THE SITUATION IN CAMBODIA

Created: 3/10/1975

OCR scan of the original document, errors are possible

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SITUATION IN CAMBODIA

The Military Situation

I. Mr. Chairman, the situation in Cambodia can be summed up in one sentence: Substantial odds favor atake over in the near future. A. Turning to the military situation first, this map and table show the areas controlled by the two sides, and the size of the opposing forces. 1. The Communists now have0 combat troops in the Phnom Penh area, versus0 on the government's. Along the Mekong between Phnom Penh and the South Vietnamese border, the Communists have0 troops, and the government only. 3. Countrywide, Communist forces total00 combat troops compared toor the government.

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B. Military action remains focused on the Phnom Penh area, where the Khmer communists have edged to within artillery range of Pochentong airport. Until last week, the airport had been the "target only of relatively ineffective rocket attacks.

artillery shellingsargo aircraftto World Airwaysone of four

.US charter airlines participating in the airliftwas slightly damaged and the

airlift was briefly suspended.

Intermittent artillery attacks havebut so has the airlift.

The shellings followed successfulattacks on the town of Tuol Leap onhich allowed the Communists to bringm. howitzers within seven miles of the airport.

cajnbodian Army armor and infantry units are making an all-out effort to push the CoTraunist back from theorthwest-em defenses, but are meeting stiff resistance.

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5. Unless this operation makes real progress soon, theretrong possibility that the communists will damage aircraft and facilities at the airport enough to make airlift operations difficult or impossible*

The military situation in other areas around the

capital is not much better*

Communists have been maintainingnorth of the city since thethe year, and have chewed up agovernment units on this front.

army's 7th Division, forthe dry season with about It now has an-

units north of the capitalsimilar losses.

rief lull, the Communists are now again attacking along the Mekong River northeast of the capital, where theirhas carried them within mortar range of the main navy headquarters.

There have been daily rocket attacks against

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downtown Phnom Penh and key outlyingfrom this area since the beginning of the year.

insurgents*m.

rockets are inaccurate and relatively in-ffective against installations, butevery day theyumber of civilians in the capital, which is packed with refugees. 4. There have not yet been any major groundon Phnom Penh's southern defenses. The Communists, however, are keeping enoughon this front to prevent the armyfrom withdrawing units to reinforce mora . active sectors. D. The steady decline of government military fortunos in the Phnom Penh area has already led to the evacuation of personnel from some embassies. These include those of South Vietnam and South Korea, and some dependents from the British and Commonwealth embassies will leave tomorrow. B. Outside of the immediate Phnom Penh area, the crucial spot is the Mekong Riverformerly the main government supply line. The insurgents

have succeeded in keeping this route closed since early February. There is now little prospect that it can be reopened to shipping in the next few months.

Communists have made substantialalong the river, and now controlterrainincluding twoointiles southeast

* of Phnom Penh to the South Vietnamese border.

oan government force abandoned the last remaining beachhead on the lower reaches of the river late last week. Since then,holdings in the Mekong corridor have been reduced toan enclave around the navy base at Neak Luong.

The government has been forced to commit all available ground units to the defense

of Phnom Penh, foreclosing at least temporarily - further major efforts to push the insurgents back from the riverbanks. Consequently, the combined threat of intense shore fire and the mines the Communists have sown in the shipping channel is too great to riskupply

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convoy upriver. (The insurgents apparently

obtained the mines from China.)

In the countryside, the Communists are attacking

a number of widely separated government-held provincial centers.

include the towns of Takeo andthe southwest, fivay Rieng ia theKompong Cham and Kompong Thorn

in the north, and Kompong Chnnang and Siera Reap in the northwest.

the beginning of the dry season, thehad0 troops stationed

in the provinces. Most were assigned to static territorial defense units. On the few occasions when these units have fought outside their hone territory, they have not performed well.

The government, nonetheless, has taken the best of the provincial units to help in the dofense of Phnom Penh.

So far the only serious government losses in the countryside have been the towns of Oudonga psychologically import former

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royal capital north of Phnom Ponhand Muong Russei in the northwesta key agricultural conter. G. He eoe no indication that Communist military

pressure will significantly lessen in the near

future.

As in past years, heavy casualties have forced the Communists to send relatively young and poorly trained units into Insurgent commanders, however, use draconian methods to keep their troops on the line, and so far there is no sign of any overall weakening of Communist resolve and determination.

As for their supply situation, the insurgents appear to have had significantly more materiel at the beginning of this year than in previous years.

a. During lest year's dry season fighting,

we had considerable hard evidence of severe ammunition and supply shortages among many Communist units. This year we have very little such evidence.

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ongoing airlift is mootingrequirements, and most of

_Phnom Penh's minimum daily rice end POL requirements.

With the closure of the Mekong, esliveries by river have stopped, and stocks are at low levels as shown in this chart.

Should the airlift continue uninterrupted, allowing delivery of all supplies obligated to Cambodia under present funding,could last until late April at present consumption rates. Should con3urrptionto the higher levels of tl^is past January, the stocks would bo exhausted by early April. Rice and POL, however, should last some time longer.

The Political Situation II. The military deterioration and the tightened sup* ply situation have had considerable effect on the domestic political front.

A. In the past two weeks, there have been minor student demonstrations in Phnomumber of provincial centers.

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The protests have been aimed at the Chinuse communities for their control of commerce and privileged position, but arc rooted in the inability off the population to obtain basic1 goods at prices they can pay.

Rice stocks in Phnom Penh, for example, ave been hovering near the levels which precipitated fairly widespread rioting and looting

To date, government authorities have been able to contain the demonstrations, but the combination of racial tensions and supply shortagesolatile one and widespread disorders could erupt at any time.

Given the facts that most security forces aro on the fighting front, and that those who are left have low morale and poorthe government might not be able to cope withituation.

In addition, pessimism and recrimination is on the rise among senior government officials. 1. Many civilianor example, are

blaming the amy commander in chief.remandez, for the deterioratingsituation and want him replaced.

Minister Long Boret wants tohis cabinet to ease outincrease civilian control over Yesterday President Lon Noi

indicated that he would demote Fernandez within the next few days.

the present unstable situation,minor leadership changes might leadgeneral unraveling of politicalPhnom Penh.

2. Criticism of President Lon Noi for hisinflexibility toward negotiations and his weaknessesuler is also becoming more open. -

of this is simply the resultover the inability oftoeasible routeompromise settlement.

Noi has made it clear that he wouldto step down if he were anpeace, but ho does not believe thatpoint his resignation would lead

There are, in fact, no signs that the Communlsta are prepared to back away from their hard line

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a settlement, ot that the departure of Lon Nol would open the wayompromise settlement.

At this point, the Communists are confident that time is on their side and appear to be banking on either total military victoryovernment surrender in the guiseegotiated settlement.

In the face of this intractable Communist position, there nonetheless appears torowing belief that the presentcan neither survive nor negotiate.

In the present critical military situation, there will probably be an intensification of political maneuvering in Phnom Penh in the next few weeks.

On the Communist side, there areumberolitical complexities. These complexities involve tho in-country Khmer Communists' relations with Prince Sihanouk, the North Vietnamese, and the Chinese A. Sihanouk's Holei Prince Sihanouk and his national-

istic, non-CoBBBuniBt supporters can be disposed of fairly easily. Sihanouk mayocal role in coming weeks, but his real influence will be minimal.

In the early years of the conflict, Sihanoukide following within the insurgency, and the Communists played up his role. They recognized that the prince gave theiregitimacy, both within and outside Cambodia.

Sihanouk's oneand onlyvisit to the Communist zone in3 was clearly aeffort.

In recent years, however, Sihanouk's position has so eroded that his real authority has evaporated almost completely. This was the deliberate work of the Communists, who came to regard himotentialost-hostilities Cambodia.

The Communists have weeded out or assimilated Sihanouk's in-country followers to the point that the once clear-cut faction that supported his return is no longer distinguishable.

Sihanouk's loss of authority was dramatized early this year when it was formally announced that most portfolios in his exile "government" had been transferred to in-country Khmer com-

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munists. inority in Sihanouk's cabinet, they now controlf the 17

.5. Sihanouk himself has often said that ha would play no significant leadership rdie in aCommunist-controlled Cambodia, a. We agree with that assessment, though we believe that he mightigurehead leader of the insurgents for some time. B* North Vietnam and China; Both Worth Vietnam and China will exert significant influence on future Cambodian developments.

1. Hanoi has ties with the Cambodian Communists that go back more than two decades.

Cambodian Communist leaders inalmost all former members of theCommunist Partythethe North Vietnamese Lao Dong PartyHo Chi Minn dissolved

nurtured the Cambodianduring Cambodia's struggle forfrom Prance.

ambodians accompaniedforces when they were repatriated to

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North Vietnam4 Indo-China settlement. These cadre were trained and returned to Cambodia over tho course of the next decade. They form the core of the insurgent military arm.

Sihanouk's ousterArmy and Viet Cong unitsin the crash effort totrain Cambodian insurgent units. insurgent military arm was beingduring the first two years ofVietnamese Communistmost of the battles againstarmy.

the same time, Vietnamese politicalhelped expand and strengthenpolitical infrastructure

Following their initial dependence on the North Vietnamese, the Khmer Communisthas displayed an increasingly nationalistic and independent attitude in recent years. animosities between Cambodians andare traditionally strong, and have at times adversely affected between the two

parties. These frictions should not be exaggerated, however, since strong residual ties remain.

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Communist strongman leng Sary, is one of several topwho is beliovod to have spentin North Vietnam, and is said toinfluenced by Hanoi.

high-ranking Viet Cong delegation paidto the Communist zone early this yearfirstoreign delegation. Cambodian-Vietnamesesociety" headed by the topKhieu Samphan.

addition to its militarylast fall apparently reachedaid agrenment with theno specifics are known.

3. China's involvement with the insurgency is

relatively new, but Peking's equities in's future appear well protected, a. China really became involved only after Sihanouk's ousterhen Chinese leaders allowed hljn to establish hisin exile in Peking and hovethis operation ever since.

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have not been able to determinetha Chinese began supplying armsinsurgents, but there was probablyaid program well beforeacknowledgementilitaryspring.

agreement stemmed from avisit to Peking by Khmer"Defense Minister andKhieu Samphan. This visitthe beginningutualto improve ties.

Peking's continued relationsChina appears intent onits stock with theevel that would rival that

would probably offerost-war Khmer Communisteffort in order to maximize itsin the region.

The USSR has so far not had muchole in Cumbodia. It would try through diplomatic means

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IV. The next few weeks will be critical. tated

earlier, the odds are substantial that thetake over in Cambodia In the near future. there ishance, however, thatitself can survive; supported by the airlift. doaa survive until July or August, the floodthe Mekong might make it easier to reopen theis no real prospect, however, that theregain tha overall military initiative at

A. Having saidow want to discuss thethat would arise if the government's military position continues to deteriorate. There areways in which the insurgents could take over Phnom Penh.

Individual groupsincluding government military unitscould try to make their separate peace with the Communists.

Another possibility isaretakermight take overcither by force or by mutual agreementfrom tho current leadership, and then accept settlement on Communist terms.

What Would the Communists Do Once in Power? The Cownunists could be expected to move quickly to

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consolidate powor, whether thoy won by an outright military victory or by defaulteneral disintegration of the government's side.

Their immediate objective would be to occupy urban centers, in order to disarm the Cambodian armed forces while assuming control of the machinery of state.

Bloodletting would be inevitable. As Communist units mopped up pockets of resistance, discipline probably would break down and wanton killing would rosult. In addition. Communist leaders would settle old scores with any leadingand provincial level officials unable to

flee the country.

intelligentsia, andmilitary officers would nosubjected to incarceration, coercion,exemplary executionsprobablypeopleubstantial connectionpresent regime.

lower strata of society in thezone would probably undergo abut still traumatic process.

population centers now under governmentcontain large numbers of refugees and stocks

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of basic commodities would bo extremely tightommunist take-over.

ease the situation, theforcefully resettle manywould probably evacuate largecity dwellers into the countrysideconditions would not be much better.

shortages would cause theproblems for some months. Therereel hardship unless they receivodand rapid external assistance.

4. Once they solved immediate problems, thewould begin pursuing their long term objective! the imposition of their brand of Marxist-Leninism on Cambodian society. this would mean the implementation throughout the country of programs longin the Communist controlled zone. Thai*ncludei

An intensive indoctrination program for all individuals associated with the former

Destruction of the traditionalsystem and its replacemententralized government under theof the Khmer Communist Party;

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of privately owned land and the tools of agriculture;

Establishment of government controlled communes;

Nationalization of all light industry and means of commerce; and

Gradual replacement of Buddhism bymass front organizations.

Such measures have not gone down well with the land-proud, religious, and independent-minded Cambodian peasantry. Over the years,numbers of peasants have abandoned their farms and fled from Communist controlled

resentment among those thatbehind has occasionallyuprisings, which theput down ruthlessly.

if they won full control of theCommunists would continue to meetto their programs. Oncewere to take over fewhave any chance of fleeing the country

Cambodian Communists do not haveof well-trained cadres tho Vietnamese

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crmunists rely on, but they would push tiair efforts to regiment and cohectiviza fcer society relentlessly, using force where necessary. effects on sorth vietnam. in and of itself, ataxe-ot-er in cambodia would haveinimal, effoct on the military situation in south vietnam.

Berth vietnamese already have everythingin ce-oodia to prosecute the war in

vier-amese leaders, for their part,regard the loss of cambodia by itselfto their own cause.

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