How Vietnam lost and China won Cambodia

Forty years after the fall of the China-supported Khmer Rouge regime to Vietnam’s invading forces, Cambodia is now more clearly in Beijing’s than Hanoi’s orbit

Forty years ago today, some 100,000 Vietnamese soldiers accompanied by almost 20,000 Cambodian defectors marched into Phnom Penh to overthrow the radical Maoist Khmer Rouge regime.

The invading forces found less than 100 survivors in the capital city. The Khmer Rouge, which came to power in 1975, had evacuated Phnom Penh, leaving buildings to decay and collapse.

In the countryside, where almost all Cambodians were sent as part of the Khmer Rouge’s “Year Zero” revolution, it was a Hobbesian nightmare. After less than four years in power, an estimated quarter of all Cambodians perished under the genocidal regime.

Only in November 2018 were two of the regime’s senior officials finally convicted of genocide, against the Cham and Vietnamese minorities.

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