|Khmer Rouge Soldiers enter Phnom Penh as Khmer Republic soldiers lay down their arms (Image RNBKK archives)|
After a peaceful coup on March 18, 1970, Cambodia plunked into the most bloody war in history followed by a killing field. The following day after Sihanouk's plane landed in Beijing, Sihanouk told Premier Zhou Enlai, " I'm going to return home and fight." Nonetheless, Zhou Enlai did not impress with his words; instead he warned the prince that a war would be long, hard, dangerous, and sometimes discouraging. Then a blue print for the war was created in Beijing when Vietnamese Prime Minister Phan Van Dong flew to Beijing to meet Zhou Enlai and Prince Sihanouk. Pol Pot was secretly in Beijing but avoided to see Sihanouk. Now Phan Van Dong and Zhou Enlai arranged Sihanouk to work with the Khmer Rouge, creating the United Front of Kampuchea to appeal all Cambodian peoples to launch a war campaign and civil disobedience against the new Khmer Republic Government. Through Radio Beijing, Shihanouk denounced the coup and called for the people to join him to fight for justice, by which he meant revenge. Then the brutal war was enraged after Vietnam had failed to strike a deal with Marshal Lon Nol's new government to reopen a supplies line through Cambodia.
Sihanouk's appeal from Beijing amounted to declaration of war; every Khmer now was forced to take sides--the Khmer Republic or Sihanouk's government-in-exile. To attract more international supports, a new Cambodian Royal Government of National Union (CRGNU) was established under a leadership of Sihanouk, composing of famous members from the Khmer Rouge and the former Sihanouk's government. The following list are some key cabinet posts in the CRGNU:
-Prime Minister: Mr. Pen Nouth
-Minister of Prime Minister Office: Mr. Keat Chhun (a current deputy prime minister)
-Foreign Minister: Mr. Sarin Chhack
-Defense Minister: Mr. Khiev Samphan (currently put on trial of genocide)
-Interior Minister: Mr. Hou Yuon
-Minister of Economy: Mr. Thioun Mumm
And so on (source : Philip Short Anatomy of a Nightmare). The new government proclaimed on May 5, 1970, and immediately recognized by China, North Vietnam, Cuba, and many other communist countries around the world. The new government fully funded by China at least $5 millions annually. Sihanouk was assigned to conduct diplomatic battle for international recognition while Pol Pot elusively conducted policy at home and executed a war plan.
This two- head government covertly had different agenda: Sihanouk needed the Khmer Rouge to seek immediate vengeance while Pol Pot needed Sihanouk's popular name and reputation to gain strong support from the grass root people and international community. However, such an alliance was not apparently even a marriage of convenience since they shared different bed in different dreams. Sihanouk desired to be reinstated as a head of state while Pol Pot wanted to grab power, introducing communism that totally contradicted to Sihanouk's feudalism and progressive economic policy. The two groups had no alternative choices but to work together as had arranged by Beijing and Hanoi in order to unseat the US-backed government in Phnom Penh.
|Khmer Republic soldiers fought fierce battle with Khmer Rouge and Vietnamese troops|
the fast capture of territories by the Vietnamese troops had posed a real dilemma for Pol Pot and his colleague since the Khmer Rouge did not have enough troops and civilian administrators to run a wast liberated zone. As result, the Vietnamese built their administrative offices, hospitals, military and political training schools, bringing their own officers to train people along their occupied forces; such actions became Hanoi's official policy all over the liberated zone. Pol Pot privately accused the Vietnamese of setting up a " parallel state power" inside Cambodian territory without the Khmer Rouge's knowledge. Now the Khmer Rouge leadership was torn apart, fearing that they did not have enough troops to protect the large liberated zone and their most fearful thought is the Vietnamese troops might not leave Cambodia. Such an ancestral dread of Vietnamese domination was also strongly shared by the Khmer Republic though they are the Khmer Rouge's bitter enemies.
|Prince Sihanouk and his Khmer Rouge colleague|
By 1973, the Khmer Rouge army grew up to 35,000 combat troops backed by over 100,000 guerrillas, more than enough to defeat the low morale Khmer Republic troops on their own when the Vietnamese troops were forced to withdraw by Paris Peace Treaty in 1973 and the Khmer Rouge's enforcement. As the Vietnamese troops started to leave, the Khmer Rouge gradually inserted its
power across the liberated zone. Before, most local administrators were Hanoi returnees and pro-Sihanouk group trained by the Vietnamese officials. Lives in the liberated zone were remarkably normal as the previous regime: people were allowed to own private properties, sold foods and products on open markets; religious practices, basic education, and marriage, family lives, travel from place to place,were not restricted. Then the Khmer Rouge inserted their power all over the liberated zone, appointing new local administrators, stripping all private properties, banning all religious practices, marriages, markets, schools, and forcing people dressed in black, worked and ate in cooperative farms. Such a model of living was re-introduced throughout the country after the Khmer Rouge came to power on April 17, 1975.
|Khmer Rouge Troops enter the City Center|
On the front lines, the Khmer Rouge stepped up military campaigns in all directions--the river convoys supplying Phnom Penh came under sustained attacks and all routes in and out of the Capital City were insecure or cut. Phnom Penh increasingly relied on US's air lifts for foods to feed over 2 millions people who had fled from the countrysides living in a dire condition. Along with supplies routes cuts, the Khmer Rouge rockets started to fall in random targets in the crowded city killing and injuring countless civilians. On February 25, 1975, the Northern Zone troops under Keo Pauk's Command, captured a strategic town, Oudong, while the Southwest troops under Ta Mok advanced along route 4. In a next few weeks, Pol Pot moved his headquarter to Oudong to command the troops from the maintain, watching his troops fiercely battled the entrenched Lon Nol's troops on Phnom Penh vicinities.
|A pile of weapons abandoned by the Khmer Republic Soldiers|
|A harsh colossal scale of evacuation from Phnom Penh|
|Daily work of people in the Khmer Rouge regime|
|The Vietnamese invaders|