|King Sihanouk, a Khmer Leader Without Principle|
|Marshall Lon Nol, a Khmer Ultra-Nationalist|
|Pol Pot, a Khmer Communist Ultra-Nationalist|
|Hun Sen, a Hanoi Protege and Sam Rainsey, a Khmer Democrat|
By Khmer Wathanakam
After independence from French Protectorate 1953, Cambodia again has faced a continuous threat from its neighbors, at this time not Thailand but decisively by Vietnam. Facing this wily and powerful enemy, many Khmer leaders have chosen their own strategies based on their personal vengeance and chutzpah without deep insight and flexibility. Consequently, our country has become weaker and almost paralyzed until today. As most of us know that Vietnam has a 100-year plan to conquer our land after successfully took over our big chunk of territory Kampuchea Krom. Now Vietnam final goal is to swallow our current land, Cambodia which already has been indirectly ruled by its proxy power, the CPP. To win this historical battle against our traditional and powerful enemy, our current leaders should learn from past experiences and mistakes that our previous leaders had committed and use them as a guideline to avoid a repeated mistake for the current struggle.
A continuous Vietnam War had spread into our peaceful country, which forced our leader, King Sihanouk, to choose sides. As a small and weak nation, Sihanouk dose not have much choice but to let the country flow with current water. To allow ten thousands of Vietcong and North Vietnamese troop staying inside a so-called neutral country is impossible to keep the country from inevitable conflict. But Sihanouk has no ability to stop them either; it is a Hanoi's real ultimatum for the King to grant them sanctuaries or to face fierce fighting. To let the Vietcong used Khmer territory to fight the US troops and their South Vietnamese ally behind the back, created outrageous reactions both internally and internationally. At home, Sihanouk faced his no confidence votes from the conservative dominated parliament while the US and its South Vietnamese ally plotted air and ground invasions to destroy the Vietcong sanctuaries; but the US and its Ally's invasion just pushed the Vietcong and the North Vietnamese troops deeper into Khmer territory. As results, thousands of Khmer civilians were killed by the US bombings and the Shout Vietnamese pillagers. Such a predicament forced King Sihanouk to walk in a tight rope.
General Lon Nol and Prince Sarimatak, the true Khmer Nationalists, were unhappy with what Sihanouk had handled a situation in the country, and they raised their chutzpah in vain that without Sinahouk, they could dislodge the Vietcong invaders from the country. As a susceptible opportunity had come, the conservative dominated parliament voted to strip off Sihanouk's power as the head of state, and declared the country as the Khmer Republic for the first time in the country history. While most urban elites, scholars, students, and civil servants welcomed this peaceful coup, many peasants in rural areas, the grassroots of a revolution, were still faithful to the king. After a peaceful coup, Marshall Lon Nol gave Vietcong an ultimatum to leave Cambodia in 48 hours or to face a stern consequence. In contrast, the coup in Phnom Penh is a good news for for the Vietcong; now they can openly attack the government troops under a banner to reinstate Sihanouk to the power.
Marshall Lon Nol's short sight and intuition had thrown the country into the most bloody war in Khmer history. The 30,000 Khmer Armed forces with poor equipments and little battle skills had no match with the well-armed and high battle skill of the 70,000 Vietcong and North Vietnamese troops. A few weeks, after the coup, Vietcong troops were only 15 km away from Phnom Penh before they were beaten back by the re-enforced Khmer Republic Armies. Nonetheless, three months later, Angkor Wat, a symbol of Khmer Soul and Nationalism was taken over by the Vietcong troops. Only six months after the coup, the Vietcong troops had seized nearly 70 percent of the country, creating a wast liberate zone for the Khmer Rouges who had just emerged from their hideout in deep jungles. In 1971-72, Marshall Lon Nol declared the largest military operations ever called Chenla I and II to reopen a national route 6 toward Kompong Thom, but again the small Khmer republic Armies were crushed in pieces by the tough fighters from the Joined Khmer Rouge and Vietcong troops. Since then, the Khmer Republic Armies were pushed back to the city walls before a final downfall.
Pol Pot, a secret and brutal Khmer Rouge leader and supported by the Vietcong is a bitter enemy with Lon Nol, but both of them shared the same feeling of patriotism and nationalism. Now Pol Pot faced his dilemma when he saw Vietcong as his helpers the same as the invaders, and the most painful sight is when he saw Angkor Wat, a symbol of Khmer Soul, was controlled by the Vietcong troops. Throughout his life working with Vietminh and Vietcong, Pol Pot had witnessed all their behaviors and tricks that made him so antagonistic toward Hanoi. Pol Pot well understood that Vietnam never treated Khmer as an equal partner but as an inferior one or a servant. Now Pol Pot had two battles to fight--to win the war with the Khmer Republic and to chase the Vietcong troops out of the country. To achieve his goal, Pol Pot sped up building his troops from 3,000 poor equipped-troops in 1970 to 100,000 well-disciplined and well-armed troops in 1973. When he felt confidence to win the war without help, he started to negotiate with Vietcong to withdraw from Cambodia by both peaceful and forceful means. By the end of 1973, most Vietcong troops were expelled from the Khmer Rouge's liberate zones. When the Khmer Rouge entered Phnom Penh in April 17, 1975, there were no more Vietcong troops in Cambodian land.
Albeit the Vietcong troops were out of the country, Pol Pot never personally felt safe; he is the most secret leader in Khmer history. His secrecy had proved as a successful weapon against all his enemies; however, his secret life and fear had also turned to a great disaster for the nation and suffer for the people since the first day of victory. His first big mistake is to forcibly evicted all people from the cities and their homes to resettle in unsuitable living places in remote areas and jungle because he feared of the CIA and Vietnamese agents could disguise among people around him. And the killings, starvation, forceful works and political purges in his own party had weakened the whole nation. To purge the top military leaders during war time proved a dangerous mistake for any leader in this planet. Stalin abruptly stopped purging his party elite members when he saw an imminent German invasion. As relation with Hanoi turned worse, Pol Pot vainly believed that China would protect him from any imminent invasion from Hanoi. As short sight and poor judgement made him more irresponsible in dealing with his dangerous enemies. His troop incursions into Vietnam produced unbearable atrocity among civilians that created a good excuse for Hanoi to retaliate and to commit the same atrocity among Khmer civilians. Finally, Pol Pot's irresponsible policy toward Vietnam set a pretext for the Vietnamese invasion to install their proxy regime to rule Cambodia until today.
From 1979 to the Paris Peace Accord 1991, Hanoi had directly controlled Cambodia along with its subordinate regime, and after the UN sponsored election 1993, Vietnam still managed to control Cambodia indirectly via its protege, Hun Sen, a notorious and ruthless leader. By placing Hanoi's interest and his personal power above Khmer's, Hun Sen dares to do everything regardless of what will happen and affect the future of our people and the nation--from border demarcation, allowed free flow of Vietnamese illegal immigrants into the country, economic and land concessions, forceful evictions, human right abuse, harassed and persecuted his political opponents, election rigs and so on. Now the political crisis has crippled the country again, for Hun Sen refused to form an independent probe over an alleged systematic election fraud that costs a victory of the opposition and the future of the people and the nation. Now the opposition have faced their dilemma to deal with this Hanoi's proxy power--to use peaceful means to demand justice for the voters have produced a fruitless result so far and to use tougher means will be more likely to receive the same fate as our previous leaders.
Now the CNRP has only two choices: to stand tough with the regime until a key demand of election probe is considered or to continue negotiation to find common grounds by hanging up but not giving up their key demand. To use tougher measure may pose high risk and unforeseen success but produce favorable outcome. The people may start with aggressive protest by defying all authorities and orders; they have to besiege all the regime power structures from parliament building, council of minister office (peace palace), national police headquarter, NEC office, state-run TV and radio stations, and even the main airport. The people have to practice a sit-in protest by blocking all roads and accesses to all above facilities until a key demand is met, or the opposition leaders can give an ultimatum to the regime. The peaceful mean as currently practiced by the CNRP's supporters has posed low risk, more likely to success but less favorable outcome--the result will base on compromise and concession.
Based on our inductive reasoning from the past experiences, we can make a conjecture that our leaders who had dealt with the enemies in extreme ways turned to be crushed by the enemy violently. Marshall Lon Nol and Pol Pot barely survived their rules four and five years respectively, and King Sihanouk by using his flexible and appeasing policy toward his enemy seems survive his long rule but not in favorable outcome for the nation. What would happen if Lon Nol did not remove Sihanouk from the power and let China faces its dilemma between Sihanouk and Pol Pot? And what would happen if Ranaridh did not share the power with Hun Sen? There would be unlikely to have Hun Sen today. For Hun Sen, he can't be characterized as a true Khmer leader, for he is just a Hanoi's Protege or a Hanoi's proxy power as we have witnessed so far. Hun Sen has no sense of patriotism and nationalism; he is totally submissive to Hanoi and becomes its proxy power to crush our people and to destroy our nation. For Sam Rainsey although he has not become our leader yet, but the people and the nation are viewing him as a possible leader in the future, but if he is short sighted or not wise enough in the current predicament, he may be crushed by the enemy as Lon Nol, Pol Pot, and Penn Sovann. Recent history has taught us all mistakes that our leaders had dealt with the enemies--from 1953 independence, 1970 peaceful coup, 1975 Khmer Rouge's victory, 1979 Vietnamese invasion, 1993 UN organized election, 1997 bloody coup, and 1998 election protest crackdown. The current struggle of the CNRP against the same enemy but in different image should be more sophisticated and well prepared in order to avoid the repeated mistake, for our nation cannot afford any more mistake.