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Cambodia: 1968

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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.


1968: Cambodia

Foreign Affairs.

The year was marked by a series of actions and maneuvers aimed largely at maintaining the independence, integrity, and neutrality of the kingdom in the face of threatening foreign infringements.

Relations With the United States.

In January, Prince Norodom Sihanouk, Cambodian chief of state, softened his previously hard position concerning the possibility of U.S. pursuit of Vietcong forces into Cambodian territory and indicated that he would gladly receive a presidential envoy. Chester Bowles, the U.S. ambassador to India, went to Phnom Penh for talks with the Cambodian government. The United States said it had no intention of violating Cambodian territory and would help to strengthen the International Control Commission, which is responsible for supervising Cambodia's neutrality and territorial integrity. The talks helped lessen the tension between the Cambodian and U.S. governments, although Prince Sihanouk continued to score U.S. policy in Vietnam and to deplore Washington's refusal to recognize present Cambodian borders.

On July 17, 11 American servicemen, the crew of a landing craft supply boat, were seized inside Cambodian waters on the Mekong River. The U.S. State Department apologized for the intrusion, calling it the result of a navigational error. Prince Sihanouk, rejecting the apology, at first demanded bulldozers in return for the men, but on December 19 he announced that he was releasing the 11-man boat crew and a helicopter crewman as a Christmas gesture.

Relations With Other Southeast Asian Nations.

Prince Sihanouk and his government emphasized the solidarity of the Indochinese peoples in their "struggle for national freedom and independence." Relations with North Vietnam and the National Liberation Front have broadened and intensified. Phnom Penh, however, apparently still suspects Vietnamese Communists of trying to create political-military bases in Cambodia through "reactivation" of former "Khmer-Vietminh" cells. Cambodia is also concerned about "foreign" activities in the eastern mountain region and about Laotian claims on some parts of Stung Treng province. Relations with Thailand remained tense, as border disputes remained unsolved. Verbal polemics continued throughout the year, but there was no crisis.

Relations With China and the Soviet Union.

Prince Sihanouk became increasingly suspicious of Chinese intentions in Southeast Asia. Representatives of the Chinese and Cambodian governments met in Peking, however, and exchanged assurances of continuing friendship. But Sihanouk stressed firmly that Cambodia wants to be a "good friend" to China, not a satellite. Relations with the Soviet Union remained friendly. The Cambodian minister of defense went to Moscow to discuss Soviet military supplies to the Royal Armed Forces, and Soviet Premier Kosygin visited Phnom Penh.

Cooperation With Nonaligned Nations.

Maintaining its policy of active neutrality, Cambodia paid special attention to relations with important nonaligned nations. Lavish receptions in Phnom Penh welcomed President Tito of Yugoslavia, President Suharto of Indonesia, and Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia. Warm messages were exchanged with Indian prime minister Gandhi. Cambodia also found understanding and support among many other nonaligned countries of Asia and Africa.

Recognition of Frontiers.

Prince Sihanouk continued to obtain recognition of present borders from governments around the world, including Japan, Great Britain, and Australia. But he failed to get any assurance from Washington concerning the borders, although he made it clear that a resumption of diplomatic relations was impossible without it.

Domestic Politics.

Internal politics were dominated by the resurgence of both right- and left-wing opposition. Subversive activities and guerrilla fighting spread through various sections of the western half of the country and led to an apparent shift in Cambodian policy. Sihanouk gave strong warnings to the guerrillas and to the Communist governments he felt were supporting them. Most of the outbreaks seemed to have been initiated by local Maoists linked with ultra-leftist groups in China and Thailand. Most of the fighting was quelled during the year. In March, Peking and Hanoi assured Phnom Penh that they would not interfere in Cambodia's internal affairs. In January the National Assembly approved a new cabinet to replace the emergency government which had been in power since the spring of 1967, and Penn Nouth became premier. Actions were taken to restore a more dynamic economy and administration and to fight smuggling, corruption, and inefficiency.


In the economic field, agriculture was again the main object of government efforts. It was recognized that the development of production needs a broad water policy ensuring satisfactory irrigation. Top priority was thus given to the Prek Thnot Dam project, which is being implemented with direct foreign aid, largely from Japan.

In the industrial field, preparation continued for the second five-year plan. Because financing of the plan seemed to be difficult, a more liberal economic and financial policy was adopted. The National Assembly approved Cambodia's adhesion to the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. A decision was also made to create a "free zone" in Sihanoukville and to encourage foreign investments there.

Area and Population.

Area, 69,800 sq. mi. Pop. (est. 1967), 6,500,000. Phnom Penh (cap.), 550,000.


Limited constitutional monarchy with Parliament consisting of a Council of the Kingdom and a National Assembly. Chief of state, Prince Norodom Sihanouk.


Monetary unit, riel; 1 riel = US$0.03. Budget (1968): balanced at 7 billion riels.

Trade (1967).

Imports, $76 million; exports, $85 million. Principal exports: rice, maize, rubber, pepper, fish, cattle. Principal imports: machinery, vehicles, textiles, oil.

Agriculture and Industry.

Chief products: rice (1967-1968), 3,200,000 tons; maize (1966-1967), 137,000 tons; rubber, 50,000 tons; cotton; pepper; timber; tobacco. Limited industrial production.

Education (1968).

Enrollment: primary, 998,000; secondary, 107,000; higher, 14,560; technical, 6,000.

Armed Forces (1968).

Army, 35,500; air force, 1,300; navy, 1,200.

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

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