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People's Republic of Kampuchea (PRK) - Foreign Relations

Following its establishment, the primary foreign relationships of the People's Republic of Kampuchea (PRK) were those with Vietnam, Laos, the Soviet Union, and the countries of Eastern Europe. By 1987 the PRK had only one resident mission in a noncommunist state, the one in India. The PRK also maintained diplomatic relations with about twenty other Third World nations, including Afghanistan, Angola, the Congo, Ethiopia, Libya, Madagascar, Mozambique, Nicaragua, and Panama. In 1980 about thirty countries recognized the PRK; seven years later, that number had not changed. In 1987 nearly eighty countries recognized Democratic Kampuchea, the government of the Khmer Rouge.

In the first two years of the Cambodian crisis, the rival Cambodian regimes had different priorities. The Heng Samrin regime's overriding concern was to consolidate its political and its territorial gains, while relying on the Vietnamese to take the lead in foreign affairs and in national security. The political price of this external dependence was high because it contributed to Phnom Penh's image as a Vietnamese puppet. Vietnam also paid a price for its assertion that it had intervened only "at the invitation" of Heng Samrin "to defend the gains of the revolution they have won...at a time when the Beijing expansionists are colluding with the United States."

Phnom Penh and Hanoi also asserted speciously that political turmoil inside Cambodia constituted a civil war and was, therefore, of no concern to outsiders. Vietnam's attempts to shield the Cambodian crisis from external scrutiny led its noncommunist neighbors to suspect that Hanoi was finally moving to fulfill its historical ambition of dominating all of Indochina.

Phnom Penh's principal foreign policy spokesman has been Vietnam, and its major diplomatic moves have been coordinated by and proclaimed by the annual conference of foreign ministers of the three Indochinese states meeting consecutively in Hanoi (or Ho Chi Minh City), in Phnom Penh, and in Vientiane. Hanoi's position on Cambodia has been that the "so-called Kampuchean problem is but the consequence of Chinese expansionism and hegemonism," that Vietnam's military presence in Cambodia was defensive because it was meeting the Chinese threat to Cambodia and to Vietnam, and that Hanoi would withdraw from Cambodia when the Chinese threat no longer existed.

Anti-Heng Samrin resistance groups pursued an opposite course. Their strategy was to internationalize the Cambodian question--with political support from China and from the ASEAN nations--as a case of unprovoked Vietnamese aggression, in order to put pressure on Vietnam and to undermine the legitimacy of the Heng Samrin administration. At the same time, the resistance groups sought to destabilize the Heng Samrin regime by challenging the Vietnamese occupation forces. The regime in Phnom Penh, with support from Vietnam and from the Soviet Union, nevertheless continued to consolidate its gains.

In the 1980s the two Cambodian regimes continued to compete for respect and for legitimacy, and they both continued to proclaim a foreign policy based on peaceful coexistence, neutrality, and nonalignment. The Coalition Government of Democratic. Kampuchea [CGDK], however, had the major share of international recognition as de jure representative of Cambodia, even though it did not possess supreme authority within the borders of Cambodia. De facto control of national territory was in the hands of the PRK, but, because the PRK had originated during the Vietnamese invasion and occupation of Cambodia, it was unable to gain legitimacy in the eyes of the United Nations.

The United Nations would not validate an illegal act consummated by force of arms. Recognizing the PRK regime would be contrary to the UN Charter, which calls for peaceful settlement of all conflicts and for nonintervention in the internal affairs of sovereign and independent nations. In July 1982, the Phnom Penh regime, recognizing the futility of challenging the legality of the CGDK, announced that "in the immediate future" it would not seek "to reclaim the Kampuchean seat at the United Nations."

The CGDK had a permanent mission--consisting of representatives from all three of the CGDK partners--to the United Nations in New York. In formal debates in the UN General Assembly, however, the chief delegate of the Khmer Rouge group represented the CGDK because the coalition's June 1982 agreement said that the diplomatic envoys of Democratic Kampuchea who were in office at that time would remain in their posts. The permanent mission became active each September during the UN General Assembly's opening session. Mission representatives sought to obtain reaffirmation of the General Assembly's September 1979 resolution calling for an unconditional withdrawal of "foreign" (Vietnamese) troops from Cambodia and for Cambodian self-determination free of external constraints. In 1979 ninety-one nations backed the resolution, twenty-one nations opposed it, and twenty-nine abstained.

In 1987 although 117 nations reaffirmed the same resolution, the number of countries which opposed it remained essentially unchanged. Some countries, such as the United States, supported resolutions but did not recognize Democratic Kampuchea, the CGDK, or the PRK. Britain and Australia withdrew recognition of Democratic Kampuchea in December 1979, and in October 1980, respectively, but both supported the CGDK's effort to get the Vietnamese troops out of Cambodia and to determine its future freely under UN supervision.





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Page last modified: 02-06-2012 17:25:37 ZULU