After the Khmer Rouge conquest of Phnom Penh in April 1975, a new republican constitution was enacted. In April 1976, Prince Sihanouk resigned as head of state, while a National Assembly brought Khieu Samphan to the presidency and Pol Pot head of the government. The latter, mysteriously dismissed from his post in September of the same year, returned to the political scene in September 1977, on the occasion of an official visit to the People’s Republic of China, a visit that involved the de facto recognition of his leadership and its political line. This was followed by a particularly confused period of the Cambodian situation. The increasingly serious border incidents with Thailand and Vietnam were accompanied by an extremely serious economic crisis, struggles between the various factions of the Cambodian Communist Party and the birth of a counter-guerrilla that assumed a certain international credibility. The theorization of Khmer executives on the need to give life to a new society and to achieve their own model of economic development outside the international markets, which had as points of reference both the Marxist tradition (in particular the Chinese experience of the years of Cultural Revolution), and, in some way, that of the ancient kingdom of Angkor, turned into a real genocide.
In the years following 1975, after the elimination of thousands of party cadres, a very harsh policy began towards the population, first against the residents of the “ occupied areas ” (those controlled during the war by the Lon Nol regime), then indiscriminately. Under the label “radical social revolution at all levels” and “purging of society”, Khmer leaders forced city dwellers to abandon their homes and possessions to live in the countryside in a forced labor regime.
According to MCAT-TEST-CENTERS, the economic development theorized and implemented by the government of Pol Pot did not foresee the existence of the cities that had to disappear based on the political-ideological decision to assign absolute priority to the countryside, considering the city only in its parasitic role and exploitation of the campaigns. The deportation of all the residents of Phnom Penh, mostly urban peasants, had the main objective of transforming the citizens into agricultural labor under strict planning.
In the new restructuring plan, the new society was divided into two social strata: the “new people”, ie the residents of the territories controlled by the Khmer before 1975, who initially enjoyed some privileges, and the “old people”, ie the residents residing in the cities at the time of the seizure of power in 1975, who underwent forced labor in its most rigid form. These ideological and treatment differences disappeared with the emergence of the need to control the population with terror and to silence the attempts at opposition that were manifesting themselves within the ruling group itself. Above these two layers stood the paintings of the Angkar (the Organization) which guaranteed to themselves and their families a standard of living typical of a privileged class. The massacre of some of these cadres and those of the state bureaucracy took place in the context of these internal struggles.
Agricultural work was carried out manually, using the most traditional methods and a priori rejecting any Western-style technical knowledge. This explains the no importance attributed to technical and scientific cadres and their own massacre: in 1979 there will be only 10 surviving agronomists. Young people had a particular role and importance in the eyes of the new holders of power. Organized in mobile and emergency work teams, they served above all as ” controllers ” of the activities of the members of their own family. The family as a center able to guarantee the subsistence of its members was canceled, preventing, starting from 1977, even the possession and private use of simple tools for the preparation of food. Everything was collected in state cooperatives, the kitchen was common and managed by work groups, there was an obligation to eat and sleep in common. With the deterioration of the political situation following the feuds between the various components of the Khmer Rouge and with the worsening of the food crisis, even what could be collected individually, exploiting the wealth of nature, was prohibited, and the slightest transgression punished with death.
In the last period of the Pol Pot regime, the control over food became so obsessive that it was no longer justifiable with the ideological claim of guaranteeing collective use as opposed to individual use. It is probable that undernourishment, together with the indiscriminate massacres, constituted an element of the mechanism that guaranteed control over the population. This policy resulted in the genocide of millions of people.
At the same time, the new leaders of Phom Penh gave birth to an adventurist foreign policy, with continuous provocations towards Vietnam, whose relations with China (also for this reason) rapidly deteriorated. On December 31, 1977, Cambodia denounced the breakdown of diplomatic relations and the aggression of Vietnam, whose troops arrived a few kilometers from the capital. After a Cambodian counter-offensive, military operations ceased and Hanoi made proposals for negotiations. The tension between the two countries increased during 1978 and resulted, in December of the same year, in the constitution, under Vietnamese protection, of the United Front for National Salvation of Kampuchea (FUNSK) which invited the Cambodian people to revolt against the regime. by Pol Pot for an independent, democratic and neutral Cambodia In January 1979 the FUNSK guerrillas, supported by the Vietnamese army, they entered Phnom Penh, ending the Pol Pot regime, and established a pro-Vietnamese government headed by Heng Samrin. However, the Cambodian government in exile retained the seat in the United Nations, while the new regime was recognized only by the countries of the socialist bloc.
On the economic and social level, Cambodia, one year after the intervention of the Vietnamese troops, remained a country in collapse. Commerce and agriculture no longer existed, the country was on the brink of famine while the health situation was appalling (only 40 doctors survived out of the 500 before the war) and the entire school structure had to be rebuilt from the foundations after the elimination of the almost all of the teachers and intellectuals. To all this was added the vitality of the anti-Vietnamese Khmer Rouge guerrillas of Khieu Samphan and the National Front for the Liberation of the Khmer People (FNLPK) led by the moderate anti-communist Son Sann.
The elections of May 1981 confirmed the full success of Heng Samrin who remained head of state, but gave the office of prime minister to Pen Sovan, who however withdrew from political life “for health reasons” in December of the same year. In June 1982, anti-Vietnamese resistance groups announced the formation of a coalition and the creation of a counter-government. Prince Sihanouk, who once again appeared on the political scene, was appointed head of state and Son Sann prime minister. A month later, Hanoi announced a partial withdrawal of its troops as a first step towards a diplomatic solution to the Cambodian problem, even if the guerrillas remained active.
In the economic field, the reintroduction of private initiative gave new impetus to trade, although the few operating industries suffered from a lack of investment and raw materials. At the same time, an agreement with the Soviet Union made the agricultural and food situation less dramatic.
In January 1986, the National Assembly appointed Hun Sen as prime minister, who proceeded to reshuffle the government by replacing some men involved in corruption cases. In foreign policy, Gorbachev’s openness to China, which considered the presence of Vietnamese troops in Cambodia to be the greatest obstacle to the normalization of relations with the Soviet Union, prompted the Soviet leader to press on Vietnam for a solution to the problem. Cambodian. In August 1988, as part of the Sino-Soviet negotiations, China undertook to accept an international peacekeeping force after the withdrawal of Vietnamese troops, a commitment that was also signed by the anti-Vietnamese coalition.
In September 1989, in conjunction with the withdrawal of the Vietnamese troops from Cambodia, the guerrillas controlled by the Khmer Rouge, units loyal to Prince Sihanouk and groups of the FNLPK of Son Sann, confirming the fragile character of the Phnom Penh regime, launched an offensive. for the reconquest of the country, occupying a few hundred square kilometers of territory on the border with Thailand. In January 1990, to avoid the possibility of a new seizure of power by the Khmer Rouge, who seemed intent on reviving the terror of the past Pol Pot regime, the international diplomatic machine set in motion for a political and diplomatic composition of the matter. Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen accepted Australia’s peace proposals (known as the “Evans Plan”) for a control and a guarantee of the United Nations on the country’s path towards the establishment of a democratic type regime. However, the pacification did not advance during the 1990s, hampered in the first place by the additional supplies of arms granted to the two sides (from Vietnam and China), and by the tightening of Hun Sen, fearful that the peace plan would not guarantee the exhaustion of the Khmer leaders and the effective and controllable disarmament of their forces. At the end of August 1991, however, the long negotiations between the government, the three Cambodian factions and the representatives of the UN Security Council seemed to be able to reach an agreement for the pacification in Cambodia: the Supreme National Council, chaired by Sihanouk and formed by the representatives of all the contenders (already a operating during the negotiations) should take office in Phnom Penh; free political elections should be held at the end of 1992 or 1993.