Cambodia Border Map

Yearbook 2003

Cambodia. The year began with a deep diplomatic crisis between Cambodia and Thailand. The developments began with a Thai TV star in an interview saying that she demanded that Cambodia’s national monument Angkor Vat, a Buddhist temple complex from the 8th century, “be returned to Thailand”. Angkor Vat was conquered and plundered by the Thais in the 15th century and then fell into oblivion for centuries.

The actress denied the statement, but the incident angered Cambodia, where irritation over Thai dominance in the country’s business grew. The Phnom Penh government was accused of inflicting anger. Demonstrations were held and the situation became acute as new rumors spread about a group of Thais attacking the Cambodian embassy in Bangkok and killing ten diplomats. The false rumor led to a public mob on January 29 setting the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh on fire and vandalizing Thai hotels and businesses.

According to, Cambodia Independence Day is November 9. Thailand’s reaction was strong. The next day the government closed the border with Cambodia and several hundred Thais were evacuated in military flights from the neighboring country. The diplomatic contacts were kept to a minimum and joint arrangements were canceled. Cambodia Prime Minister Hun Sen apologized the same day Thailand and more than 150 people were arrested for the attack on the embassy. However, of 58 defendants in connection with the incident, 56 were acquitted during the year. In March, the border was opened and Cambodia paid damages for the vandalism. A month later, the Thai ambassador returned to Phnom Penh.

In June, Cambodia and the UN signed an agreement on a joint tribunal to bring high-ranking leaders of the Red Khmer to justice for crimes committed under the guerrilla rule 1975-79. Behind the agreement were six years of tough negotiations between the parties.

In the July 27 parliamentary elections, the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) won with just over 47% of the vote over Liberal Sam Rainsy’s party (PSR), which gained just under 22% and the royalist FUNCINPEC who won just 21% of the vote. The opposition accused CPP of electoral fraud, but independent judges stated that the election was relatively calm and free, even though voting was common. Prime Minister Hun Sen and his party CPP did not get their own majority in parliament but were forced to seek a coalition partner. The two major opposition parties refused to form a coalition with the CPP in protest of the election result. Only in November was a government with the three parties formed since the 82-year-old King Norodom Sihanouk mediated. In September, Cambodia was approved as a new member of the WTO. Formal entry is likely to take place in 2004.

1979 Heng Samrin takes power with the support of Vietnam

In 1978, there was a split in the Khmer Rouge. A Pro-Vietnamese faction led by General Heng Samrin broke out and formed the United Front for Kampuchea’s Salvation. In January 1979, forces from this front, supported by Vietnam Phnom Penh, proclaimed the creation of the Kampuchea People’s Republic. A Revolutionary People’s Council was set up to oversee the country’s reconstruction. In a matter of weeks, the entire country was under the control of the front and the Khmer Rouge chased away. In this situation, Pol Pot turned to Sihanouk, who had otherwise been in house arrest for 3 years, and asked him to speak Cambodia’s case to the UN. On his way to New York, Sihanouk traveled across China where he received an overwhelming reception, but at the same time took the opportunity to vehemently condemn the Khmer Rouge. It suggests,

Pol Pot was prosecuted and sentenced in absentia by the new powers of war crimes. He, in turn, launched a guerrilla war against the new government. With support from the US and China, Pol Pot retained his position as a representative of Cambodia in the UN in the following years. Still, the two superpowers preferred the mass murderer Pol Pot over the new Vietnamese-backed government in Phnom Penh. In 1982, under the leadership of Son Sann, Sihanouk and Khmer Serei joined Khmer Rouge in the exile government, the Democratic Kampuchea.

In Phnom Penh, the new government designed a program to reactivate industry, agriculture and the transport sector. The Soviet Union and other socialist countries supported the re-establishment of the energy supply and the construction of a minimal industry. At the 1981 parliamentary and municipal elections, many candidates were nominated for each post. Yet, at its New Delhi meeting, the Alliance Free Movement decided to leave Cambodia’s place in the movement empty. They were unable to take a position between the country’s two warring factions.

Cambodia Border Map