What was the Peoples Republic of Kampuchea?

What was the Peoples Republic of Kampuchea? The Peoples Republic of Kampuchea was the state firmed in the aftermath of Democratic Kampuchea. Like Democratic Kampuchea it was also officially communist, but aligned with Vietnam and the Soviet Union, rather than China.

Why was the Peoples Republic of Kampuchea formed?

The state was formed by dissenting members of the Khmer Rouge and their Vietnamese backers, under the official umbrella of the Kampuchean Front for the for National Salvation.

It was communist in nature, bur wished to reverse the excesses of the Khmer Rouge clique and angered much more closely to the Soviet version of Marxism Leninism. It was a firm ally of the Eastern Bloc and would also become a place of prosy war between the Cold War powers.

The split of Cambodia into two states

While the Khmer Rouge were driven from power they remained a fighting force and again allied themselves with King Sihanouk. This would lead to the Coalition Government of Democratic Kampuchea, which essentially remained the recognised Cambodian state (and holder of the UN seat) until the early 90’s.

To read about the Coalition Government of Democratic Kampuchea click here.

The lack of recognition for the Peoples Republic of Kampuchea meant it could receive little to no aid, which led directly to the deaths of many as well as a retardation of the economic development of the country. 

The only recognition the Peoples Republic of Kampuchea received was from the communist bloc, although with the notable exceptions of China, who supported the Khmer Rouge and the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea who supported King Sihanouk.

To read about how the friendship between North Korea and Cambodia helped the former in the 1966 World Cup click here

How was the Peoples Republic of Kampuchea ran?

The Peoples Republic of Kampuchea was officially established on January 8th 1979and initially at least was tasked with rebuilding the country from what had been left by the Khmer Rouge, with heavy support from the Vietnamese. 

Following its formation the country’s ran as a one party Marxist-Leninist state, with the Kampuchea Peoples Revolutionary Party being the vanguard of the state. The party traced its lineage to the one formed in 1951, disavowing the 1960 change to the Workers Party Of Kampuchea, the forbearer to the Communist Party of Kampuchea. 

To read about the Workers Party of Kampuchea click here

The Kampuchean Peoples Revolutionary Party would later become the Cambodian Peoples Party, which not only still runs the country today, but still traces its lineage back to 1951. In fact signs can be seen throughout Cambodia celebrating 72 year of the CPP (as of 2022).

Who was the leader of the Peoples Republic of Kampuchea

The initial leader of the Peoples Republic of Kampuchea was Heng Samrin (1979-1993), who served as the effective head of state of the Peoples Republic of Kampuchea. A former member of the Khmer Rouge, he still holds enormous sway in the Cambodian People’s Party and remains member of parliament in Cambodia.

AS in other communist states though head of state did not mean paramount leader, with that title initially being held by Chan Sy, before being replaced by Prime-Minister Hun Sen, who has been in charge ever since and is the longest serveng head of government in the world. 

To read if there is still a communist party in Cambodia click here

Initially strictly Marxist-Leninist it did so well that the Soviet Union declared it had achieved socialism by the mid 80’s the precursor to communism.  Things though were slowly changing and as glasnost and perestroika came around the Peoples Republic of Kampuchea also started to change. 

To read about Socialist Countries click here.

This and the peace process would lead to the formation of the State of Cambodia in 1989, the renaming of the vanguard party and the to the eventual Paris Peace Accords and the resumption of the Kingdom of Cambodia.

Sadly this did also lead to immediate peace, with the Khmer Rouge continuing to control a rump state until 1998.

To read about the last Khmer Rouge state click here.

The flag of the Peoples Republic Kampuchea

The flag of the Peoples Republic Kampuchea was almost identical to the flag of Democratic Kampuchea essentially being Angkor Wat at the centre of a red flag. Meanings were indeed changed, but for all intents it represented two things, a continuation of communism and Khmer nationalism. 

To read about the flag of Democratic Kampuchea click here.

The flag was gain amended in 1989 for the State of Cambodia, before to its current incarnation in 1993.

To read about the flags of Cambodia click here.

Was the Peoples Republic of Kampuchea a success?

Despite a lack of recognition from the west and essentially being sanctioned whilst fighting a western backed Khmer Rouge, the Peoples Republic of Kampuchea managed to turn a country with only two doctors and almost no teachers into a functioning state again.

Quite simple things that we take for granted such as even having a football league were reintroduced and while there was still poverty, a return of some form of normality is viewed with nostalgia by many. And whatever you think of the current government this state was the forerunner of what has become a long period of economic growth, prosperity and most importantly pace. 

To read about the Cambodian Premier League awards click here

And what is correct Kampuchea, or Cambodia?

One question often asked with regards to the Peoples Republic of Kampuchea is why they teated Kampuchea, rather than revert to Cambodia? The answer is relatively simple. Cambodia was the French/English translation of Kampuchea, which is what Cambodia call their country.

After the Kingdom of Cambodia was overthrown the country was known as the Khmer Republic, Khmer meaning Cambodian, or rather Kampuchean. 

Democratic Kampuchea changed the name from Cambodia to Kampuchea in order in order to distance themselves from colonialism, but also in the interests of nationalism. The Peoples Republic of Kampuchea kept this name because it was also communist and thus wanted to also avoid the bourgeois and colonial implications of the name. 

By the time of the State of Cambodia, the name Kampuchea (in English) was imply seen as having too many negative connotations, even though the country remains Kampuchea in the Khmer language.  

And that is the story of the Peoples Republic Kampuchea and the 10 years that it existed as a sovereign, although scant recognised state.