Frontline World

Cambodia - Pol Pot's Shadow, October, 2002



THE STORY
Synopsis of "Pol Pot's Shadow"

REPORTER'S DIARY
In Search of Justice

CHRONICLE OF SURVIVAL
Historical Analysis: The U.S. and Cambodia

CAMBODIAN-AMERICANS SPEAK
The Rapper, the Dancer, and the Storyteller

FACTS AND STATS
Learn more about Cambodia

LINKS & RESOURCES
Genocide, War Crimes, Politics

MAP

REACT TO THIS STORY

   


Chronicle of Survival
Cambodia walks a fine line Caught in the crossfire Terror and genocide Back to square oneMoving ahead, looking back

1980-1991: Back to square oneProfile: Hun Sen
After Vietnam had invaded Cambodia and set up a new government, the ousted Khmer Rouge leadership, including Pol Pot and Nuon Chea, retreated to the jungle along the Thailand-Cambodia border. Instead of becoming pariahs, they continued to play a significant role in Cambodian politics for the next two decades. Child at refugee campThe Khmer Rouge would likely not have survived without the support of its old patron China and a surprising new ally: the United States. Norodom Sihanouk, now in exile after briefly serving as head of state under the Khmer Rouge, formed a loose coalition with the guerillas to expel the Vietnamese from Cambodia. The United States gave the Sihanouk-Khmer Rouge coalition millions of dollars in aid while enforcing an economic embargo against the Vietnamese-backed Cambodian government. The Carter administration helped the Khmer Rouge keep its seat at the United Nations, tacitly implying that they were still the country's legitimate rulers.

RefugeesThe U.S. government's refusal to recognize the new Cambodian government and its unwillingness to distance itself from the Khmer Rouge was motivated by several factors, primarily animosity toward its former foe, Vietnam, and Vietnam's Soviet backers. Additionally, the United States did not want to sour its improving relations with the Khmer Rouge's longtime patron, China. What started as a diplomatic decision to manipulate the Sino-Soviet split and isolate and punish Vietnam became a moral blunder that ensured the survival of the genocidal Khmer Rouge.

Mother and ChildIts people still traumatized by the massacres of the late 1970s, Cambodia entered a decade of brutal guerilla war between the Sihanouk-Khmer Rouge coalition and the Vietnamese-sponsored government. Hundreds of thousands of refugees fled their homes and sought refuge in Thailand and Vietnam. Between 1979 and 1989, almost 150,000 Cambodians came to the United States. The refugees' plight and the publicity received by genocide survivors led to a belated understanding among Americans of the legacy of the Khmer Rouge and the United States' role in Cambodia's troubles.

NEXT - 1992-2002: MOVING AHEAD, LOOKING BACK

 

 


photo: Prime Minister Hun Sen at UN headquarters, 1997
credit: UN/OCPI Photo by James Bu

photo: Cambodian Child at Refugee Camp - Thailand, July 1979
credit: United Nations/Photo by J.K. Isaac

photo: Migrating Cambodian Refugees - November 1979
credit: United Nations/Photo by Saw Lwin

photo: Cambodian Mother and Child at Refugee Camp - Thailand, July 1979
credit: United Nations/Photo by J.K. Isaac