Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

New stage in Kampuchean people’s war

First Published: Unity, Vol. 4, No. 11, June 19-July 2, 1981.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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After two and a half years of Vietnamese occupation, the Kampuchean people’s resistance has advanced to a new stage. The Kampuchean nation, no longer on the edge of extinction, has rebounded with a strength and vitality that has surprised Western observers and stunned the Vietnamese.

As the wet season begins, the Kampuchean Army and guerrillas are shifting from a defensive strategy to one of initiative and activity that touches every corner of the country. The government of Democratic Kampuchea, the legitimate government overthrown by the Vietnamese invasion in January 1979, calls this the stage of equilibrium of forces. This will be followed by a long-term period of strategic offensive in which the patriotic forces will drive the Vietnamese back across the border.

This equilibrium of forces comes at a time when the international community is preparing for a conference on the situation in Southeast Asia, scheduled for July. The conference, called by the United Nations Resolution 35/6, will seek a definite time frame for Vietnamese withdrawal and UN-sponsored elections.

The battlefield

During the past dry season, the Kampuchean Army and guerrillas extended the liberated zones to about one-third of the country, encompassing 1 lli million people. These base areas are mostly in the west and southwest, but are extending also into the north, northeast and east as well. Ieng Thirith, head of the Democratic Kampuchea delegation at the recent Tokyo support conference, reported that over this last season 126 villages and communes were liberated.

Kampuchean soldiers now strike throughout the country. Even the capital, Phnom Penh, and the main port, Kompong Som, are subject to guerrilla raids. Ieng Thirith reports that during the dry season, Kampuchean soldiers destroyed several hundred enemy posts, took two division headquarters, and killed or seriously wounded tens of thousands of Vietnamese soldiers. Enemy transportation and communication lines are constantly cut by the Kampucheans.

The Kampuchean Army has grown steadily since the invasion and is also better armed. In contrast to the light weaponry in use when UNITY visited a base area last year, the Kampucheans now use 65 and 75 mm artillery. Even Western bourgeois journalists have been forced to admit to the growing strength and success of the Kampucheans. A journalist from Stern, a German news magazine, says he has never seen a national liberation movement so well organized.

Even with $3 million daily support from its Soviet backer, Viet Nam has been unable to hold its ground. Morale among Vietnamese troops is low, and desertions are commonplace. In late March, 300 Vietnamese soldiers stationed at Chhep, in Preah Vihear province, deserted, crossed the Mekong River and returned to southern Viet Nam. Just recently, the Hanoi authorities withdrew the 341 Division from along the Thai border because of a high rate of desertions and troop ineffectiveness. Conflicts between north Vietnamese and south Vietnamese, and between officers and soldiers, are also frequent.

There are also many cases of Kampuchean draftees in the puppet Heng Samrin regime’s army rebelling. On May 15, an artillery unit shelled and sank a Vietnamese submarine chaser at Kompong Som.

The miserable conditions within the Vietnamese-occupied territories continue to generate support for the liberation forces. One Kampuchean delegate to the Tokyo conference related her experiences living in Phnom Penh after the invasion. She described a city populated with Vietnamese soldiers and Kampuchean beggars. She frequently sighted Red Cross planes, but no aid was distributed by the authorities to the Kampuchean people. Often she saw children digging in the garbage food. She eventually found work in a Khmer-run factory, which was soon put under direct Vietnamese management. Many other plants in the area were also taken over by the Vietnamese.

Political program

Democratic Kampuchea attributes much of the success on the military front to the application since last year of the program of the Patriotic and Democratic Front of Great National Union of Kampuchea. This united front program has created greater democracy and corrected certain errors of the 1975-78 period. It has rallied support in liberated and non-liberated areas alike.

A member of a recent European delegation to Kampuchea described conditions in the liberated areas in an interview for UNITY. Villages elect their own leading committee, which is subject to recall at any time. Someone else is chosen for liaison with other villages and to be a link with the central government. Mass meetings are held periodically to discuss the situation and policies.

Foreign visitors are unanimous in their reports of proud and dignified villagers carrying on the work of supporting the soldiers at the front while they build a new Kampuchea. Private property and employment are allowed, although under near-subsistence conditions there is little room for surplus, profit or exploitation. The postal service is operating once again. Hospitals exist, but they are seriously under-equipped – only 1% of international humanitarian assistance reaches Democratic Kampuchea. But mere survival is no longer a question, and conditions are improving.

Another positive sign on the political horizon is the flurry of bilateral meetings between representatives of Democratic Kampuchea, the Khmer People’s National Liberation Front (KPNLF) led by Son Sann, and Prince Norodom Sihanouk. These meetings are aimed at establishing a broad anti-Vietnamese united front. While the talks may go on for some time still, on the battlefield some of these different forces are already cooperating.