Unofficial translation by Bun Sou Sour
Documentation Center of Cambodia

Social Study [Text Book]

Ministry of Education Youth and Sports of the Royal Government of Cambodia 

Social Study [Text Book]
Lesson 12, Page 169 (Grade 9)
Ministry of Education Youth and Sports of the Royal Government of Cambodia
Edition 2000
Funded by UNFPA and UNESCO

Democratic Kampuchea

 From April 25 to April 27, 1975, the Khmer Rouge leaders held a special general assembly in order to form a new Constitution and renamed the country "Democratic Kampuchea". A new government of the DK, led by Pol Pot, came into existence, following which the massacre of Khmer citizens began.

Social Study [Text Book]
Lesson 4 (Grade 12)
Ministry of Education Youth and Sports of the Royal Government of Cambodia
Edition 2001

Cambodia in the 1980s and in the Twentieth Century 

After Prince Norodom Sihanouk was removed from his position as head of state by Field Marshal Lon Nol, Prince Sisowath Sirik Matak and In Tam, most of the country was in a state of extreme unrest. 

1.The Khmer Republic 

Field Marshal Lon Nol, in strengthening and extending his power, declared Cambodia to be a Republic, declared a state of emergency, and initiated certain security measures including the recruiting military forces. 

In Phnom Penh, in accordance with the principles of multi-party liberal democracy, the Khmer Republic formed three political parties: the Republic Party, the Democratic Party, and the Social Republic Party led by Lon Nol himself. 

On October 9 1970, the national radio announced that the country would henceforth be a Republic, and that associated governmental institutions had been formed. In March 1972, Lon Nol dissolved the National Assembly and the government, and declared himself as the President of the Khmer Republic. On April 30 1972, in Phnom Penh, a new Constitution was drafted and preparations made to hold a referendum. The Republicans determined that they would improve society with the support of the people by conforming to the principles of human rights and leading the country toward political and social democracy, thereby creating happiness and harmony, and eradicating oppression, intimidation, and lack of forgiveness. In addition, the Republicans opposed the monarchy and would never again tolerate its existence. Their goal was to defend sovereignty, independence, and national consensus in conjunction with the stated motto of freedom, equality, fraternity, development, and happiness. 

1.1. Bitterness of the 1970-1975 War  

The Republic regime of Field Marshal Lon Nol was unable to maintain political and economic stability. It was a regime riddled with corruption, surviving only through massive assistance from the United States in all fields. On the face of it, the regime could only control administrative affairs in about one-third of the country, including Phnom Penh and other major cities. The fighting which raged between its forces and those of the communists resulted in a massive influx of refugees into the cities. With conditions deteriorating by the month, the city dwellers lived a hand-to-mouth existence. The price of basic commodities such as rice and oil skyrocketed. Rates of inflation, unemployment, and corruption multiplied. It was a society in crisis. 

In March of 1970, at Vonsai in Rattanakiri Province, the National United Front of Kampuchea (NUFK) and National Liberation Armed Forces of Kampuchea (NLAFK) were formed. The Royal Government of National Union of Cambodia was created on May 4 of that year. The main political program of NUFK focussed on destroying the United States backed Lon Nol regime and unifying the country under its authority.

On March 24 1970, the nominal leader of the NUFK, Prince Norodom Sihanouk, called for the masses to join his movement. From April 1970 to the end of 1974, the NUFK controlled Kampuchea Liberation Armed Forces launched attacks on strategic positions, cut off the Mekong River waterway for use in transportation of food supplies to Phnom Penh, and attacked rice stocks in Battambang. Lon Nol forces were steadily forced to retreat. Roads linking the provinces to Phnom Penh were cut off. Near the end, the only remaining mode of transportation was by air. 

Beginning in January 1975, the National Liberation Armed Forces of Kampuchea opened their attack on all fronts. 

On April 12 1975, United States military helicopters were ordered to evacuate U.S. ambassador John Gunther Dean, military advisors, 82 U.S. embassy staff members, 159 Republic of Kampuchea officials, and the acting president So Kam Khoy. Those Khmer Republic high officials who declined the offer of evacuation, including Prince Sisowath Sirik Matak, were executed shortly after Khmer Rouge forces took Phnom Penh. 

On the morning of April 17 1975, the National Liberation Armed Forces of Kampuchea began their offensive attacks on Phnom Penh. At 9: 30 a.m. the NLAFK shook each other's hands in the middle of the capital city. The whole city was liberated in five years and a month. NLAFK received a total success over the Khmer Republic regime. 

1.2. Consequences of the 1970-1975 War  

The supporters of the U.S.-backed Khmer Republic sacrificed their lives in an effort to defend the regime and Cambodia’s independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity, all of which had been repeatedly violated by the Vietcong, the North Vietnamese Army, and the communist Khmer Rouge, the latter with the support of the People's Republic of China. Conversely, in liberated areas of the countryside, many Khmer citizens from among the majority of poor people sacrificed their lives by joining the NLAFK to free the country from what they perceived to be U.S. imperialists and their allies. 

The Civil War lasted for five years and one month, and the fighting entailed large casualties and destruction. More than one million people from both sides were killed or injured. Many of the survivors became prisoners living without food or shelter; large numbers old people and children died of starvation. Four-fifths of industrial factories were destroyed; two-thirds of the rubber plantations were damaged; about 70 to 80 percent of roads and railroads were out of operation; ports and ferry docks were ruined, and 80 to 90 percent of public buildings, populated areas, and educational institutions suffered major damage. 

2. Democratic Kampuchea Regime 

On April 17, 1975, Phnom Penh dwellers happily celebrated a the end of the war and looked forward hopefully to peace. These hopes were quickly dashed as the NLAFK showed arrogant behavior and used military power to force everyone to abandon their homes.

At that time, a significant number of innocent people were battered and killed, while sick people died premature deaths along the way. All people in Phnom Penh, whether native city dwellers or refugees who had fled the fighting in the provinces, were treated as prisoners of war. They evacuated city dwellers to live in groups in the countryside, and used them as forced labor in cooperatives. 

In the Third National General Assembly and its formal declaration on January 5, 1976, the Khmer Rouge leaders congratulated Cambodians, especially workers and peasants, for their participation in the national and people’s liberation war, and for sacrificing their lives, their properties, and their love for their children and spouses for the cause of military service without hesitation. Moreover, the general assembly also noted the invaluable help of the three categories of the Kampuchean Revolutionary Army (front line troops, regional troops and guerillas), who fought bravely to save the nation, and built a neutral, non-aligned, democratic country with its own territorial integrity. Thus we could live in a joyful society, in true justice and in democracy having neither the rich nor the poor and neither oppressors nor oppressed classes. It was a society in which people lived in harmony. Yet, in another special general assembly held on April 25-26-27 1975, the Khmer Rouge leaders worked on a draft constitution that consisted of 16 chapters and 21 articles later enacted on April 2 1976. Prince Norodom Sihanouk resigned from his post as the head of state. Samdech Pen Nut was also forced to resign from his position as first premier. On April 11 1976, the People's Representative Assembly declared the dissolution of the Royal Government of National Union of Cambodia and formed a new government. Nuon Chea was appointed as president of the People's Representative Assembly. Khieu Samphan became state presidium. Pol Pot acted as the First Prime Minister. Ieng Sary succeeded to the position of Deputy Prime Minister in charge of foreign affairs. 

Therefore, Democratic Kampuchea was a complete institution, which had government, national assembly, and constitution, but the average citizens became slaves of Angkar. 

3. Economy and Population of the Democratic Kampuchea 

Democratic Kampuchea had a slogan stating: "Once you have rice, you have everything". With this idea in mind, the government forced the people to grow rice in the countryside.

Concerning industrial products achieved under the management of old governments, the DK completely destroyed factories, enterprises, and transportation facilities. In the commercial sector, they eliminated the use of money and markets. The national administration of education and culture, once progressive areas, were also entirely changed. Schools were transformed into ammunition warehouses, animal stables, detention offices, and other equipment stores. Pagodas—sacred places of worship for Cambodians since ancient times—were demolished. Monks were forced out of the priesthood. Shrines and other places that served religious beliefs were prohibited. Music, art performance, traditional dance, and opera were all absolutely banned. Women had to wear black clothes and cut their hair short. Men and women were forced into marriage by just holding hands with their supposed lovers, contradictory to the national, traditional ways. 

DK created new collective concepts in favor of worker and peasant classes, according to which everyone was required to sleep, to eat, and to work communally. Family members were separated and assigned to live and work in their respective groups. Parents had no authority over their children, since all people were perceived as children of the Angkar. Therefore, men, women, young and old people had to work for the sake of the Angkar. Anyone who was against the Angkar would be destroyed immediately. During three years, eight months and twenty days, the DK acted as a draconian state, and executed their own countrymen callously. 

This regime had more than three millions innocent people killed. Few were the families that escaped the wrath of Angkar and its genocidal acts. In short, the DK plunged the entire country into a real catastrophe in only three years, eight months, and twenty days. 

Social Study [Text Book]
Lesson 5 (Grade 12)
Ministry of Education Youth and Sports of the Royal Government of Cambodia
Edition 2001

People's Republic of Kampuchea (1979-1989

Pol Pot's regime was an unforgettable tragedy for the Cambodian people and one of the most barbarous periods in the history of mankind. On January 7, 1979, the Cambodian people were freed from this genocidal regime. 

1. Forming the United Front for the National Salvation of Kampuchea (UFNSK) 

1.1.  United Front for the National Salvation of Kampuchea (UFNSK) 

Under Pol Pot's regime Cambodia became hell. A significant number of Cambodian people were killed, starved and worked to death, and forced to live with inadequate medical care, clothing, and shelter. Even innocent babies were brutalized and killed.

In January 1976, Hou Nim, then Minister of Information of the Royal Government of National Union of Cambodia (RGNUC), began to fight against Pol Pot. In March 1976, people at Chamkar Luong and Siem Reap Province urged the DK government to improve their standards of living and to enable them to live together with their families. In early January 1977, the residents of Northern Siem Reap and Battambang stood up and formed an anti-Pol Pot movement, which was followed by several movements with similar characteristics organized by inhabitants in Kampong Thom, Mondulkiri, Kampong Chhnang, and Chamkar Luong. 

These movements provoked a catastrophic reaction by the Angkar. Since April 30, 1977, Pol Pot had begun to massacre Khmer people in various districts inside country, such as districts in Southwestern, Southern, and Western regions. Surprisingly, the bigger the slaughter, the greater and sharper the movements became, as evidenced by events in Tbong Khmum (Kampong Cham), Siem Pang (Stung Treng), Bar Keo (Rattanakiri). In the Western Zone, an insurrection led by Heng Samrin, a former commander of Division 4, broke out. The insurgents dispersed leaflets persuading Cambodian people all over the country to consolidate to overthrow the ferocious Pol Pot regime, and to take part in rebuilding Cambodia into a country with independence, peace, freedom, and happiness. 

A general assembly representing revolutionary forces of all regions throughout the country, under the leadership of communists, was held on December 2, 1978 for the purpose of the revolution. The assembly, at the time, agreed in unanimity to form a United Front for the National Salvation of Kampuchea (UFNSK), and organized an election to choose members of the Central Committee of the Front, chaired by Heng Samrin and consisting of fourteen members. 

The Assembly passed political programs of the Front, which were the line and obligation of the revolution, as follows: respect the willingness and the aims of the people; overthrow the murderous Pol Pot clique; and bring about peace, independence, democracy, neutrality, and prosperity. 

Following the organization, the forces of the United Front for the National Salvation of Kampuchea (UFNSK) grew ever greater both inside and outside of the country, which was a sharp contrast to the shrinking power of the genocidal Pol Pot regime. 

1.2. The Victory of January 7, 1979 

In 1978, Vietnam faced severe floods, which destroyed its agricultural products. Seizing this opportunity, Pol Pot deployed nineteen divisions along Kampuchea-Vietnam border. In the meantime, China had also stopped giving aid to Vietnam. As a result, Vietnam faced serious economic crisis and fell into a dangerous situation. Simultaneously, China attacked along the northern border of Vietnam. 

On December 23, 1978, Pol Pot's troops reached Tay Ninh Province and captured many other regions. As revenge, Vietnamese soldiers smashed three regiments of the Pol Pot army. Motivated by this victory, Vietnamese soldiers invaded Cambodia. In just a short period, Pol Pot henchmen were seriously defeated, making the situation in Kampuchea chaotic. At the same time, on December 26, 1978, the front called for the Kampuchean people and Revolutionary Armed Forces to stand up and topple Pol Pot's regime. 

With the assistance of the Vietnamese Army, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Kampuchea stood up, rebelled, destroyed Pol Pot’s forces and liberated territories as well as people. From December 30, 1978, UFNSK liberated many towns, including Lumpat (Kratie) on December 30 1978; Veun Sai (Tunle Beth) on December 30 1978; Svay Rieng on January 3 1978; and Stung Treng on January 4 1978. 

On January 5 and 6, 1979, the Revolutionary Armed Forces took over Neak Loeung and the provincial town of Kampong Cham. The third General Assembly was held from January 5 to 8, 1979 with the participation of 66 communists. The Assembly passed a program for the purposes of complete salvation and liberation. On January 7, 1979, the Front forces attacked Phnom Penh from all directions and liberated the capital city at 12:30 p.m. The Front also freed Takeo and Kampong Som on January 7, 1979; Kampong Chhnang on January 11; Battambang on January 13; and finally Pursat and Koh Kong from 14 to 17 January. 

In only three weeks, the Front forces in cooperation with Vietnamese Army liberated most of the country from the genocidal Pol Pot regime. 

2. Khmer Social Situation during 1979-1989 

After the liberation day, January 7 1979, Kampuchean people were freed from the genocidal Pol Pot Regime. Most of them returned to their hometowns. Those who had lived in the cities went back to the cities. But many fled to refugee camps along the Thai border supported by the UN. 

Upon their return, people reunited with their siblings and parents. Unluckily, some people lost one or several of their relatives, while others lost their entire families. Most of the returnees were widows and old people. Materially, they had no cows, ox-carts, plows, and harrows to cultivate their rice fields-only their bare hands. There were many people who were so poor they had no rice to eat. They worked as servants or small merchants along Thai and Vietnamese borders. 

2.1. Formation of Solidarity Group of Production 

This group assisted widows, orphans, and elderly people, since these people did not have enough tools to farm. In each village, villagers were divided into groups, each comprised of ten families. The number of members in each group varied according to the number of survivors in each family. The most important pulling power lay in cows and buffaloes left over by the Pol Pot regime. People used these few remaining animals to plow and to transport foods and other agricultural products. 

In total, there were 90,000 to 95,000 solidarity groups countrywide, which made up 95 percent of the rural population. In harvest season, the agricultural products were divided according to labor force of each person—strong labor, average labor (teenagers, cows and buffaloes), and weak labor (old people, and children). In provinces which covered wide areas of farmland, each group could farm their own field of 1,500 to 2,000 square meters for family consumption. 

From 1980, some people began to leave their hometowns to more populated areas and markets, in order to earn their living by trading daily products. Some had two occupations at the same time—farming and subsidiary business. Others preferred to resume whatever occupation they had in the old regime, but most did whatever they could to feed their families. The Solidarity Group of Production was ended in 1987, when the authority in villages, communes, and districts launched a new land policy— measuring and distributing land to families and levying taxes in the form of rice, which varied according to the productivity of each geographical region. 

2.2 Central State Power (Government) and Administration 

In People's Republic of Kampuchea, the important ministerial positions were taken by veterans, such as the revolutionists from the Eastern Zone, especially those from Kampong Cham, Svay Rieng, and people who had been educated in Vietnam after the 1954 Geneva Conference. These two categories of office holders held the positions of ministers and had responsibilities in important governmental institutions, like Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Defense, or Provincial/Municipal Revolutionary People Committees. Later on, due to the country's stable situation, educated people or former staff of Sangkum Reastr Niyum (Popular Socialist Community) and Lon Nol administration, such as engineers, local and overseas students, professors, and technical workers, were either motivated or targeted for the preceding positions. The most significant figures in the government at that time were Hun Sen, Chea Sim, and Heng Samrin—the revolutionists whose origins lay in the worker and peasant classes, and who led the revolutionary movement in Vietnam in 1977, and liberated Kampuchea from Pol Pot's regime. 

Government employees who worked in various provinces as well as school teachers were in receipt of financial support from 100 to 254 riel a month. Each family member received 10 riel a month with extra rations of rice, milk, soap, biscuits, canned foods, cooking oil and petroleum. 

2.3. Government's Key Organizations 

In PRK there were four major organizations: 

  • Kampuchea Revolutionary People’s Party led by Secretary General Pen Sovan, a former Isarrak Khmer who had studied communist principles in North Vietnam in 1954. In December 1981, his position was transferred to Heng Samrin on the grounds that Pen Sovan was a party traitor. The party had its offices in all municipalities and provincial towns. The selection for party membership or Core Group was carried out with careful inspection, particularly on biographies. It took several months before any candidate received a decision.

  • The Council of Revolutionary People or Council of Ministers comprised of 17 ministers. The Head of the Council was Pen Sovan, who remained in this position until 1981. After that, Chan Sy (a former Isarrak Khmer educated in Hanoi) replaced Sovan. The council played a prominent role in achieving the party’s goals. The meetings of the Council were scheduled to show the administration measures to the ministers, so that they could, in turn, spread the information to various ministries and departments to avoid any errors contradictory to the principles set forth. In each meeting, the representatives of every ministry had to report their achievements and any problems arising within their ministries. The most important ministries included Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Culture, and Ministry of Information. Less important ministries were Ministry of Social Affairs, Ministry of Industry, Ministry of Commerce, and Ministry of Transportation. They were not vital, because these ministries lacked financial and human resources. The Ministry of Planning was founded in 1981 in order to organize national economic restoration program.

  • Council of State was led by Heng Samrin. This council’s responsibility was to pass judgement on the state’s legal aspects ranging from management of the criminal code and amendment of the law on capital punishment.

  • Formed through an election in May 1981, National Assembly consisted of 117 members. Its first meeting was held in June 1981 with a view to choosing the National Assembly's president, ministers, and Council of State.

On April 29-30 1989, the assembly held an extraordinary meeting in order to verify the constitution and to change the name of "People's Republic of Kampuchea" to "State of Cambodia". The National Flag and National Anthem were also changed. This was the historical turning point of Cambodia when we had eliminated capital punishment and reintroduce Buddhism as a national religion. The law on Personal Ownership and Free Market Orientation was passed. The Constitution stated that Cambodia was a neutral and non-aligned state. Moreover, the policy of the party and the State of Cambodia became to negotiate with the other three factions, which were struggling along the Cambodian-Thai border. 

3. Economy 

Cambodia's economy was based chiefly on subsistence agriculture. Ninety per cent of the citizens were peasants. Rice is the staple food for the whole population. In 1988, the rice production increased to 2,700,000 tons and in 1990, to 3,000,000 tons, or 350 kg of rice per capita. 

According the fifth General Assembly, the government took three measures to enhance food production: increase the coverage of agricultural land; increase growing cycles; and intensification of crops. Beside rice, there were many other crops, such as food crops and industrial crops. The surplus of these crops was exported.

Table of Rice, Rubber, and Fishing Output 

Year Fishing T/year Rubber T/year Rice T/year
1979 N/A N/A 265,220
1980 20,000 1300 1, 715, 310
1981 51,600 4,000 1,489,610
1982 68,714 7,000 1,989,200
1983 68,261 9,000 2,039,190
1984 65,126 13,400 1,258,250
1985 67,577 17,640 1,789,490
1986 73,621 24,500 2,086,080
1987 74,154 25,000 1,813,350
1988 77,393 32,000 2,700,000 

Rubber Plantations were the state's main source of exports. The old plantations were reestablished in a short time, with many new trees planted since 1985. The plantations in Rattanakiri, Kampong Som, Kampong Cham, and Kratie had not yet been transferred to provincial governance. Hence, those plantations were neglected. However, in 1985 the government decided to hand them over to provincial authorities for maintenance and commercial purposes. 

Lumber exports sharply increased and became one of the most important sectors among the four targeted for national economic improvement. But illegal deforestation by private companies and some powerful individuals eventually led to a critical depletion of Cambodia’s forests. 

Since the liberation day (January 7 1979), fishing in both fresh and sea waters has developed remarkably, and has helped increase the living standard of many people. However, in this sector too, poor management and practices such as illegal fishing in spawning season, the use of electrocution and hand grenades for killing fish, the destruction of flooded forests vital to fish spawning, and the taking of baby fish, have led to serious depletion of the resource. 

4. National Unity Policy 

After being liberated from the genocidal regime, Cambodian people were expected to live in harmony. As a matter of fact, their sorrow was only slightly relieved, for Pol Pot, Ieng Sary, Khieu Samphan and their cohorts had escaped to the jungles and continued to cause insecurity among the people and society. They robbed the people of animals, rice, and other belongings. 

With the combined support of the United Nations, the United States of America, China, Thailand, and others, the guerillas regained much of their strength and were able to tie up the new government and the Vietnamese army. Confronting this circumstance, the government decided to cut down forested areas occupied by its enemies in order to make it more difficult for them to hide. Unfortunately, that was a big setback, for our workers had lost too many lives. In contrast, the guerillas formed a front, led by King Norodom Sihanouk, which was progressively gaining popularity. In addition, the UN granted a seat for the guerilla group, while China and the United States conspired to isolate the new government and its Vietnamese backers from ASEAN. 

However, in 1984, both China and the United States were forced to enter a negotiation with the USSR—the summit-negotiation of the two super powers scheduled to take place in Geneva in 1985. Although the relationship between the U.S and USSR did not solve major disagreements, it had significant political effects to the world and Cambodia as well. Since then, political situation in Cambodia had remarkably improved. As seen in November 1984, Western European countries, specifically France, planned to meet with Sihanouk and representatives of PRK. Unfortunately, planed meeting was called off as rejected by China and KR. 

By 1985, the political situation in Southeast Asia offered a new opportunity for peace negotiations involving Cambodia. Therefore, all Vietnamese troops had to withdraw from Cambodia in five years. The final time-limit would be 1990. 

During the 1987 summit between top U.S. and USSR leaders on the elimination of medium range missiles showed that the political situation in Cambodia was getting better. Western European nations insisted that the tripartite Cambodian government and Vietnam to come to a negotiation under the conditions of withdrawal of Vietnamese troops from Cambodia before the UN's intervention. In 1987, Prince Sihanouk proclaimed his resignation in the face of strong opposition from China, Thailand, Pol Pot, and Son Sann. 

The national reconciliation policy and request for peace proposed by the PRK was passed in August and October 1987 to resolve political discord in Cambodia between the government and Prince Norodom Sihanouk and other anti-government factions. On July 29, 1987, the Indonesian Minister of Foreign Affairs traveled to Vietnam seeking a formulation for a meeting among Cambodia’s conflicting parties. Based on the plan, there were two phases: 1) a meeting among the confronting opponents; 2) All Khmer sides and all countries concerned would assemble to solve political problems in Cambodia. The first meeting was between Prince Norodom Sihanouk and Hun Sen on December 4 1987 in France. They reached a first, historic agreement and resolution, and began to putting an end to the fighting in Cambodia. 

In a summit on December 14-15 1987, ASEAN nations congratulated Prince Norodom Sihanouk and Hun Sen on their meeting. 

On January 21-22 1988, the second phase of the meeting was held in France. The meeting agreed to abolish the groups headed by Son Sann and the Khmer Rouge. Prince Norodom Sihanouk canceled the third meeting scheduled to take place in April 1988 in Pyongyang and the fourth meeting to be held in November 1988 in New Delhi.

For the sole purpose of unification and reconciliation, Cambodian government consented to all proposals made by Prince Norodom Sihanouk. 

Eventually, on October 23 1991, the peace negotiation between the two sides in Paris brought about a satisfactory result. The Khmer envoys of two sides shook hands and agreed to carry out a general election under the supervision of the soon to be established UNTAC (United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia).