The western project to create a democratic monarchy in Cambodia has failed. The corrupt regime of Hun Sen has just banned the only opposition party. With the banning of the liberal; Cambodia National Rescue Party, Hun Sen can run unopposed in the 2018 general elections. The monarchy in Cambodia was created as a compromise between the Stalinist: Kampuchean People’s Revolutionary Party, the monarchist supporters of king Norodom Sihanouk and the United Nations. Hun Sen was already in command of the People’s Republic of Kampuchea (1979-1989) and the State of Cambodia (1989-1993). His Cambodian People’s Party won every election due to their control over the government, media and mass organisations. However in 2013, the Cambodia National Rescue Party won a major victory at the elections. This was a shock for the corrupt party of Hun Sen. Now the Cambodian government has killed off democracy by banning the Cambodia National Rescue Party!
Cambodia or Kampuchea has suffered a lot in the 20th century. It was bombed by the USA during the Vietnam War, bombings with gave rise to a Khmer supremacist group called the Red Khmer or Khmer Rouge in French. A right-wing military coup ended the monarchy and installed a junta in 1970. Five years the country was under the rule of the militarists, until they were overthrown by the guerrilla fighters of the Red Khmer. On the outside, the members of the Communist Party of Kampuchea were typical Stalinist revolutionaries, who (ab)used Marx and Lenin to justify nationalism. Most Asian communist parties played on nationalist feelings to boost their anti-colonial struggles, but the Red Khmer went further. They added Khmer supremacy to a dogmatic Maoist ideology that proclaimed the peasantry as the revolutionary class. Saloth Sar was the man who led the Khmer communist party and wanted to establish a pure agrarian Khmer only nation. Few knew his actual name, to most comrades Saloth was known only as Pol Pot!
With the collapse of the right-wing; Khmer Republic on 17 April 1975, the country came under control of Pol Pot. He hated intellectuals, western technology, ethnic Vietnamese and wanted to restore to old medieval: Khmer Empire. The Red Khmer forced all Cambodians to leave the cities and work as peasants. People with an education were considered ”counterrevolutionaries” and shot. It would take a few months before Pol Pot proclaimed the birth of ”Democratic Kampuchea”. However unlike Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam, he choose not to show himself to the public. Most leading members of the Communist Party of Kampuchea did not revealed their names, their were called ”Brothers”’with a number, Pol Pot was called Brother Number One. The whole communist party was known as ”Angkar” to ordinary Cambodians. The ”Brothers” led by Pol Pot (Saloth Sar) were not uneducated. The ”Angkar” was led by middle class Khmer who were educated in France during the 1950’s. These western educated pseudo-revolutionaries closed schools, hospitals and factories, abolishing banking, finance and currency!
”Democratic Kampuchea” was to be a pure agrarian communist society. Build on ethnic nationalism, slave labour and massive exploitation of the peasantry. Pol Pot’s regime was so brutal it killed between one and three million people, 1/3 of Cambodia died between April 1975 and January 1979. The Chinese supported the Red Khmer, because Stalinist Vietnam had sided with the Soviet-Union against the People’s Republic of China. Beijing and Moscow were having major ideological conflicts. Both claimed to be the center of world revolution against capitalism and imperialism. Pol Pot hated the Vietnamese and sided with Mao’s China. He ordered his troops to attack Vietnamese villages on the border, killing thousands of men, woman and children. The raids were of a racist nature as the Red Khmer had indoctrinate their soldiers with a deep hatred of the Vietnamese. Hanoi choose to invade Cambodia in December 1978, they defeated the Red Khmer in just two months. America and Great Britain openly sided with Pol Pot and rejected the invasion. They claimed that the Communist Party of Kampuchea was the rightful ruler of Cambodia, despite the fact that it just murdered around one to three million people. The Vietnamese invasion ended the killings and exposed the regime of the ”Angkar” as a genocide!
The Vietnamese were supported in their invasion by former members of the Red Khmer who broke with Pol Pot. These Cambodians were installed as new leaders of the People’s Republic of Kampuchea. Only the Soviet-Union and its allies choose to recognize the new Stalinist state. China and most western nations refused and started to aid the Red Khmer. Millions of dollars and pounds were donated to the people who had killed 1/3 of their nation. Ronald Reagan and Margret Thatcher did not care. They supported Pol Pot because he was anti-Soviet and that was enough. At the UN in New York, a Red Khmer official kept the Cambodian seat at the General Assembly of the United Nations. In 1981, the Communist Party of Kampuchea (Red Khmer) officially abandoned communism and renamed itself as Party of Democratic Kampuchea. They joined up with the monarchists led by Norodom Sihanouk and created the Coalition Government of Democratic Kampuchea in 1982!
Hun Sen, the current dictator of Cambodia, belonged to those who broke with Pol Pot. He became a member of the Kampuchean People’s Revolutionary Party, the wing of the Communist Party of Kampuchea that supported the Vietnamese. Hun Sen was appointed as Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of the People’s Republic of Kampuchea in 1979. He was not a dogmatic Stalinist and turned out to be very moderate. True power was not yet in reach of Hun Sen, because Heng Samrin was made General Secretary of the Kampuchean People’s Revolutionary Party and Chairman of the People’s Revolutionary Council. However in 1984, the tide was turning. Vietnam’s influence was declining and in a bitter power struggle the General Secretary lost his power. Although the people’s revolutionary party was the only allowed force in the country, it was a rather weak political party. True power was centralized in the office of Prime Minister and Hun Sen made sure that he build a club of loyal henchmen!
As China and Vietnam embraced state-capitalism, the People’s Republic of Kampuchea was to undergo some cosmetic changes. Hun Sen started to rename the country into; State of Cambodia and moved to privatize the economy. Two years later in 1991, the Kampuchean People’s Revolutionary Party ended its Marxist facade and embraced capitalism. It was decided to rename the party into the Cambodian People’s Party. To please the United Nations and to bring Norodom Sihanouk back as king, Hun Sen allowed the UN to control Cambodia for one year. In this year ”free elections” would be held. The monarchists of Sihanouk agreed, Pol Pot rejected the new monarchy. But the Red Khmer lacked the means to keep on fighting. Western supplies had ceased and China no longer supported them. The Cambodian stalinists were the only ones in history who promoted a return to monarchism. People who once hailed Marx and Lenin now hailed the old monarchist traditions and praised the king and his royal family. Just another proof how counterrevolutionary the Stalinist tradition always has been!
The rebuild Kingdom of Cambodia remained at war with the remnants of the Red Khmer. At the end of the 1990’s the Party of Democratic Kampuchea led by a weak Pol Pot was defeated. The man who had murdered 1/3 of Cambodia died on 15 April 1998. By then he no longer commanded the Red Khmer, he was put aside by Brother Number Five called Ta Mok (born Chhit Choeun). This Ta Mok was the last major Red Khmer official who remained free after most leading members had been arrested. In 1999 the Cambodian Royal Army was finally able to capture him. Ta Mok was send to the Military Prosecution Department Detention Facility, but his trial would not take place until 2002. In poor health and suffering from respiratory problems, the last military leader of the Red Khmer died on 21 July 2006 in prison. The last political leader of ”Democratic Kampuchea” (Nuon Chea) was sentenced to life in prison, 21 years after the kingdom was restored!
Unlike most monarchies of the world, the Kingdom of Cambodia has a elected monarchy. The ruling king is elected by parliamentary vote, meaning that the Cambodian People’s Party chooses who is king. The party of dictator Hun Sen (the former communist party) allowed Norodom Sihanouk to become head of state in 1993. True power remained with the office of Prime Minister as it was during the People’s Republic of Kampuchea and State of Cambodia. Hun Sen made sure that Norodom Sihanouk was only a symbolic figurehead. Loved and respected, but with zero political power. King Norodom died in 2004 at the age of 89. His son Sihamoni was then selected by the Cambodian People’s Party to become the next monarch!
Meanwhile the economy was growing very fast. Cambodia got a reputation as a cheap labour nation with a low corporate tax. It resulted in that fact that most means of production are owned by foreigners. Chinese capitalists own 149 major businesses (who make up 64% of the total economy) in the kingdom. The ethnic Khmer ruling class is very weak, they own only 5% of businesses. Korean capitalists are also very active and own 17% of the Cambodian economy. It is ironic that Vietnamese exploiters own very little, despite that Hun Sen is on very friendly terms with the state-capitalist regime in Hanoi. Although the capital of Phnom Penh grew from a poor city in 1993 to a modern looking capital in 2017, poverty is still widespread in rural Cambodia. 33% of all workers in the kingdom earn less then $ 1,60 a day. 14% is living in absolute poverty, that is close to 2,1 million people!
A major opposition party to the ex-Stalinist: Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) was the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP). This liberal democratic party was created in 2012 when several liberal groups united into one big party. The CNRP was able to win 44,46% of the total vote during the 2013 parliamentary elections. Although the CPP formed a majority government, the victory of the liberals was seen as a major threat to their rule. Hun Sun understood that many Cambodians had rejected him and his corrupt bureaucrats. This is why he started a campaign to get the CNRP banned. In September 2017, the henchmen of the dictator were able to arrest the leader of the liberals. Two months later the Supreme Court outlawed the Cambodia National Rescue Party, allegedly for being part of a foreign plot to overthrow the Prime Minister!
Revolutionary socialists stand in solidarity with the Cambodian liberals, despite our differences on politics. It is true that the CNRP is pro-capitalist and supports the market economy. Yet it also called for higher wages for both private sector workers and government workers. They demand; free medical care for the poor, equal opportunity of the young to receive quality education and to have employment, universal health care, a referendum for same-sex marriage and an end to the dictatorial way the Cambodian government is enforcing its agenda. Hun Sen and his henchmen realized that this liberal party was winning support and therefore they banned it. It is not surprising that little attention to this fact is seen in the western media. When Venezuela is jailing opposition members there is massive outcry in the media of Europe and America. But when a dictator like Hun Sen is doing the same thing in Cambodia, the media of the western world remains silent. It proofs that the whole project of 1993 has failed. Cambodia under the regime of Hun Sen and the CPP may have moved from a Stalinist state to a capitalist state, the workers remained oppress!
Therefore we call for a massive uprising of workers, youth and peasants against the Cambodian People’s Party. We call for the overthrow of the dictator and his government. A workers party must be build on a socialist program. This is not easy in a semi-plutocracy created by the CPP and the western world. Capitalism rules supreme and the government does not protect the working class against massive exploitation. Despite that the CPP used to be a leftist revolutionary party, it never liberated the workers from oppression. The Communist Party of Kampuchea was a Khmer supremacist party, the Kampuchean People’s Revolutionary Party a Vietnamese puppet and the Cambodian People’s Party is a capitalist nest of class traitors. The legacy of Stalinist betrayal runs deep in Indochina!