NIE 67-59 CAMBODIA'S INTERNATIONAL ORIENTATION

Created: 5/26/1959

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INTERNATIONAL ORIENTATION

CAMBODIA'S INTERNATIONAL ORIENTATION

the problem

To estimate probable developments in Cambodia's international orientation over the next year or so.

conclusions

orientation and political future rest essentially on Prince Norodom Sihanouk, who will almost certainlyto be the dominant figure in the Cambodian scene. Although hishas increased its relations with the Bloc and Communist influence inhas markedly increased in the past three years, his international policy, widely supported by his compatriots,one of neutrality between East and West

The increased Communist presence has been in large part both the cause and the result of Cambodia's poor relations with Vietnam and,esser extent, Thailand. These neighbors, fearing that Sihanouk's policies may resultommunisthave supported dissidentplots against him and have thus increased his suspicions of them In the process, US-Cambodian relations have become strained. )

The counterbalancing of Communist influence in Cambodia has sufferedthe French and the US haveworked at cross purposes. The achievement of better French-USwill be hindered by theof the French to preserve their present special position in Cambodia and their suspicion that the US is attempting to encroach on that position.)

We believe that Sihanouk will seek to continue Cambodia's neutral course. The actual nature of his course willdependarge degree on hiswith Vietnam. The deepon both sides will probablyas will Sihanouk's belief that the US could moderate Vietnam's hostility towardhai ormove against the impulsivemight drive him to some hasty action which could damage US interests in Southeast Asia )

Over the next year or so Sihanouk will almost certainly continue to have the power to check any increase ininfluence. However, unlessuses his power to this end, the time may come when he might not be strong enough to take the necessary steps toCambodia's neutral status.)

discussion

Communist presence in Cambodiaincreased over the course of theyears. During this period, whichPrince Norodom Sihanouk'strip to Peiping, neutral Cambodia hasIts earlier unfriendlinessillion in economicit, and recognized Communistdevelopments are in large part bothand the resulteterioration inwith Thailand, and especiallyAs these two countries havetheir efforts to arrest what theytoliding of Cambodia towardsSihanouk has become morethat Saigon and Bangkok areoverthrow, and his resultingBloc expressions of support has intheir suspicions. The intensitysuspicions was recently reflected inof the abortive anti-SihanoukSam Sary and Dap Chhuon.

AFFECTING CAMBODIA'SORIENTATION

A. Sihanouk's Power

Minister Sihanouk's controlinternal political situationpolicy is virtually complete. Itupon his prestigeember offamily and his skill and popularitypolitician, upon his control of theof power (Including thend upon histo use force when necessary.Cambodia's small elite, there is somewith the government'sand flirtation with theHowever, the failure of thehas enhanced Sihanouk's staturethe only figure. Dap Chhuon,any significant source of Thus there is at present noopposition or alternative topractically speaking. Cambodia is

political system which Sihanoukisonstitutionalinenevolent ifdictatorship. Majormany minor ones must awaitThat action is oftennot as irrational in theas it sometimes appears todearth of trained personnelupon French bureaucrats In keyYet Sihanouk is hesitant toand thus complicatesof able administratorsHeeneral desire to createmodern country with greaterself-sufficiency, but has noeconomic philosophy or program.economic growth consequentlythough Cambodia's economicfairly good at present.

B. Cambodia's Neutral Foreign Policy

Cambodia gained its independenceSihanouk has consistently held thatto domestic stability andliesolicy of neutrality.is supported by virtually allCambodians. Sihanouk's basicis that, in view of Cambodia'sexposed strategic position, nationalcan come onlyeutralboth the Bloc and the West willto respect. It is possiblesees Chinese CommunistSoutheast Asia as inevitable; we thinklikely that Sihanouk regards goodwith Peiping toatter ofSihanouk is apparentlyhe can safelyourse offavoring one side and then theeconomic benefits from both In the

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In addition, an independent role tends to highlight Cambodia's position in world affairs and to feed Sihanouk's vanity.

he trend6 toward increasedwith the Bloc appears to be chiefly the result of Sihanouk's reactions to the fact of Chinese Communist power and to theof Thailand and especially Vietnam. He has been susceptible to Chinese Communist flattery and to the "friendliness" of Chinese behavior toward Cambodia. He has also been impressed with Peiping's success inChina's resources, and apparentlythat certain of Peiping's methods might have some relevance for Cambodia's economic needs. His recognition of Communist China inowever, was probably lessthe result of such underlyingthan of angry reactionorder encroachment by Vietnam. Had theprovocation not been present,would probably not have recognized Communist China at that time, though he probably would have done so in time in any

its increased relations withCambodia still retains many closethe West, France In particular.foreign cultural lies are almostFrench. It has refused militarythe Bloc; its military forces arethe US and trained by France. Mostaid is from theirtually allis with the West. Sihanouk'sParisian, not Muscovite.

C. Communist Influence in Cambodia

growth of Communist influencehas been chiefly the result ofadeptness in exploiting theoffered by Cambodia'spolicy, Cambodia's difficultiesFree World neighbors, and Sihanouk's de-

Western economic aid commitments have totaled0 million, as follows:million;million: Colombo Plan1 million:million. By comparison. Bloc aid commitments have totaledillion, ofillion has been Chinese Communist, andillion Soviet sire to hedge against the prospect ofChina's growing strength.the Communists profit from theirIn the fields of information andand among minorities, andesser extent from the impact of Bloc economic aid. Communist influence is largely exerted from Peiping. It Is greatest among Cambodia's Chinese population, almost exclusively urban, ofof the country's totalofro-Communist elements dominate the Chinese-language schools, newspapers, and motion pictures. Pro-Kuomintang groups have beenand disrupted. The Chinesetraditional systems of organization have been abolished, so that Cambodia's Chinese arc now largely at the mercy ofpressures andather Inefficient and corrupt Cambodian officialdom. Communist China has been the source of the major part ofillion in Bloc economic aid to Cambodia. Vietnameseactivities have also increased among Cambodia's

sporadic efforts by SihanoukCommunist influence, thatalso grown in the government itself.past year, certain anti-Communisthave been closed down, theInformation has frequently takenpositions, and pro-Communisthold the influential posts of Secretaryfor Information and Secretary ofPlans.

D. The French Presence in Cambodia

influence is greater inin any of the other Indochincsethe French appear determined atretain this influence. Thisshared both by the de Gaulleby the French on the spot, most ofbusinessmen and ex-coloniallocal influence is great and whohave considerable freedom of action.Frenchmen in Cambodia,Gorcc who has much influence

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Sihanouk, also apparently see inand his neutral course the best means of retaining French influence in Cambodia. At the same time, the French seem confident that Sihanouk's alertness and power, and their own influence with him, will keepstrength from getting beyondproportions. Although the US is financing slightly more than half of themilitary budget and is supplying most of Cambodia's military equipment, the French train the Cambodian Army. French influence with Sihanouk has been enhanced by French backing of Cambodia in its disputes with Vietnam. Most recently, the French almost certainly were of considerable help toin his quick defeat of the dissident Dap Chhuon.

counterbalancing of Communistin Cambodia has suffered becauseand the US have sometimes workedpurposes. Many of the French, inin Phnom Penh, consider that thethem out of Vietnam and is atthe course of doing the same inactions in Cambodia appear athave been markedeeling thattask at hand was to protect theagainst US encroachment.also been US-French differencesSihanouk, the Communist danger,military training.

E. The US Role in Cambodia

US has0 million inaid to Cambodia in the past fivecommodity aid to generatefor support of the militarya number of developmentbeen financed.S aidthanercent of Cambodia'sabout one-third of its total budgetaryIn addition, the US hasequipment to Cambodiaillion. However, theGovernment usually has not beento US advice. The Cambodiansto be convinced that the USold war context andlike Cambodia to change its neutralist orientation and become firmly aligned with the Free World. This conviction and the Cambodians' belief that the US favorsand South Vietnam are major factors in the determination of Sihanouk's neutral stance. However, Sihanouk has on occasion turned to the US for support in his disputes with Thailand and Vietnam. Moreover, he recognizes that the US provides the onlycounterbalance to Chinese Communist power.

F. Cambodia's Relations with South Vietnam and Thailand

Cambodia's neutralist internationalisarge degree shaped by its disputes with Vietnam and Thailand, both ol which have close military ties with the West.relations with both these neighbors have been traditionally poor, though therelationship is the more bitter and has had the greater impact on Cambodia's orientation. The Cambodians arc aggrievedast history of Vietnamese and Thaiby recent border Incursions, byfinancial claims against Vietnamout of4 Paris accords, and bybacking of anti-SihanoukThere has recently been somehowever, in Cambodian-Thai

The Vietnamese are aggrieved because armed groups, largely Communist-dominated, make raids Into Vietnam and retire back across the border wilderness into Cambodia, where the RKG officials have appeared both unable and unwilling to control them. But the primary fear of the Vietnamese, as well as of the Thai, is that Sihanouk is taking Cambodiarimrose path towhich will one day result in anof Vietnam and Thailand by the Communists. Thai leaders, under US urging and discouraged over recent plot failures, have reduced their support of anti-SihanoukHowever, President Diem and his brother Nhu, already preoccupied with

temal security, apparently continue lo be convinced that Vietnam's safety requires the removal of Sihanouk.

bitterness towardat least until recently towardstrained US-Cambodian relations.apparently believes thatS satellite, and that the USit wished moderate Vietnam'sThe Immediate cause ofreserve toward the US is the factUS did not inform him, as did theChinese Communists, and the Soviets,recent Vietnamese and Thai-backedhtm were afoot.

III. PROBABLE DEVELOPMENTS

Cambodia's orientation and politicalwill continue to rest essentially on the wisdom and whim of Prince Sihanouk. He will almost certainly attempt toeutral course in which he can benefit on the one hand from the receipt of Bloc aid and from the propitiation of Communist China, and, on the other, from his receipt of Western arms and economic support without anto align Cambodia with the West. Hence he will probably continue to make occasional gestures towards both sides. He willnot, however, wish in fact to move closer to the Bloc than he now is.

Whether Sihanouk will seek anIn his relations with the Free World over the next year or so will probably depend primarily on the course of his relations withajor improvement in theseappears unlikely because of thesuspicions on both sides, and inthe deep animosity between Diem and Sihanouk. Moreover, Vietnam will probably continue to support various anti-Sihanoukin Cambodia and in exile. This will pose no serious challenge to Sihanouk, but it will continue to embitter Cambodia's rolatlons with Vietnam and to stimulate Cambodian ill-feeling toward the US.

In the unlikely event that Saigon orshould invade Cambodia or back some kind of major dissident move, Sihanouk might take some precipitous step which couldthe US position In Southeast Asia, such as expulsion of the US MAAG, acceptance of military aid from Communist China, or formal recognition of the North Vietnam regime. He might also take this latter step In reaction to some lesser grievance, real or imagined, against Saigon or Bangkok.

Barring such action on the part ofor Thailand, however, we anticipate no great changes in the situation over the next year or so. During this period Sihanouk will probably continue to have the power to arrest any increase in Communist influence.

However, unless Sihanouk takes more effective counteraction than he has to date. Communist influence will continue to grow and will create dangers for the longer-run. In this event, the Communists' subversivewill benefit primarily from Communist activity in the fields of public information and education. Cambodia's young intellectual group will probably be especially vulnerable in this regard, and they will almost certainly be the principal targets of Communistin both Cambodia and France. Another source of danger will beofficials In tho KKG who may in time gain sufficient Independent power toor negate Sihanouk's orders. Unless Sihanouk checks the growth of Communisttherefore, the time may come when he might not be strong enough to take the necessary steps to preserve Cambodia'sstatus.

There is no means at present for orderly transfer of power in Cambodia. In the event that Sihanouk were to die or becomeduring the next year or so, the army and the monarchy would probablyodicum of stability. Successorwould probably attempt Loeutral foreign policy.

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