ON the 39th anniversary of the 1970 coup d'etat that overthrew Prince Norodom Sihanouk and led to the establishment of a Cambodian republic, Prime Minister Hun Sen blamed the event for unleashing decades of civil war and the 1975 victory of the Khmer Rouge.
"If there was not a coup d'etat on March 18, 1970, dismissing [Sihanouk], the war would not have taken place and the Pol Pot regime would not have been created either," Hun Sen said at the National Institute of Education's annual congress Wednesday.
"If they let Sihanouk lead the country, Cambodia would have developed more and prevented millions of deaths." His comments came amid statements from the US-based Cambodian Action Committee for Justice and Equity expressing "an immense debt of gratitude" to the Lon Nol regime for stopping an "invasion" of Vietnamese communist forces. "If there was no March 18, 1970, Cambodia would end up certainly and completely under Hanoi's yoke, as is Khmer Kampuchea Krom today," the statement said.
But Funcinpec First Deputy President Lu Laysreng said the coup ultimately hastened the onset of civil war. "If there was no coup in 1970 we would not have had over two million people killed by Pol Pot," he said.