Was Democratic Kampuchea a country? 1975 – 1998

Was Democratic Kampuchea a country? In short yes it was from the April 1975, until January 7th 1979, giving it a very short life span. THe question is though for a country characterised by so much chaos and death, just how much did it function like a proper country.

The Origins of Democratic Kmapuchea

Flag of Democratic Kampuchea

What we know as the Khmer Rouge were originally formed as the Peoples Revolutionary Party of Kampuchea in 1951, before a swing to the ultra-left in 1960 and a change in name to the Workers Party of Kampuchea and then the Communist Party of Kampuchea (at the behest of Mao).

What led to them getting power though was the overthrow of King Sihanouk in 1972, the proclamation of the Khmer Republic and then the unholy alliance between King and Communists. 

This coalition known as the GRUNK would eventually take power on April 17th 1975, but far from what many people a communist state was not automatically declared, even if the communist ideas of Angkar were being implemented.

To read about Angkar click here

In fact until January of 1976 the state would often refer to itself as the Royal Government, with Sihanouk nominally at least being head of state for much of this time,

To read if Sihanouk was king of the Khmer Rouge click here

When was Democratic Kampuchea declared?

Democratic Kampuchea was officially declared on January 6th 1976, with all links to the royal elments of the country being extinguished. Sihanouk would later step down as head of state, to be replaced by Khieu Samphan, but would remain under house arrest at the Royal Palace until the . fall of the country less than 3 years later.

To read about Khieu Samphan click here.

Why Sihanouk was kept alive is open to debate and the Party Core certainly considered killing him. Some have opined that pressure from China and North Korea was what saved him, but whatever the reason it was to prove very useful for both sides after the fall of the regime. 

To read about the freidnship between Kim Il-Sung and King Sihanouk click here.

The Government of Democrat Kampuchea

Following the “coming out”of the party again at the behest of China how the country was to be run and by whom finally became apparent. A constitution was drawn up, as well as government positions and the like. 

To read about the constitution of Democratic Kampuchea click here.

The government positions were also not dissimilar to other socialist states, with  the head of state not being the most powerful person in the country, with that role being filled by the head of the Communist Party of Kampuchea, namely Pol Pot.

To read about Pol Pot click here.

And while there were some purges in essence the ruling party had not changed much since their early years in France, nor would it change much after their fall and transition back into being a rebel force. 

To read about the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Kampuchea click here.

Yet overall while there were the trappings of statehood the reality was it was ran as an utter dictatorship and the very small inner-circle of the party. This has led to some opining that Pol Pot did not know the extent of the problems in the country, but this appears to be historical revisionism related to Khmer nationalism than anything else.

Was there a central government policy in Democratic Kampuchea?

While often painted as anarchistic the truth in Democratic J=Kampuchea was anything but. While the cities were evacuated and people killed indiscriminantly this was not done for no reason, but as part an economic plan that was in theory at least to better the country.

The 4 year plan (which was never completed) was called the Super Great Leap Forward, named after the failed Great Leap Forward of China and was essentially a plan to make the country rich by producing and selling an unrealistic anoint of rice. 

The plan was idiotic and doomed to failure for so many reasons, but it was still another element that made Democratic Kampuchea a country that to some extents functioned, even if it was in a completely brutal fashion.

Was Democratic Kampuchea a country from a diplomatic point of view

One of the tenets of tenets of the Montevideo Convention on what counts as state is recognition by other states. 

In total the country hosted 7 Embassies, namely China, North Korea, Albania, Romania, Cuba, Yugoslavia and randomly Egypt. Said recognition helped make Democratic Kampuchea a country.

The nation also hosted 4 embassies abroad, although quite ironically they would receive most f their recognition and indeed aid and support only after their overthrow and the formation of the Coalition Government of Democratic Kampuchea.

To read about the Coalition Government of Democratic Kampuchea click here

Was Democratic Kampuchea a country militarily 

Militarily the country had all major branches as per other countries, as in army, navy and air force, although all were poorly ran, equipped and managed, with the use of child solders and land mines epitomising this. 

Even today Cambodia suffers from the terror of land mines, whoch sitll kill people every year.

To read an interview with Cambodian defining minister Ly Thuch click here

The poorness of the army was in spite of millions in aid of China and would eventually lead to the fall f the regime after the Vietnamese inspired invasion.

To read about China supporting the Khmer Rouge click here.

Was Democratic Kampuchea a country – state flag and emblems

If you wanna have a country then you gotta get a flag and Democratic Kampuchea had a flag, coat of arms, as well as a national anthem.

They also printed some money, despite being largely cashless.   Stamos wise we are not aware if any were ever made, but passports for their diplomats assumedly were. 

Was the Coalition Government of Democratic Kampuchea a country?

Yes and no. What it was in essence was a government in exile, or at best a rump state. Ironically though it not only held the United Nations seat for Cambodia, with Cgina ironically utilising its veto, but the “country” had far more recognition than either Democratic Kampuchea, or the Peoples Republic of Kampuchea ever had.

The last rump state of the Khmer Rouge went on until 1998 in Along Veng – you can read about the last Khmer Rouge state here.

So, was Democratic Kampuchea a country, yes it was, a very bad one, but a country none the less.