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  • Print publication year: 2017
  • Online publication date: September 2017

5 - Cambodia: Detonator of Communism’s Implosion

from Part I - Globalism and Crisis
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The Cambridge History of Communism
  • Online ISBN: 9781316471821
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The accessible primary sources for the history of the Communist Party of Kampuchea and the Democratic Kampuchea regime are probably richer than the sources for most other communist parties and regimes, given that the CPK not only was overthrown within four years of coming to power but also became the subject of a United Nations-backed criminal tribunal. Many of its records were preserved by the successor regime or have since come to light.

Other confidential CPK documents came into the hands of its opponents before its 1975 victory. Timothy Carney, a US State Department official in Cambodia during Nol, Lon’s Khmer Republic, published the CPK’s “Short Guide for Application of Party Statutes,” along with 1972–73 eyewitness accounts written by a well-informed defector from the CPK zones, in his collection Communist Party Power in Kampuchea (Cambodia): Documents and Discussion (Ithaca: Cornell Southeast Asia Program, 1977). Carney, also published the 1973 “Summary of Annotated Party History,” by the Eastern Zone CPK branch, along with three post-1975 DK documents, in Cambodia 1975–1978: Rendezvous with Death, edited by Jackson, Karl D. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1989). I juxtaposed the 1973 text with Sary, Ieng’s truncated 1974 version in my How Pol Pot Came to Power: Colonialism, Nationalism and Communism in Cambodia, 1930–1975 (London: Verso, 1985; New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004), 364–67.

The 1965 exchange of documents in Hanoi between the Vietnamese and Cambodian communists appears in three appendices of Engelbert, Thomas and Goscha, Christopher E., Falling out of Touch: A Study on Vietnamese Communist Policy Towards an Emerging Cambodian Communist Movement, 1930–1975 (Clayton, Australia: Centre of Southeast Asian Studies, Monash Asia Institute, Monash University, 1995). These discussions are also mentioned in the 1978 DK publications, Livre Noir. Faits et preuves des actes d’agression et d’annexion du Vietnam contre le Kampuchea (Phnom Penh: Département de la presse et de l’information du Ministère des affaires étrangères du Kampuchea Démocratique, 1978), and the slightly different Black Paper: Facts and Evidences of the Acts of Aggression and Annexation of Vietnam Against Kampuchea (Phnom Penh: Department of Press and Information of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Democratic Kampuchea, 1978).

The Cambodian Genocide Program at Yale University published a series of online English translations of DK documents, including “The Khmer Rouge National Army Order of Battle: January 1976” (; “The Pol Pot Files, 1975–1977” (–1977); “The Son Sen Files, 1976–1977” (–1977); and “Ieng Sary’s Regime: A Diary of the Khmer Rouge Foreign Ministry, 1976–79” (–79). Eight more DK texts in translation may be found in Chandler, David P., Kiernan, Ben and Boua, Chanthou (eds.), Pol Pot Plans the Future: Confidential Leadership Documents from Democratic Kampuchea, 1976–1977 (New Haven: Yale Southeast Asia Studies, 1988). Tables outlining the CPK’s political and military chain of command can be found in Kiernan, Ben (ed.), Genocide and Democracy in Cambodia (New Haven: Yale Southeast Asia Studies, 1993), 1415.

The August 1979 Phnom Penh trial in absentia of Pol Pot and Ieng Sary, while legally invalid, provided much valuable documentary and testimonial information. The documentation, including CPK meeting minutes and victim statements, is collected in Genocide in Cambodia: Documents from the Trial of Pol Pot and Ieng Sary, edited by De Nike, Howard J., Quigley, John and Robinson, Kenneth J., with the assistance of Jarvis, Helen and Cross, Nereida (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2000). Since 2006, the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia have tried a number of cases of crimes against humanity and genocide. The ECCC website is a rich source of legal and historical information on the DK era: