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Context of 'April 17, 1975: Khmer Rouge Defeats Cambodian Government'

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While Cambodian King Norodom Sihanouk is on a trip abroad, his top ministers, Lon Nol and Sirik Matak, with CIA backing, usurp control of the country and immediately begin cooperating with the United States military to expel the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong presence in Cambodia. The Khmer Rouge, under the leadership of Pol Pot, and supported by a population terrorized by the US bombing campaign, will wage guerrilla warfare against the new government, overthrowing it in 1975 (see April 17, 1975). [Blum, 1995; Los Angeles Times, 7/8/1997]

Entity Tags: Lon Nol, Sirik Matak, Norodom Sihanouk

Timeline Tags: US-Cambodia (1955-1993)

The Khmer Rouge defeats the Cambodian government forces and enters the capital city of Phnom Penh. The new government renames the country the Democratic Kampuchea, and Pol Pot becomes its premier. [Library of Congress, 1990; Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed., 2005]

Entity Tags: Pol Pot (Saloth Sar)

Timeline Tags: US-Cambodia (1955-1993)

1980-1986: China and US Support Kymer Rouge

China and the US sustain the Khmer Rouge with overt and covert aid in an effort to destabilize Cambodia’s Vietnam-backed government. With US backing, China supplies the Khmer Rouge with direct military aid. Zbigniew Brzezinski, national security adviser during the administration of President Carter, will later acknowledge, “I encouraged the Chinese to support Pol Pot…. Pol Pot was an abomination. We could never support him, but China could.” Between 1979 and 1981, the World Food Program, which was strongly under US influence, provides nearly $12 million in food aid Thailand. Much of this aid makes its way to the Khmer Rouge. Two American relief aid workers, Linda Mason and Roger Brown, will later recount, “Thailand, the country that hosted the relief operation, and the US government, which funded the bulk of the relief operation, insisted that the Khmer Rouge be fed.” By the late 1980s, US aid is officially at $5 million. But this is supplemented significantly by secret CIA support to the tune of between $20 and $24 million. In total, perhaps as much as $85 million is ultimately funneled to Pol Pot’s group through various channels. The US and China are also responsible for the Khmer Rouge retaining its seat at the UN General Assembly. During this period, Khmer Rouge fighters attack “Cambodian villages, seed minefields, kill peasants and make off with their rice and cattle… [—] But they never seriously… [threaten] the Phnom Penh government.” [Blum, 1995; Z Magazine, 1997; Covert Action Quarterly, 1998 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Zbigniew Brzezinski

Timeline Tags: US-Cambodia (1955-1993)

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