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.
Eight years after Vietnam invaded Cambodia (Kampuchea) and established a puppet government in Phnom Penh, the country's prospects remained bleak. Economic progress seemed to have stalled, the country was still struggling to feed itself, and the escalating guerrilla war between the Phnom Penh regime led by Heng Samrin and its Cambodian foes created fear and uncertainty among the population.
Despite 1985 reversals along Cambodia's western border with Thailand and the continued presence of about 120,000 Vietnamese troops, the resistance forces, made up of the Communist Khmer Rouge and its two non-Communist allies, stepped up attacks deep inside Cambodia during the first four months of 1986. In February, they attacked the southeastern provinces of Prey Veng and Svay Rieng, both previously considered safe areas. Battalion-size units swept through Prey Veng, hitting villages and military installations.
Because of the deteriorating security situation, the Phnom Penh government restricted travel by Western aid workers. The Soviet Union withdrew many of its personnel from the provinces and also dropped a project to rebuild a phosphate factory in Kampot, complaining that the government could not provide adequate security.
In an attempt to strengthen the army, the government stepped up its recruitment of men 18 to 45 years old and extended military service from three to five years. Tens of thousands of civilians were also drafted to clear brush and build roads along the Thai border for three-month periods. Many of them contracted malaria or were injured or killed by land mines.
The leadership rift within one of the non-Communist resistance groups, the Khmer People's National Liberation Front, grew wider in January. Opponents of the leader of the Front, Son Sann, accused him of meddling in military affairs and refusing to allow any cooperation with the other non-Communist faction, headed by Prince Norodom Sihanouk, who leads the Cambodian government-in-exile in Peking. To pressure the Front to settle the dispute, the United States withheld over $3 million in "humanitarian aid" intended for both non-Communist factions. In July, Washington released the money, channeling it through the Thai government.
China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) also put pressure on the resistance groups to carry out joint operations. In March, the three groups mounted a large-scale attack on Vietnamese military facilities, food warehouses, and a Soviet-staffed hospital in Battambang. This marked the first time all three groups had cooperated in a military operation.
Proposals for a Settlement.
By late in the year there had been little progress toward a peace settlement. In March, the resistance coalition offered an eight-point proposal calling for gradual withdrawal of Vietnamese forces, establishment of a four-party interim government without Khmer Rouge leaders, and free elections under United Nations supervision. China and Asean strongly endorsed the proposal. Vietnam rejected it, citing the continued presence in the coalition of the Khmer Rouge and of Pol Pot, head of the brutal former Khmer Rouge regime. But a government official said dismantling the Khmer Rouge political structure was not a precondition for talks.
Prince Sihanouk said that China had offered to reduce the Khmer Rouge forces to equal those of the other factions in the proposed four-part government. The Khmer Rouge rejected the idea. Sihanouk may have been responding to a speech made in July by Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, in which he reviewed political and economic relations in the Pacific basin and called for conferences to work out agreements for cooperation in the region.
Government and Politics.
In February the National Assembly postponed the next national elections until 1991, by which time the Vietnamese propose to have their troops withdrawn from the country. Under the existing constitution, the election should have been held in 1986. Also early in the year, the Ministry of the Interior, in an apparent power struggle with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, took control of granting entry visas to foreigners visiting Cambodia.
The government appealed to the international community in July for massive donations of rice to meet a food shortage anticipated late in the year. A drought in several provinces, including the fertile Battambang area, was said to be ravaging the current rice crop. But aid agencies were reluctant to provide assistance because the government had refused to provide figures on the 1985 harvest.
Prices increased sharply in Phnom Penh, putting a squeeze on government workers on a fixed salary. The price of low-quality rice rose from 6 riels at the end of 1985 to 10 riels in May. The free-market value of the riel fell from 85 riels to the U.S. dollar in December 1985 to 130 riels in June 1986.
For the first time since coming to power, the Heng Samrin government began collecting rents and utility fees. The government also amended the constitution to allow small-scale private enterprise and increased the taxes of private shopkeepers. Under an agreement signed by Cambodia and the Soviet Union for the years 1986-1990, trade between the two countries will double.
Some 230,000 Cambodian refugees continued to live in limbo along the Thai-Cambodian border. A panel commissioned by the Reagan administration to assess U.S. policy on Cambodian refugees recommended a shift toward use of regular immigration channels for family reunification, instead of special emergency measures, and a review of the cases of those previously denied entry into the United States from the Khao I Dang refugee holding center. Thailand warned it would close the Khao I Dang camp by the end of the year unless a solution was found for the refugees there.
Amnesty International launched a campaign in May, charging that several Cambodians had been tortured while being detained by Thai border police. The human rights group appealed for the release of the prisoners.
Microsoft ® Encarta ® Encyclopedia 2002. © 1993-2001 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.
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