The Samdech Euv Autonomous Zone

While the 1993 Election in Cambodia is seen as the start of peace within the country, it also nearly kicked off a civil war and the split of Cambodia into 3 countries, with the Samdech Euv Autonomous Zone being one of them. 

To read if the 1993 elections were a success click here

The lead up to the Samdech Euv Autonomous Zone

Cambodia began to transition to peace from the formation of the State of Cambodia in 1989 to the takeover of the country by the United Nations under UNTAC and finally the 1993 elections.

A key player during this time was a strange chap by the name of Prince Norodom Chakrapong. Originally he fought against the Peoples Republic of Kampuchea and thus the Cambodian Peoples Party (CPP) for FUNCINPEC, before defecting to the CPP in 1991. His reasoning for doing this is unknown, but it was for all intents a coup for Hun Sen, no pun intended.

Prior to the 1993 elections he campaigned for a Presidential style of government, rather than a Royalist one under his father Norodom Sihanouk. This also put him at odds with his brother, the leader of FUNCINPEC and a co-Prime-Minister after the 1993 elections.

The Last Khmer Rouge state

Prior to the formation of the Samdech Euv Autonomous Zone, Cambdoia had already essentially split into nations, with the Khmer Rouge boycotting the elections and retreating into what they called the Coalition Government of Democratic Kampuchea which morphed into the The Provisional Government of National Union and National Salvation of Cambodia (PGNUNSC) in 1994.

At its height it controlled about 1/6th of the country and would last until 1998 when a lasting peace in Cambodia was finally achieved. 

To read about the last Khmer Rouge state click here.

The Samdech Euv Autonomous Zone

The elections of 1993 were essentially won by FUNCINPEC, but the results were not recognized by the CPP and on June 10th Prince Norodom Chakrapong and other senior members of the CPP declared 7 eastern provinces independent as the Samdech Euv Autonomous Zone.

The provinces all bordered the CPP ally Vietnam, a mirror of the Khmer Rouge state bordering Thailand. 

On the proclamation of the Samdech Euv Autonomous Zone the Prince ordered the UN troops to leave as he could ot guarantee their safety stating “The people hate Untac, and I cannot allow our armed forces or police to oppose the people.”

To read about UNTAC click here .

The secession was averted just 5 days after its formation on June 15th, following the compromise that led to the CPP and FUNCINPEC sharing power, the net result of which has meant the CPP have been in power ever since.

Did the CPP orchestrate the Samdech Euv Autonomous Zone?

It has been suggested in many quarters that the secession was done to pressure the King into a power sharing agreement for the CPP,  which is exactly what happened. It should though be noted that Prince Norodom Chakrapong was removed from parliament due to his cations and he eventually fell out of favour and left the CPP.

This leads me to believe at least that it was more over ambitious opportunism rather than a Machiavellian plot by the CPP, regardless though it certainly helped cement their place in power.

So, for 5 days at least Cambodia was 3 countries, the Samdech Euv Autonomous Zone, the Khmer Rouge state in the west and finally what would have been the rump Cambodian state theoretically led by King Sihanouk and FUNCINPEC

We will cover Prince Norodom Chakrapong in another article, but this was not only to be the peak of his political career, but also the start of its downfall. He is though still very much alive, although he will certainly never be King of Cambodia.