Archives consist of articles that originally appeared in Collier's Year Book (for events of 1997 and earlier) or as monthly updates in Encarta Yearbook (for events of 1998 and later). Because they were published shortly after events occurred, they reflect the information available at that time. Cross references refer to Archive articles of the same year.
Probably the most significant development in Cambodia in 1956 and 1957 was the appearance of Communist China as a competitor for favor by means of an aid program. Cambodia is reportedly in the poorest economic position of any of the three neutralist or pro-Western successor states of Indochina, and the development of multiple sources of aid is of great importance. The United States has been extending aid for several years and reportedly gave some $88,000,000 in 1955 and 1956. The U.S. mission is reported to number 46 persons. Although American aid has been largely military, the United States has also been assisting in the construction of a large new seaport for Cambodia since its only present access to a major port is through Saigon in South Vietnam. It has also carried on educational training, antimalarial work, and some irrigation activity. On Nov. 16, 1956, Japan announced that it had allocated 1,500,000,000 yen ($4,000,000) to Cambodia for the purpose of economic development. Not much is known concerning aid from the Soviet Union, though there are 16 Soviet technicians in the country, and Russia has agreed to build a 500-bed hospital at the capital, Phnom Penh. It is believed the Russians also have other projects scheduled. The granting of aid by Communist China marks that country's first such move outside the Communist bloc. The two countries have signed two agreements. Under the first, Communist China has agreed to furnish $22,000,000 in direct assistance — primarily material — over a two-year period (1957-1958). Under the second, Cambodia and Red China signed a one-year trade barter agreement to exchange $14,000,000 worth of goods in 1957.
Vietnam, Laos, and Thailand.
Cambodia has problems concerning the divisions of assets with Laos and Vietnam, which date from the emergence of these states from French rule in 1949, and problems concerning the exact location of frontiers with Thailand as well as with Laos and Vietnam. Efforts to settle the frontier question with Thailand were fruitless because of political instability in that country. There was one minor clash between Cambodian and South Vietnam troops in May 1957, over a frontier question.
Relations with the United States are restricted to aid. The United States takes the position that its primary responsibility is to see that Cambodia does not fall under Communist influence and is apparently underwriting its military effort to further this policy.
Communist China and the Soviet Union.
The position of "active neutrality" which Prince Norodom Sihanouk espouses brought about closer relations with the Soviet Union and Communist China during 1957. In 1956, Norodom visited Peking where he denounced SEATO and subscribed to the "five principles" of neutralism. An increase in trade with Communist China followed. Premier Chou En-lai of China visited Cambodia in late November 1956. On Apr. 27, 1957, Peking Radio announced that a shipment of 1,287 tons of cement was enroute to Cambodia along with 11 tons of raw silk. The same broadcast indicated that there would be additional shipments of cement (2,000 tons), 800 tons of rolled steel, nine million yd. of cotton textiles and seven tons of raw silk.
There were several shifts in Cambodian domestic politics during the course of the year. The dominant figure in Cambodia remains Prince Norodom Sihanouk, who tends to control national affairs whether in or out of office. On Apr. 7, 1957, Prince Norodom took over as premier for the fourth time since he relinquished his throne to his father King Norodom Suramarit in 1955. His party, the Popular Socialist Community, controls all the seats in parliament. The Prince threatened to resign in May, but changed his mind. He finally resigned on June 21, charging that he was disgusted with the bribery and corruption in his own party. On July 14 he was re-elected head of his party in a unanimous vote. The following day Phlek Phocun, former Minister of Planning, Agriculture, and Industry and a leading economic expert, agreed to form a new government — the tenth since 1955.
FACTS AND FIGURES
Area and Population.
Area, 67,670 sq. mi. Pop., 4,360,000 (Jan. 1956 est.). There has never been a systematic census and some journalists believe that the population figure may be 6,000,000. Phnom Penh (cap.), 110,639 (1946 est.). National language, Khmer.
Constitutional monarchy. Reigning monarch, King Norodom Suramarit. Prime Minister, Phlek Phocun. All 91 seats in the National Assembly are held by the Popular Socialist Community party headed by Prince Norodom Sihanouk.
Monetary Unit: riel = U.S. $0.03. Budgetary estimate for 1957, R 2,000,000,000. Military costs largely borne by the United States and France.
Exports: rice, rubber, and fish products. Imports: textiles, metals, machinery, and petroleum products.
Agriculture and Industry.
Cambodia is primarily an agricultural country with three fourths of the cultivated area devoted to rice.
1,009 public schools, with 183,713 students (1953-1954). 1,600 religious and private schools, with almost 100,000 students. Predominant religion is Buddhism; there are also substantial numbers of Roman Catholics in the country.
Western observers estimate the strength of the Cambodian army as 70,000 fairly well-trained and equipped soldiers. Nothing is known of the air force and navy.
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