Prince Norodom Sihanouk
Prince Norodom Sihanouk; drawing by David Levine


Now, perhaps more than ever, the lives of Cambodians are seen from a great distance or through the prism of propaganda: as a starving people policed by crazed and vengeful warders, or as a liberated peasantry happily rediscovering the land from which war had torn it. Henry Kissinger has announced that “atrocities” have been visited upon the Khmer people since April 17, 1975: one of his counter-parts in Peking (like enough to him to insist that he too be known only as “a senior official”) promises that “the internal situation is quite good; they are rehabilitating the enemy and everyone is properly fed.”

The New York Times, whose reporting of the war, especially by Sydney Schanberg, was consistently very fine, concluded in July that “the barbarous cruelty of the Khmer Rouge can be compared with the extermination of the Kulaks or the Gulag Archipelago.” The Indochina Resource Center in Washington, which throughout the war distributed well researched and usually untendentious analyses of its catastrophes, now assures us that all is for the best in the best of all possible Cambodias. And the Reader’s Digest is preparing a book on the country which will begin with April 17 last year.

Since no reporters have been allowed into Cambodia, there are only five primary sources of information on Cambodia today: refugees, the Phnom Penh radio, Sihanouk in public, Sihanouk in private, and former Sihanoukists. Each is, at its very best, partial; taken together they are inadequate. But if one compares and analyzes them they do at least help to show how a callow force of perhaps 70,000 men behaves when it tries to remake a nation of over six million after a foul and vicious war, which not only destroyed some 600,000 people (Sihanouk’s estimate) but also a society. The process is atrociously brutal.


Before 1970 Sihanouk personified Cambodia; the country was his private property in the same way as he belonged to the country. For seventeen years he preserved Cambodia’s precarious neutrality, even though the price was its systematic violation—by CIA-backed Khmer Serei forces in Thailand, by Vietnamese troops, and then by US bombing. “Logic demands,” he said in 1965, that Cambodia play off “rival external influences against one another in such a fashion that they cancel each other out.” For a long time they almost did.

Until the end of the Sixties, Sihanouk pitted right against left as successfully at home as he did abroad. He created from a string of dusty villages and French colonial offices the capital of Phnom Penh, a city of 600,000 that reflected his own vanity, love of comfort, and tolerance of corruption, at least when it was regal. To millions of peasants he was the God King in a country where food supplies were always adequate. Before 1970 one crop of rice a year provided enough even for export and because of this, because also of the high tolerance of leisure with which Khmers are blessed, and because of the burden of rural debt, there was little incentive to grow more. Most peasants had some land, some owned more than two hectares. In contrast to Vietnam, harvests were sowed and reaped collectively, and farming equipment was shared. The plantations were foreign owned but such industry as existed was mostly nationalized.

This was not very fertile ground for revolution and the Khmer communist movement grew slowly. Socialists began to organize, with Viet Minh support, against the French in 1946. Undercut by independence in 1953 they lost their backing when the Viet Minh withdrew to Hanoi under the 1954 Geneva Accords. About 2,000 Khmers went with them; they now form a core of trained cadres within the movement, but their current importance is not clear.

Others tried to work in Phnom Penh and a few remained in the maquis. After 1959 the underground was gradually fed by a trickle of left-wing Phnom Penh intellectuals, disillusioned by the corruption of the city and tired of trying to judge the unpredictable pendulum of Sihanouk’s autocracy. Most of these defectors were French educated. The important early arrivals were leng Sary, Saloth Sar, and Son Senn; radical teachers who fled the capital after a dispute with Sihanouk in 1963. They were followed by leng Sary’s wife leng Thirith, who must be the only Khmer revolutionary with a diploma in Shakespeare studies. Between 1971 and 1973 leng Sary acted as Sihanouk’s supervisor and as liaison between Hanoi and Peking. He is now chief spokesman on foreign affairs. Ieng Thirith is now minister of education, Son Senn is a vice premier, and Saloth Sar is said to be secretary general of the Khmer Communist Party.

Some of the movement’s rhetoric is now borrowed from Mao. But most of its ideology was gleaned from the French left in the 1950s, a time of intense debate over decolonization. (Also a time when the French CP uncritically admired all things Stalinist, including collectivization.) In the countryside it made little political impact until the maquis helped discontented peasants in Battambang revolt against extortionate Chinese middlemen in 1967. Sihanouk made a tactical as well as inhuman error when he allowed his prime minister, Lon Nol, to suppress the revolt bloodily. Peasants were massacred, and hundreds joined the maquis in the forests. Sihanouk accused three Phnom Penh leftist deputies—Hou Yuon, Hou Nim, and Khieu Samphan, a popular and incorruptible journalist and former secretary of state for commerce—of abetting the revolt. All fled to the woods on learning that he had ordered their executions. Khieu Samphan was commander in chief during the war and was made vice premier as well. Hou Yuon is minister of the interior, and Hou Nim minister of information.


After Sihanouk was removed in March 1970 all these men and the guerrillas they controlled were united, uneasily and under Sino-Vietnamese supervision, with the cadres in Hanoi and with the exiled Sihanoukists. They formed the National United Front of Kampuchea (FUNK) and the Royal Government of National Union of Kampuchea (GRUNK), fronted by Sihanouk.

At that time the entire organization numbered less than 10,000 and was bound by hatred of Lon Nol, not by any shared vision of a new Cambodia. Probably the most significant document of the left was Khieu Samphan’s doctorate on the Cambodian peasantry, written while he was a student in Paris in the 1950s. His angry, intelligent analysis of Khmer society then is remarkably similar to that offered by the government today: it explains a great deal of what has happened to Cambodia under Khmer Rouge control.

Khieu Samphan argued that Cambodia could progress from feudalism only if it cut itself off from the international economy; aid and most trade were the causes of its underdevelopment. Rice production, he wrote, must be increased enormously and peasants must be encouraged to form cooperatives. Only expanding agriculture could provide the base for the industrialization which was essential to Cambodia’s future. The cities, especially Phnom Penh, were a drain on national wealth; he estimated that 85.43 percent of the capital’s inhabitants were unproductive “fonctionnaires” or served the elite. They “should be transferred to productive enterprises.”1

In those days Khieu Samphan was a social democrat, anxious to hasten the capitalist stage of Cambodia’s development. By 1975, after the United States had supported Lon Nol’s futile, destructive retreat for five years, the movement had developed, under the bombing, into a small, brutalized army; the notion of progress from feudalism to capitalism to socialism was no longer even discussed. FUNK now had another 60,000 men, women, and children under arms; thousands of them were (as on the Lon Nol side) in their teens. On April 17 last year a small proportion of these gaunt strangers stalked out of the unknown and forbidding countryside into the unknown forbidden capital. They found there half the prewar population of Cambodia, unproductive, starving, diseased, both frightened and relieved—and, to the newcomers, quite ungovernable.


Now both refugees and radio agree that the new regime’s main concern is producing food. Those refugees whom I saw in a camp at Aranyaprathet in Thailand, just across the slack creek which forms part of the long and scarcely guarded frontier, were a mixture of evacuated townspeople and uprooted peasants. They speak of the fear in which the Khmer Rouge2 are held but they talk more of the unrelenting rigor of life in Cambodia today.

Those from the cities describe the pain of working, with no experience and hardly more food, in the fields. Farmers tell of being moved off their land into new campsites far from home. Many say that young and old still die of disease and starvation, as they did on the roads out of Phnom Penh and other towns last April. Some talk of youths so weak that they support themselves on sticks as they |labor in the fields.

Obviously the refugees can be expected to emphasize the miseries of life under the new regime. But many skeptical reporters who have recently visited the Thai border have become convinced that conditions in Cambodia are truly terrible. Ieng Sary, Cambodia’s foreign minister, admitted in August that it would be two years before the country again became self-sufficient in rice as it had been before March 1970. (Imports of rice from Thailand were nevertheless stopped, and shortages must have increased.) “Grow, grow everything,” exhorts the radio. “Particular attention must be paid to rice for rice means everything. Rice means steel, factories, energy, fuel, and tractors.”

The Radio is giving much more time to the lessons of hydraulic despotism than to those of the dictatorship of the proletariat. Enormous efforts are being made to rebuild the country’s irrigation system and the thirteenth century, not the 1960s, provides the model. The civilization of Angkor was founded upon the control of water in a region where the monsoon is both too heavy and too short. King Yasovarman I (889-900) established the first city of Angkor and brought the Siem Reap river under control. Subsequent kings went on to construct enormous reservoirs, intricate canals, careful dams. The waterworks of Angkor prevented flooding, created hydraulic power, allowed the building of the Wats, provided an efficient means of transport, enabled the Khmers to produce up to four crops of rice a year, and guaranteed exhausting year-long labor for the population.


Bernard Groslier, the French archaeologist who has done most to identify and explain the system, argues that through it “the Khmers finally created an artificial land, entirely fashioned by man, such as one finds in the greatest and richest centers of ancient civilization: the Nile, Mesopotamia, the valleys of the Yellow River and the Yangtze.”3 He believes that the irrigation system was “far more impressive than the building of temples, which were merely chapels for a cyclopean undertaking.”4 Conscious of this, the Siamese invaders destroyed the dams and reservoirs rather than the Wats between 1350 and 1431. Between 1969 and 1975 Cambodian agriculture was destroyed once again.

During the Angkor period agriculture supported the city. This time it will sustain industrialization, but the methods are similar; now, as in the time of Angkor, the entire population has been mobilized. “The key question in agriculture is the water supply.” says Radio Phnom Penh. “Solidarity groups are building dams, digging ditches, constructing checkerboards of new field embankments. In the fertile northwest…they are building ditches many kilometers long. These are also used as communications lines. Seedlings are transported along them in boats sailing to distant fields.” In a fairly short time, these intense efforts may well enable the Khmers again to produce several rice crops a year. But they can hardly have helped to alleviate the drastic rice shortages which refugees have reported during the last half of 1975. The radio claims that the recent harvest, planted in late April and May by unskilled and frightened evacuees, is “excellent.” To ensure that next spring’s dry season crop is better still, another great forced evacuation has taken place.

During the last months of 1975, refugees report, a huge number of people were moved from southeast of Phnom Penh, where they had lived and worked since April, to Battambang, Cambodia’s most fertile province. The journey was made partly in trucks, partly by boat, and partly by train. Just enough of the evacuees were left behind to harvest the rice that had been planted. Refugees from among those who were moved have described the bloody miseries which they say characterized their voyage,5 on which hundreds of weakened people were said to die to disease.

Such stories lead The New York Times to describe Cambodia as “a giant prison camp.” The Radio prefers the term “a gigantic workshop,” but the over-all sense is probably much the same. Refugees tell how their days from seven in the morning to six at night are spent in the fields. They have an hour off for lunch, but in Cambodia indolence used to be a way of work. In the new campsites families seem still to live together; young men and women are housed in separate barracks and extramarital sex is said to be forbidden. Some refugees claim it is punishable by death.

According to the refugees, political instruction is kept to a minimum partly perhaps because fifteen-year-old boys with AK 47s do not necessarily have much to say and partly because communications with the central government have developed slowly. There is usually just one political meeting a week; like the Radio it concentrates more on production than ideology. Much is said of US imperialism, little about socialism, still less of political personalities. Khieu Samphan and Ieng Sary are not names that tumble readily from lips. Only an abstract force called “Anka” or “the organization” is credited with administrative power and success.

In October Sihanouk said in Paris that the Khmer Rouge was selecting a new civil service from its ranks. Since then the draft constitution of “Democratic Cambodia” has promised the return of a civilian administration. But by the end of 1975 few of the refugees appear to have seen much sign of this. Perhaps the most revealing information that can be elicited from them is of the ratio of Khmer Rouge to civilians. Between 1970-1975, as I have mentioned, the Khmer Rouge grew from under 10,000 to an estimated 70,000. One of Sihanouk’s closest aides, now in Paris, says that while he was in Peking he identified twenty senior officials and believed the movement had about 1,000 cadres. Until the autumn of 1975 there was apparently no new recruitment drive.

So, Pi, a forty-two-year-old farmer from Siem Reap, says that in his cooperative there were about fifty Khmer Rouge to 5,000 workers. Chouy Chhou, a twenty-three-year-old farmer from Kum Pin village, says that since April 19 twelve soldiers have controlled about 750 people. In the village of Svey Chhou there are said to be ten Khmer Rouge supervising about 250 families. Seon Chheuth, a twenty-three-year-old student from Sisophon who arrived in Thailand in December, says that only five soldiers moved his group of about 100 families into the countryside last April.

The refugees claim that the population is largely hostile to the new government. If that is so, it is hard to see how such small forces could benignly govern the country. The refugees say that obedience is obtained by fear. Some say that throughout the summer anyone connected with the Lon Nol regime risked being savagely killed. Others say that those with education now face death. Almost all agree that at least the threat of execution is used to discourage all doubts, queries, and complaints. No refugees whom I met had actually witnessed “massacres” but almost all claimed to have seen dead bodies.

Other journalists have heard first-hand massacre stories; among them that all Lon Nol officers and civilian officials in Battambang were assassinated last April after being told to leave town together “to greet Samdech Sihanouk.” Fear of a more numerous enemy alone might explain such massacres, even without the Khmer Rouge’s political compulsion to destroy the past. And the conduct of both sides during the war demonstrated the cruelty of Khmer to Khmer. But the viciousness now sounds unprecedented.

Whatever the truth of the stories, the important thing from a disciplinary point of view is that such reprisals are widely believed to take place; as a result villagers tend to treat their little band of guardians with caution if not respect. Dang Varisa, a student from the Sisophon area, says that no one attacks the Khmer Rouge because “we were told in political study sessions that if one soldier dies the whole village will be killed.” He had not heard of this actually happening but considered the threat real enough. Who, after all, cares to argue with nervous children carrying submachine guns?

Two other slightly more subtle methods of organizational control have been developed. The new peasant co-operatives are divided into “solidarity groups” of about ten families who have to appoint two of their members as leaders. These two are responsible, with their lives according to some refugees, for the good behavior of their neighbors. This obviously provides a powerful motive to obey. Another is given by the activities of children, some of whom, according to the Radio, “have held aloft their spirit of vigilance and creativity [and] …have become engaged in patrolling their villages and communes with the highest revolutionary spirit.” Their task was perhaps best summed up by Radio Phnom Penh on January 23 this year: “Our brothers are determined to fight all moral and material nonrevolutionary concepts, including those of private property, personality and vanity.” (Of these three “concepts” one is in fact allowed by the new constitution proclaimed earlier in the month: private property.6 )


The FUNK program of May 1970 insisted that the country would attain Sihanouk’s goal of nonaligned neutrality after victory. This aim has been reinforced by the war, not least by the fact that North Vietnamese support for the Khmer Rouge was just as cynical as that of the United States for Lon Nol. (Between summer 1973 and fall 1974 Hanoi very carefully regulated the supply of arms and ammunition to the Khmer Rouge in order to prolong the fighting. “We have learned not to rely too much on Hanoi. They prefer to avoid a decisive victory,” said Sihanouk.7 )

Whereas the FUNK program of 1970 praised the people of Laos and Vietnam, the new constitution does not even acknowledge socialist solidarity. Explaining it, Khieu Samphan made no mention of Cambodia’s allies but stressed that the country would remain totally independent of all its neighbors. “We allow no foreigner to set up military bases in our country. We stand on the position of neutrality.” The struggle, he said, had not ended “since the defense of independence requires a continuing fight.” So much so that the army has been reorganized and, according to the Radio, “the first centralized armored units, air defense units and artillery units in the history of our country” have been created.

Immediately after the war ended the Khmer Rouge reversed previous policy by abjuring all foreign aid on the grounds that “we want to be our own masters.” That independence has since been modified but only, it seems, with regard to China—the movement’s one reasonably consistent sponsor.

Chinese planes began flying into Phnom Penh before the end of April last year and in August Khieu Samphan signed an “unconditional” aid agreement with Peking; there are now said to be several hundred Chinese technicians in the country. It was under Chinese guidance that the Cambodians began normal relations with Bangkok last summer at a time when Thai-Vietnamese mutual abuse was growing. Ieng Sary was flown there in a Chinese Boeing 707 and during his stay was visited every day at the Erawan Hotel by the Chinese ambassador to Thailand.

Neither side has confirmed it but the new Vietnamese authorities are believed to have seized the islands of Poulo Wai last June. These are thought to bear oil and were disputed by the two previous governments. Negotiations, with Chinese help, returned them to Cambodia in July. In August, the Phnom Penh radio announced that other Cambodian islands near the Vietnam coast were being fortified. It was not until September that the Vietnamese were finally allowed diplomatic representation in Phnom Penh.

Perhaps the most obvious symptom of the strain in the present Khmer-Vietnamese relationship (and of the disapproval with which the Vietnamese regard the Khmer revolution) is the fact that Khmer refugees who flee east toward Vietnam are likely to fare better than those who make for Thailand.

The Thai government claims that there are now only 9,000 Cambodian refugees in Thailand, as against 45,000 from Laos. Last fall the official figure was 18,000; it has fallen as the Thai desire for rapprochement with Cambodia has risen. “Though sometimes the tongue gets bitten by the teeth yet we can live peacefully together,” Ieng Sary told the Thais in November.

The refugees in Thailand have been given only temporary asylum. They are confined in inadequate camps along the border and their future is uncertain. Khmers who reach South Vietnam are, by contrast, actually being welcomed. They are allowed to make for Saigon and they have been assigned land in the new resettlement areas. Those with friends and contacts in the Western countries are allowed to re-establish them and to leave on the Air France evacuation flights. Some of these have reported that the Vietnamese actually gave them covering fire as they escaped from the Khmer Rouge. Last autumn, the Phnom Penh radio went so far as to announce that peasants in the Parrots Beak region of Cambodia bordering on Vietnam were working in the fields, hoe in one hand, gun in the other.

On February 2 the Pnom Penh radio announced that in Stung Treng province, near the border with southern Laos (an area where the Vietnamese traditionally have been strong), “We always carry our guns at the ready and remain alert, scanning the horizon and patrolling every nook and cranny so as to detect and stop the enemy from encroaching on our beloved Cambodian fatherland.”


Khmer Rouge patterns of rural control could have been predicted. In 1959 Khieu Samphan insisted that “it is useless to say we should be patient and understanding with the peasants at the same time as we mount a fearless struggle.” Since 1972 the FUNK radio had been describing the cooperatives and the “solidarity groups.” After the end of US bombing in August 1973 peasants continued to cross to the Lon Nol side; they blamed the rigors of collective life under the rule of the Khmer Rouge. One Khmer who visited the liberated zone wrote in a book that appeared briefly in Phnom Penh,

I paid great attention to the help the Khmer Rouge gave the people, building dikes, harvesting crops, building houses and digging bunkers. I also saw them force all the people to wear black clothes, forbid idle chatter and severely punish violations of their orders.8

And in 1974 Sihanouk himself complained publicly that the Khmer Rouge were trying to impose collectivist disciplines totally alien to the Khmer peasants.9

The destruction of urban life was less easily foreseen. In his thesis Khieu Samphan did urge that urban building be strictly controlled and civil servants be moved into industry—“as far as waste is concerned no one can be indulgent.” And in 1970 the town of Kratie was emptied by the Khmer Rouge. But in November 1974 Khieu Samphan promised that “every Cambodian has his role in national society regardless of his past.10 This is a far cry from the destruction of personality and vanity now being vaunted. Either it was a deliberate, tactical deception or Khmer Rouge attitudes changed drastically in four months.

The unexpected speed of their victory might help to explain such a change. In January Khieu Samphan’s aides were telling Sihanouk that they did not expect to be in Phnom Penh before the end of the year. (That, too, could of course have been tactical.) By March it was quite clear that they would have millions of refugees on their hands within weeks.

They subsequently claimed that Phnom Penh had to be evacuated for lack of food. This was rather more than an excuse; there was no way in which the city could be fed without an airlift, as even the State Department eventually admitted.11 But the fact that most of the inhabitants belonged to the land and would be needed there explains neither the speed of the move nor the insistence on total evacuation of Phnom Penh and smaller towns. Lack of food was not the reason patients were forced (from terribly inadequate hospitals) to die with the old on the roads.

Ieng Sary later said the Khmer Rouge also feared the US would either bomb the city or provoke insurrection. Given US behavior over the Mayagüez, they were obviously right to mistrust Washington’s intentions. But underlying their decision was the deeper fear that their tiny military force could not possibly control, let alone reform, urban populations. Moreover, Phnom Penh was Babylon, Sihanouk’s capital whence Ieng Sary and Khieu Samphan had fled and which had since served and been corrupted by Lon Nol and the Americans. (Ieng Sary also admitted he feared the corrupting effect on the Khmer Rouge soldiers.) Phnom Penh was, moreover, the base from which one of the most intense and mindless bombardments in history had been directed against its new controllers. Smaller towns were only lesser evils. The exodus was a cruel and deliberate demonstration of a total and immediate break with the past. As citizens were herded out along the roads to be transformed into food producers, they were told that Cambodia “is beginning again at zero.”

It was fear of just such a climax to the war that led the US ambassador, John Gunther Dean, to beg Kissinger throughout the second half of 1974 to negotiate a “controlled solution” which would remove Lon Nol and secure an orderly transfer of power. Sihanouk was urging the same. Kissinger did not listen. That summer he did say, when questioned about the Cambodian bombing wiretaps, “I would like to think that when the record is written some may remember that perhaps some lives were saved and that perhaps some mothers can rest more at ease….”


About 10 percent of the Cambodian people were annihilated by the war and no one knows how many more have died since then. Until now extensive reconstruction, hunger, and murder have apparently been used as methods of social control; how the Khmer Rouge will govern as the economy is rebuilt and hunger is reduced is almost impossible to say. It depends, presumably, on the relations among those few men who now sit in some of the empty buildings in Phnom Penh—among the former maquis, the men from Hanoi, and Sihanouk.

Until now the Parisian intellectuals have apparently been dominant; the Khmer cadres who have returned from Hanoi have exerted less obvious influence. Sihanouk, on the other hand, has been very visibly ignored. Because of his surreptitious and unsuccessful efforts to negotiate a settlement during the war, his relations with the Khmer Rouge, bad from the start, were execrable by the end. He was not warned of the forced evacuation of his capital and for two months almost all his cables went unanswered. In September, after a meeting with Chou En-lai, he finally agreed to a short visit home without the personal entourage he had considered necessary for his protection.

He spent most of the time alone with his family in one of his old palaces. He was allowed to preside over one government meeting but not expected to do anything. He hated the echoing emptiness of the town, dotted with just a few pedestrians, a few bicycles, a few soldiers silhouetted on the balconies, and a very few cars. One of his rare sorties was to the Pochen-tong textile factory just outside Phnom Penh. There women workers fell at his feet, crying, when they saw him. After that he was kept pretty much to the palace.

In Paris last October Sihanouk said publicly how marvelous the city was now, no taxi girls, no dirt. Everything the Khmer Rouge had done was “très raisonable,” and he was looking forward to returning. Privately he wept. A month later I saw him again, by chance, in the Friendship Store, Peking’s main shop for foreigners. He was buying little wooden animals to distribute on a trip to Africa and the Middle East. He had no time to talk, because he was so very busy. He was going to have a fine trip and would be back in Phnom Penh in January. Last month he did indeed return, just in time to declare the new constitution, which abolished his monarchy, “excellent.” The new flag and national anthem, he said, “have great, outstanding significance.”

The constitution renames the country “Democratic Cambodia” and it collectivizes land and factories; it does not mention socialism, and constantly promises that Cambodia will be a “happy” country. It establishes five yearly elections for a 250-seat legislature in which farmers have 150 seats, workers 50, and the army 50. Both executive and judiciary are to be appointed by the legislature. Judges need only learn, according to the constitution, that “activities regarded as dangerous and in opposition, and constituting a systematic threat to the people’s state, must be condemned in the highest degree.” Other crimes “are subject to constructive education.” Article 20 neatly solves one problem: “Every Cambodian has the right to worship according to any religion and the right not to worship according to any religion. Reactionary religion which is detrimental to Democratic Cambodia and the Cambodian people is absolutely forbidden.”

The first elections for the legislature will take place on March 20 and the candidates will be “brothers who have brilliant records in revolutionary struggle for the liberation of the nation and people.” (In contrast to Vietnam, no census will be taken beforehand.) The legislature will then have to choose a new executive; its composition may finally show whether or not Sihanouk is to be given more than an honorary role in his country.

In Paris last October Sihanouk said that he felt he could still be of use to the Khmer Rouge. When he ceased to be, he hoped they would allow him to live in France and watch old movies. His patience just possibly may pay off. In January this year, perhaps because they considered that his presence would calm rather than increase any dissatisfactions felt, his country’s rulers took him on a three-day visit to the Kompong Cham region. At Batheay he saw 5,000 people laboring on the new irrigation system and, according to the Radio, “he expressed his joy at seeing the people and fighters build new Democratic Cambodia.”

Joy is not an emotion that one can easily associate with Cambodia at any stage during the last six years. What is now being built there and how can be only dimly perceived, and will not be fully understood until the reports of the Radio and of the refugees can be matched against direct observation. But those reports make it clear that the Khmer people are suffering horribly under their new rulers. They have suffered every day of the last six years—ever since the beginning of one of the most destructive foreign policies the United States has ever pursued: the Nixon-Kissinger-Ford doctrine “in its purest form.”

This Issue

March 4, 1976