The civil war in Kampot began with an invasion, first by the Vietcong, then by the US - ARVN forces, pictured here. They are on the move in search of Vietcong sanctuaries inside Cambodia (June 1970).
This section will examine the years that saw the Khmer Rouge go from a relatively insignificant guerrilla outfit in 1970 into the victorious army that conquered the whole country in April 1975. We have tried to tease out what this looked like in Kampot and nearby districts in Takeo. It will be arranged in the same way as “The Sihanouk Trail”, by year and by region. It is still under construction (August, 2018)
A note on sources
The main sources of information from this period are;
- CIA archives which are now much more detailed than before 1970 – they are intimately involved with the Lon Nol regime so it is knowledge from within the Lon Nol regime. You can find this yourself at https://www.cia.gov/library/readingroom/historical-collections
- A very informative 150 page article written by Lieutenant General Sat Sutsakhan, Chief of the General Staff of the Khmer Armed Forces. “The Khmer Republic at War and the Final Collapse” November 1978. Department of the Army. This contains details on military units, background material on the state of the armed forces charged with fighting the Khmer Rouge and their allies. Again, knowledge from inside the regime.
- William Shawcross, Sideshow: Kissinger, Nixon and the destruction of Cambodia. Fontana, 1980, Suffolk. This classic book detailing events critical of the US involvement in Cambodia
- Kenneth Quinn, The Origins and development of Radical Cambodia Communism, 1982 PhD, University of Maryland. Quinn, later to become a high level US diplomat, located himself inside South Vietnam near the Kampot border and monitored events inside in 1973. He interviewed those who fled the violence and built a picture of the workings of the FUNK as it morphed into a fully fledged Khmer Rouge.
On March 18, 1970, the Lon Nol government in Phnom Penh declared the end of the Kingdom of Cambodia led by Norodom Sihanouk.
There was initial jubilation in some mainly urban areas at the formation of the ‘Khmer Republic’, but the rural areas became transformed into battle zones as the precarious, uneasy coexistence of the two main political forces during the 1960s came to an end. Kampot province was no exception.
On one side were the communist forces led by the North Vietnamese Army and their allies in the south, the Viet Cong. Together they were known as the NVA/VC.
The Khmer Rouge had been nurtured by the NVA/VC for a decade but was still little more than a fledgling organisation, heavily reliant on their fraternal comrades for weapons, training and strategy. The combined NVA/VC and Khmer Rouge movement labeled themselves a ‘popular front’ called the FUNK and was officially led by Sihanouk, who resented being removed from power by Lon Nol.