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Cambodia: 1964

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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.


1964: Cambodia

Politics and Government.

In a year marked by deteriorating relations with the United States, Prince Norodom Sihanouk, formerly king and now chief of state, maintained his dominant role in Cambodia. Leader of the People's Socialist Community, which holds all seats in the Cambodian parliament, Sihanouk has no serious challenger as leader of Cambodia.

Nevertheless, Sihanouk is extremely sensitive to suggestions of internal opposition to his regime. In spite of Cambodia's friendly relations with Communist China, Sihanouk brooked no challenge from domestic Communism. In May he denounced activities by leftist educators and students in the capital. But his chief concern continued to be with the Khmer Serei, or Free Khmers, a rebel group operating in small numbers on Cambodia's borders and linked with Sihanouk's long-time political opponent, Son Ngoc Thanh. Sihanouk denounced the rebels as agents of Cambodia's neighbors, Thailand and South Vietnam. In response to the Free Khmer charge that he did not wish to see the Cambodian throne reoccupied, Sihanouk announced in October that he would call a meeting of the crown council to select a new king.

Foreign Relations.

A search for security continued as the basic theme in Cambodia's foreign policy. Sihanouk's belief that a Communist takeover was imminent in South Vietnam added urgency to this policy. Throughout the year Sihanouk attempted to arrange for a 14-nation conference to guarantee Cambodia's neutrality and territorial integrity. He was supported by Communist China and the Soviet Union. Criticism of the United States and Britain for failing to respond to the conference proposal was followed by student attacks on the U.S. and British embassies in March. Sihanouk threatened to recognize the North Vietnamese regime as the only government of Vietnam and to conclude mutual assistance agreements with North Vietnam and Communist China.

Sihanouk's disenchantment with the West was accentuated by repeated incidents along Cambodia's border with South Vietnam, for which he blamed the United States as well as South Vietnam. After a series of border incidents in which South Vietnamese forces penetrated Cambodian territory, Cambodia appealed in May to the United Nations Security Council for a condemnation of South Vietnamese and U.S. "aggression." The Security Council deplored the incidents and dispatched an investigating team to the area. South Vietnam claimed that Cambodian territory was used by Vietcong insurgents; Cambodia denied the charges.

In June, Prince Sihanouk made a state visit to France, where he gave his solution for Southeast Asia's problems. He called for the neutralization of South Vietnam, but for continued U.S. support of Thailand and the Philippines to maintain a power balance. President Charles de Gaulle indicated his approval of a new Geneva conference to guarantee Cambodia's neutrality and integrity and promised further economic and military aid.

Cambodia's ties with Communist China became closer in 1964. In March a Cambodian military mission visited China and the Soviet Union to obtain military equipment. In October, Sihanouk attended the celebrations for the 15th anniversary of the Communist Chinese government's accession to power. Cambodia congratulated China on the explosion of its first nuclear weapon and sponsored efforts to seat Communist China in the United Nations.

During the year, Cambodia's relations with the United States deteriorated. Although in June the Cambodian government announced its readiness to accept a new U.S. ambassador, it declined to accept his credentials in September. In July, Cambodia accused the United States of spraying a border village with noxious chemicals. In October, Cambodia shot down a U.S. aircraft that flew over Cambodian territory. It announced that further incidents would be met by reprisal attacks against South Vietnam. A new low point was reached in November with Sihanouk alleging a plot by South Vietnam and the United States to invade Cambodia. Sihanouk warned that he would place his country in the Communist camp, if necessary, to preserve its territorial integrity. He also proposed a conference of representatives from North Vietnam and from the pro-Communist parties of Laos and South Vietnam to denounce the U.S. role in Southeast Asia. After threatening to expel what remains of the U.S. embassy staff, Sihanouk finally agreed to talks with the United States. The talks, held in New Delhi in December, ended in failure but with a possibility of being resumed. Philip W. Bonsal, head of the U.S. delegation, returned to Washington for consultations, presumably to find means of postponing the expulsion of the U.S. embassy staff from Phnom Penh. Later in the month, Sihanouk accused the United States of new border attacks and reportedly announced that Communist China had agreed to supply equipment for 20,000 Cambodian troops.

Relations with Thailand remained strained, and a United Nations mediation mission announced that it could not reconcile the differences between the two countries.

The Economy.

The most important economic development was the introduction of a nationalized import-export economy and nationalization of the banking system. These measures affected Cambodia's major export industry, rice farming. Bank nationalization restricted funds available for the purchase of the 1963-1964 rice harvest, and businesses were reluctant to purchase rice when the profits from its sale overseas were to go to the state. The result was the loss of at least 10 percent of the anticipated crop at a time when, with Cambodia's abandonment of U.S. aid, export earnings were most important. Nevertheless, it was expected that the 1964 harvest would exceed that of 1963. There was some unemployment in Phnom Penh and a rise in the cost of living as a result of these nationalization measures, but most of the population was unaffected. Cambodia's trade balance continued to improve.

Area and Population.

Area, 66,800 sq. mi. Pop. (1962), 5,740,115. Phnom Penh (cap., 1962 est.), metropolitan area, 403,500.


Limited constitutional monarchy with a parliament consisting of a council of the kingdom and a national assembly. Chief of State, Prince Norodom Sihanouk.


Monetary unit, riel; riel = U.S.$0.02857. Budget (1963): revenue, 3.8 billion riels; expenditure, 5.6 billion riels.

Agriculture and Industry.

Production (1962-1963): rice, 1.6 million tons; rubber; some cotton, maize, palm sugar, and timber.

Trade (1963).

Value of exports, $86,171,414; value of imports, $107,174,285. Principal exports: rice, rubber, maize, cattle, timber. Principal imports: textiles, machinery, transport equipment, base metals, food. Major trading partners: France, Malaysia, Japan, United States, Hong Kong, and China.

Education (1963).

State primary schools, 3,598; enrollment, 595,139. State secondary schools, 63; enrollment, 36,033. Private primary and secondary schools, 421; enrollment, 62,971. Technical schools, 7; enrollment 1,964. Advanced schools, 5; enrollment, 2,015.

Armed Forces.

Army, 29,500; air force, 1,000; navy, 1,200.

Microsoft ® Encarta ® Encyclopedia 2002. © 1993-2001 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

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