What was the Khmer Republic? 1970-75

The Khmer Republic was the successor state to the Kingdom of Cambodia and the precursor to Democratic Kampuchea. It existed between 1970 and 1975.

Why was the Khmer Republic formed?

With Cambodia embroiled in civil war and the Vietnam conflict happening just next door King Sihanouk found himself stuck in the middle. Officially neutral and nonaligned he was also famously very good friends with communist leaders such as Mao and Kim Il-Sung.

To read about Sihanouk and Kim il-Sung click here

He also allowed the Viet Cong to traverse Cambodia along the Ho Chi Minh trail and the right-wing globally was considered “too left. Yet despite being friends with reds and officially “Buddhist Socialist” partcularly leftist Sihanoukl was not.

To read about Buddhist Socialism click here.

Formation of the Khmer Republic

Declared on October 9th 1970 by strongman Lon Nol whilst Sihanouk was abroad on state business it is strongly believed that it was a CIA sponsored coup as a bulwark against communism.

In fact what it did was drive Sihanouk into bed with the Khmer Rouge, proved highly corrupt, unpopular and led to the victory of the GRUNK Khmer Rouge/Sihanouk coalition and of course the hell that was to follow.

The irony of this being that not only did the US push Cambodia into the arms of communism, they also ended up in bed with the Khmer Rouge themselves.

To read if America supported the Khmer Rouge click here.

Crazily the only success of the Khmer Republic was brief a brief flourishing at football that they enjoyed.

To read the history of Cambodian football click here.

The end of the Khmer Republic

Totally unpopular the Khmer Rouge/Sihanouk coalition had little difficulty gaining recruits, this no doubt helped by the carpet bombings of the USA on Cambodia. There was intense fighting, but the Khmer Rouge eventually turned Phnom Penh into a blockaded island, before marching on the capital on April 17th !975.

A new country name would not be announced until January 1976, namely Democratic Kampuchea, but the Khmer Republic disappeared on this date. Ironically the Khmer Rouge, still officially led by Sihanouk briefly referred to itself as the Royalist Government,

Lon Nol fled the country like a coward, but to his credit his brother Lon Non stayed and died in a principled stand, executed by the Khmer Rouge. 

This was a fate that would befall almost all nationalist, even groups such as MONATIO would try and ride the coattails of the victors.

To read about MONATIO click here

The Khmer Republic though did at least last longer than Democratic Kampuchea…..