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People's Republic of Kampuchea (PRK) - Government

The People's Republic of Kampuchea (PRK) had "its ultimate origin," according to Cambodia expert Michael Vickery, "in the same revolutionary victory of 17 April 1975 as does the rival Pol Pot [Democratic Kampuchea] group." The PRK's patron since 1979 was Vietnam, and in the late 1980s, many observers believed that the survival of the Phnom Penh regime depended on Vietnam's continued occupation of the country.

The PRK was established in January 1979 in line with the broad revolutionary program set forth by the Kampuchean (or Khmer) National United Front for National Salvation (KNUFNS), which was formed on December 2, 1978, in a zone liberated from the Khmer Rouge. Of the front's fourteen central committee members, the top two leaders--Heng Samrin, president, and Chea Sim, vice president--were identified as "former" KCP officials. Ros Samay, secretary general of the KNUFNS, was a former KCP "staff assistant" in a military unit. The government of Democratic Kampuchea denounced the KNUFNS, as "a Vietnamese political organization with a Khmer name," because several of its key members had been affiliated with the KCP.

The initial objectives of the KNUFNS were to rally the people under its banner, to topple the Pol Pot regime, to adopt a new constitution for a "democratic state advancing toward socialism," to build mass organizations, and to develop a revolutionary army. Its foreign policy objectives included pursuing nonalignment, settling disputes with neighbors through negotiations, putting an end to "the border war with Vietnam" provoked by the Pol Pot regime, and opposing foreign military bases on Cambodian soil. On December 26, 1978, the day after the Vietnamese invasion, the KNUFNS reiterated its opposition to foreign military bases.

On January 1, 1979, the front's central committee proclaimed a set of "immediate policies" to be applied in the "liberated areas." One of these policies was to establish "people's self-management committees" in all localities. These committees would form the basic administrative structure for the Kampuchean People's Revolutionary Council (KPRC), decreed on January 8, 1979, as the central administrative body for the PRK. The KPRC served as the ruling body of the Heng Samrin regime until June 27, 1981, when a new Constitution required that it be replaced by a newly elected Council of Ministers. Pen Sovan became the new prime minister. He was assisted by three deputy prime ministers-- Hun Sen, Chan Si, and Chea Soth.

The "supreme organ of state power" was the National Assembly, whose deputies were directly elected for five-year terms. The assembly's 117 seats were filled on May 1, 1981, the date of the PRK's first elections. (The KNUFNS had nominated 148 candidates.) The voter turnout was reported as 99.17 percent of the electorate, which was divided into 20 electoral districts. The Constitution states that in case of war or under "other exceptional circumstances," the five-year life of the Assembly may be extended by decree. In 1986 the assembly's term was extended for another five years, until 1991.

During its first session, held from June 24 to June 27, the assembly adopted the new Constitution and elected members of the state organs set up under the Constitution. The assembly had been empowered to adopt or to amend the Constitution and the laws and to oversee their implementation; to determine domestic and foreign policies; to adopt economic and cultural programs and the state budget; and to elect or to remove its own officers and members of the Council of State and of the Council of Ministers.

The assembly also was authorized to levy, revise, or abolish taxes; to decide on amnesties; and to ratify or to abrogate international treaties. As in other socialist states, the assembly's real function is to endorse the legislative and administrative measures initiated by the Council of State and by the Council of Ministers, both of which served as agents of the ruling KPRP.

The National Assembly elects seven of its members to the Council of State. After the assembly's five-year term, council members remain in office until a new assembly elects a new council. The chairman of the council served as the head of state, but the power to serve as ex officio supreme commander of the armed forces was deleted from the final draft of the Constitution.

The council's seven members were among the most influential leaders of the PRK. Between sessions of the National Assembly, the Council of State carried out the assembly's duties. It may appoint or remove--on the recommendation of the Council of Ministers -- cabinet ministers, ambassadors, and envoys accredited to foreign governments. In addition, the Council of State organized elections to the National Assembly, convened regular and special sessions of the assembly, promulgated and interpreted the Constitution and the laws, reviews judicial decisions, ruled on pardons and on commutations of sentences, and ratified or abrogated treaties.





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