How Cambodia Gained Its Independent 67 years ago from French Colonialism and what Cambodia Independence Means in 2020?

By: Pin Samkhon | November 9th, 2020

The Cambodian government celebrates the 67th Cambodia independence at the Independent Monument in Phnom Penh which was obtained from France dated 9 November 1954- France colonized and ruled Cambodia for 100 years. Truly having it from France, but Cambodia remains receiving critics “as always serving the interests of the People Republic of China and under sovereignty invasion from Vietnam” until now. What does it mean for Cambodia Independent Day in 2020?

Cambodia under French Protectorate

King Jayavarman VII, reigned 1181-1218

Cambodia becomes weak since 14th century after King Jayavarman VII era who was a Mahayana Buddhist King ruled the Cambodia Empire bordered with Burma and China in the North and border with China Sea in the South, the King who built Bayon Temple and many other temples, but after the King’s death, the successor Kings who were religiously Bramanism did not know how to protect the enormous large lands and that was why Thai, Lao, Malay, Vietnamese revolted and conquer for expanding and grabbing Khmer empire lands and then established into Siam, Lao and Vietnam, whereas Malay and Champa vanished/disappeared/ and Cambodia almost vanished/disappeared/ too. In 1623, King Cheyjaytha (married with Yuan or Vietnamese King’s daughter) Khmer was defeated by Siam and asked for help from Yuan to fight against Siam- after fighting Yuan asked for land in “Prey Nokor” for their people living in the East.

Subsequently, war for Khmer lands, in 1767 when king Utey asked for help from Yuan to suppress King Ang Nun who was protected by Siam, the princes of those both Kings continued their wars and asked for help from both neighboring countries until King Ang Eng and finally King Ang Chan II became victimized King (who was crowned in the age of 5 –under the rule of Siam and Yuan) because of Siam and Yuan agreed to divided Khmer Land they had ruled. At the sea and all delta lands had been signed and given to become “Cochin chine” of Vietnam by the Queen Ang Mey who at that time in detention there, in 1841, Vietnam grabbed all Khmer Sea and islands.

Later on, Khmer people could not stand with it and revolted, they attacked Siam’s and Yuan’s troops in many places demanding for a release their queen and rule in

Cambodia. Ayutthaya agreed to send a price named Ang Doung to Cambodia and “to rule the country and sent gifts to Ayutthaya every year and also sent troops to fight along Siam’s army when needed.

The King of Cambodia did not know how to fight but high educated, King Ang Doung always sent gifts to the King of Siam, sending troops to do war for Siam at oversea and Cambodia had “peace” for a while where schools were built throughout the country for children to study, do trades with China and India. In time of under Siam ruled, King Ang Doung wrote “a secret message” to the King of France “Napoleon” asked for help, to liberate Cambodia because the King thought Cambodia would melt down. In 1853, the King received a reply through a visit of a Catholic Priest namely “Mon senior mish.” The visit doubted to Siam when there was upheaval in the rural areas and Siam King arrested some Khmer provincial chief and killed.

It was a leaking but 10 years later, in 1863 500 war vessels/ships of French army embarked at Tong Kiang Port, in Vietnam today. At that time, King Ang Doung passed away but King Norodom, the oldest prince succeeded to rule Cambodia. Without capacity to oppose France, three countries signed two declarations, Vietnam and Lao were with “France Colonial” but Cambodia was under “France Protectorate” because of a secrete message of King Ang Doung in the last 10 years.

Cambodia situation when France arrived was structured as clans, used Khmer as main language, many dialects, Buddhist and monks had more influence over people. There was no economic or agricultural backup for the nation. France brought in rubber plantation, attached schools with culture and universities “Ecole extreme orient” for a modern education and established teacher frameworks where most schools adhered to Buddhist pagodas and the monks as teachers. The task to preserve the ruined Angkorwat by engineers, architect and artist from the Ecole extreme orient for more than 60 years, more importantly to designate the country to be more modernized with the King and students were sent to major universities in France for helping construction of the nation on their return.

King Norodom, 1860-1904

King Sisowath, reigned from 1904-1927

How Cambodia got independent?

French documents say “Khmer people are innocent, promote culture and proud of enormous Angkorwat temples, not so smart but innocent to their relationship.” However, after World War I, revolts within the country erupted, demanded for independent from France in Sisowath era. In that time, Japan invaded and ruled China in 1940; war movement expansion came out from China toward Indochina. Mr. Song Ngoc Thanh who obtains first law degree from France did not serve Khmer with French but connected with Japanese who wanted to liberate Khmer from France. The revolt movement consisted of Achar Hem Chiev, Achar Sour…including protesters as monks at Unalorm Pagoda…who coordinated with “Nagaravata Newspaper” published by Song Ngoc Thanh. A process to anti France for independent Cambodia was arrested and punished.

In 1941, King Norodom Sihanouk was crowned at the age of 18 years old by French who thought that this King has a father Soramarith, relative of his mother Kosomak Nearyrath, sibling of Sisowath, so he could stop all odd between the two royal families who wanted highest positions for their relatives. In accordance with the meaning of the new constitution stated that “the constitutional King” but the country did not have independent yet-there were some rules, some officials and advisors to the King who were selected based on their capacity, but before doing something there should be approval from the French “Resident Superior”.

The throne this time was under French regime that took part with “Germany” and “Japan” called “Versailles” and Japan let France continued ruling Indochina by allowing “Cambodia Liberation Movement” prevails. In 1945, Japan Toppled France and forced Sihanouk declare independent from France and it achieved on 9 November 1945 and Japan put Song Ngoc Thanh in a position as Khmer Prime Minister. Not too long for independent Khmer, Japan suffered from two nuke bombs, one at “Okinawa” and another at “Nagasaki” and surrendered-France revoked “Charles De Gaulle” and allies took back France from “Germany” and “ Japan” were defeated, France came back to Cambodia after the end of “ Versailles” regime and executed the traitors General “Petain”. This time, Cambodia was under “French Colonial”. Song Ngoc Thank was arrested and sent to France for imprisonment by General “Le Claire” who was an army Commanding General and King Sihanouk expressed his apology to the public and before France and continued the throne. Away from foes, King Sihanouk could play role in middle of a chase of Khmer politicians, the King himself became the head of state and also prime minister but Cambodia remained at security threats of “Viet Minh” and “elites” who were agents of Vietnam.

After World War II, Cambodia prepared a structure of Democratic Monarchy, prepared itself for first-time general election in 1946 participated by many political parties including a Democratic Party led by Prince Sisowath Yuthivong, a biggest party with a lot of high educated people who graduated from France. This party won the election.

King Sihanouk started to scarify for independent and stayed in the middle of country power. France pledged to hand over independent to Cambodia but in delayed time frame. The King departed to France to demand for independent but unsuccessful due to

his immediate demand. On his return, he did not come to Phnom Penh; in 1950… the King visited Siem Reap province and other provinces, mobilized people, militia and brave women to carry wooden shaped guns showing of whole hearted demand through propaganda and publications. France agreed to hand over a full independent on 08 November 1954 and the next day King Sihanouk declared “Cambodia Independent” on 9 November 1954.

What does it mean for Cambodia Independent in 2020?

After 67 years of King’s effort to obtain independent for Cambodia through China but China leaves the King toppled down by the hands of Lon Nol and Prince Sirimatak and further sent the King to received order from Pol Pot-depending on Yuan, Yuan used bases in Cambodia, used secrete path and violated Cambodia sovereignty and made Cambodia suffered from American bombardment, likely to lost lands. Khmer King from the past had received independent for almost 20 years, but now it is not like before, nothing can stand by oneself to oppose foreign Chinese and Yuan. Furthermore, their followers do not respect human rights and legitimate roles of the King on planet at all.

Photo by Cambodia Royal Palace on November 9th, 2020 in Phnom Penh celebrating Cambodia Independent’s Day

Independent has lost by the hands of those who are celebrating the independent day today, it just a reminder of imagination that cannot fulfill tremendously, keep it as a “trap” for trapping the “ignorant” not to think of the real nation lovers who have sacrificed their lives in the past, divert the trace of strugglers not to think of nation liberation. This is what a Techo era paybacks to our national ancestors.

This article is a translation version from a Khmer print article from Khmer Post USA issue #305, print date, November 27, 2020 & issue #306, print date December 7, 2020.