only did Lon Nol run, but he won in an election that was widely believed to be rigged. Hope was fading fast for a resolution in United States . Cambodia
The security situation in the country deteriorated rapidly and attacks increased, with members of Lon Nol's army defecting to the Khmer Rouge. American Foreign Service officers were forced to travel in heavily armoured vehicles. One incident saw a bomb detonated near Deputy Chief of Mission Thomas Enders's car; had he not been in a protected vehicle, the attack would have killed him.
Admiral John S. McCain is welcomed by General Sisowath Sirik Matak upon arrival at the airport in 1971
A State Department report prepared in January of 1973 stated that the Cambodian government now controlled as little as a quarter of the country, and Lon Nol's government had virtually no support. It went on to say that without
U.S. trade, would be in complete economic ruin. Things had become so bad that even rice had to be imported into once-fertile Cambodia . Cambodia
The same month saw the signing of the Paris Peace Accords, which ended direct
U.S. military involvement in . Fighting in Vietnam Vietnam stopped temporarily, and there was momentary hope that the conflict would end in . Though the accords reiterated Cambodia Cambodia's independence and neutrality as defined by the 1954 Geneva Convention, no timetable was set for a ceasefire in . On the advice of the Cambodia United States, which hoped to see an end to the wars in Indochina, Lon Nol called for a ceasefire. Meanwhile, Prince Sihanouk repeatedly tried to meet with Kissinger and discuss solutions for the failing Cambodian state. Kissinger mistrusted Sihanouk's intentions and questioned his ties to the Khmer Rouge, and no talks were ever arranged.
u.s. Ambassador Emory Swank signs an assistance agreement with Cambodian Prime Minister Long Boret in 1973, which will provide
with 28,000 to Cambodia ns of rice.
The peace was short-lived and fighting resumed in February. Lon Nol's ineptitude and the lack of a obvious successor left
with few options for a way out, though he continued to crack down on civil rights, prohibiting public gatherings, imprisoning members of the royal family, and arresting political opponents. Cambodia
The conflict continued to escalate and it looked as though
might fall to the Khmer Rouge at any moment. But the troops were pushed back by Phnom Penh bombings. At home, pressure was growing to end U.S. involvement in the civil war. Congress soon revoked all funds for military involvement in U.S. , forcing President Nixon to end all air support in mid-August of 1973. Cambodia
Ambassador Swank, who was by now critical of the ongoing war, was relieved of his post. On April 3, 1974, John Gunther Dean presented his credentials and took on the daunting task of trying to salvage the increasingly hopeless situation in the country, which was now largely controlled by the Khmer Rouge. With
U.S. support gone, the Lon Nol government focused its efforts on holding onto for as long as it could. Phnom Penh
Ambassador Dean urged for a controlled solution, which inevitably involved the
negotiating with Khmer Rouge leaders. That way, he reasoned, the United States would at least United States
have some influence over the fate of the country. Ambassador Dean also urged
to open direct talks with Prince Sihanouk. But Kissinger, who was now Secretary of State, dismissed the urgency of Dean's pleas, and did not pursue diplomatic channels. By the time he came around to the idea in 1975, the Khmer Rouge was within weeks of total victory. Washington
After President Nixon's resignation in August 1974, the
issue fell to President Gerald Ford. The administration continued to ask Congress to support Cambodia . President Ford did manage to secure a congressional, bipartisan fact-finding mission to visit Cambodia in March 1975. Stunned by the devastation, virtually all the participants returned with the intention of restoring aid to Cambodia . But it was too late. Cambodia
By April, Lon Nol had left
. The Khmer Rouge was now within three miles of the city. On April 12, the Phnom Penh Embassy in. U.S. closed and 82 American citizens, along with 159 Cambodians and 35 other foreign nationals, were peacefully evacuated. Phnom Penh
The Khmer Rouge entered
on April 17. Thirteen days later, Phnom Penh Saigon fell. In the five years of civil war that had consumed , 500,000 people died. But this would only be the beginning of the bloodshed in Cambodia . Cambodia
Under the leadership of Saloth Sar, a long-time political rival of Lon Nol who had taken the revolutionary name Pol Pot, cities were emptied and residents were driven into the countryside.
The new Democratic Kampuchea would become one of the most savage, secretive regimes in the world, maintaining ties only with
North Korea and . Little would be known about the atrocities that would ensue in the next four years, which would see nearly two million people, or a fifth of the population, perish. China
A report generated in 1974 by Foreign Service Officer Kenneth Quinn, who would serve as Ambassador to
from 1996 to 1999, provided a stark portrayal of the Khmer Rouge's true nature. While stationed along the South Vietnamese border for nine months between 1973 and 1974, Quinn had interviewed countless Cambodian refugees who had escaped the brutal clutches of the Khmer Rouge. He learned that the regime abolished private property and collectivized all goods, imposed forced relocations, separated families, and classified all people as peasants, workers, or soldiers. Cambodia
Education was highly suspect; wearing glasses was a crime worthy of execution. Minorities were persecuted. Work would be the only acceptable pastime. Quinn's assessment foreshadowed the country's fate.
After over 15 years of involvement in Indochina, and at great cost in American lives, the
was ready to move on. Crises in the United States Middle East would occupy the administration of President Jimmy Carter. Though human rights stood at the center of his political agenda, the situation in was not a priority. There would be some debate about the Cambodia responsibility to Cambodia-most notably on the part of Representative Stephen Solarz, who would become the most informed congressmen on the issue. In 1978, President Carter issued a statement condemning the actions of the Democratic Kampuchea government and, importantly, used the word 'genocide' in his statement. The same year, legislation was passed that allowed 15,000 Cambodian refugees to settle in the U.S. . United States
In response to increased Khmer Rouge incursions into Vietnamese territory, Vietnamese troops invaded
in December 1978. In January, 1979 the Khmer Rouge fled Cambodia Phnom Penh and Pol Pot was forced to retreat to northwestern . Given Cambodia Vietnam's recent alignment with the Soviet Union, the United States condemned the invasion, viewing it as an expansion of Soviet influence in Southeast Asia. Improving the relationship between the United States and would have to wait Cambodia