Was Democratic Kampuchea a Republic?

Was Democratic Kampuchea a Republic

Despite espousing and extreme version of communism the mostly Khmer Rouge formed Democratic Kampuchea initially started not as a republic, but led by King Sihanouk. And initially even after the first condition was proclaimed there was still ambiguity.

This can be seen in the fact that Democratic Kampuchea has been one of the only communist states not to have republic in the title.

Who did Phnom Penh fall to in 1975?

Despite the common belief that the city fell to the Khmer Rouge in 1975 in fact it fell to the combined forces of the red army and those of King Sihanouk, who had been allies since 1970.

The official name of this group was the GRUNK, or to give it its English title The Royal Government of the National Union of Kampuchea. This government in exile was based in Beijing who supported not just the Khmer Rouge, but alongside North Korea were also extremely close with King Sihanouk himself.

Therefore at the start of what was to be known as Democratic Kampuchea even Khmer Rouge solders referred to themselves as the “Royal Government” something that has been well documented.

Was Democratic Kampuchea a Republic

Transition into Democratic Kampuchea

While no state royal or otherwise had been proclaimed Sihanouk returned to Cambodia under the ambiguous title of “Head of State” a title he would again hold later on.

Sihanouk would return from a tour of communist states where he was championing the cause of recognition for the Khmer Rouge, Burt after seeing and hearing of the plight of his country decided ti resign in mid 1976, from where he was replaced as “Head of State” by brother number 5 (link) Khieu Samphan.

At this point serious discussions were held on whether to execute him, but probably for fear of angering China and North Korea he was allowed to be exiled to his palace in the capital, much like Pu Yi in the forbidden city. At this time he was technically at least never stripped of his royal titles, despite being removed as head of state.

The Constitution of Democratic Kampuchea.

The change from the Royal Government to a revolutionary one occurred on January 5th 1976, meaning almost 9 moths of technically at least being a democracy. And although this was a relatively short time, it was still a significant chunk of the states existence.

The constitution though whilst extremely Marxist in style and indeed revolutionary does not actually use the term republic at all, nor does it even state who is head of state. The only exception to this is saying the highest organ of state if the Presidium, which is led by a President. Yet despite this the leader of the country namely Pol Pot never held this position.

Therefore while the country was indeed a revolutionary extreme left state, it is fair to say that for a while at least it was a royal government and that even at the end the situation was ambiguous at best.

And while royals and reds kicking it might sound a bit weird it is certainly not the first time, as has been witnessed by the 3 Princes of Laos, as well as in Grenada.

And of course it happened again with Sihanouk. Despite the harsh treatment and the Khmer Rouge murdering most of his family he would again join forces with them as part of the Coalition Government of Democratic Kampuchea.

In this state which was largely recognized by most of the world he held the title of President, before eventually again becoming King of Cambodia.