The Chinese Embassy in Cambodia on Friday issued a statement singling out the US’ Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), not the US government itself, as the culprit in the 1970 Lon Nol coup d’etat, apparently mocking last week’s denial by the US Embassy in Cambodia of its country’s involvement.
“Recently the embassy of a world superpower claimed publicly that its government had nothing to do with the Lon Nol-led coup d’etat in the early 1970s."
“Of course, the coup that led Cambodia to suffer from a long civil war was not caused by the ‘US’, but the CIA,” the statement said, accompanied with photos of newspaper clippings from the time and pictures of US bombs being dropped on the Kingdom.
The Chinese Embassy’s statement comes in response to a US Embassy statement last Thursday denying its country’s involvement in the 1970 Lon Nol-led coup d’etat that overthrew Prince Norodom Sihanouk. The coup indirectly resulted in the rise of the Khmer Rouge regime and a decade of turmoil in Cambodia.
The US’ statement also implicated the Chinese government in supporting the Khmer Rouge, accompanying its message with a series of photos, one of which depicts Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot and the then Vice Chairman of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, Wang Dongxing, together.
“We would like to highlight that the US was not involved in the coup leading to Lon Nol coming to power. Up to now, there has not been any evidence proving the US was involved."
“Instead, there is a lot of evidence proving that the Chinese government actively supported the Khmer Rouge regime from 1975 to 1979 and in eras after that,” read the embassy’s statement, written in Khmer on its official Facebook page.
The US embassy’s message was issued in response to earlier claims by Cambodian Facebook users implicating the US government in the events of 1970.
One user named Mony Chan wrote: “If there was no US support for Lon Nol to stage a coup to topple Norodom Sihanouk in March 1970, there would be no Khmer Rouge forces to bring Cambodians to the killing fields.
On Friday, the Cambodian Ministry of National Defence issued its own statement refuting the embassy’s claims and suggested there was evidence that the US was behind the 1970 coup.
“The Kingdom of Cambodia experienced a long-running civil war, which broke out following a coup supported by the US in 1970 and it suffered due to the presence of foreign military on its soil."
“This allowed its people to understand clearly the meaning of peace – and desire not to allow such an event to occur again now that the country finds itself in a state of peace. Cambodia does not need to alter its constitution to receive foreign military,” the statement read.
Political analyst Sok Sakoun was left unsure as to the purpose and timing of the US embassy criticising China’s alleged role of supporting the Khmer Rouge regime.
“I’m confused as to why the US embassy made statements like this when the new ambassador of the US had not been appointed and officially met with Cambodian officials . . . what was the purpose?” he asked.
He said the statements from the US and Chinese embassies were part of the larger political games being played out between the two superpowers on the global stage that has seen a trade war erupt in recent months.
Director of the Royal Academy of Cambodia’s International Relations Institute Kin Phea said on Sunday that the messages were that both countries were throwing water at each other, using Cambodia as a battleground for their political rhetoric.
“It is not good that the two world powers take a Cambodian issue and use it as political rhetoric for their international strategies."
“The US was involved in the overthrow of [Prince] Norodom Sihanouk in 1970. This is undeniable. The activities and the strategy of the US were deeply involved in the leadership of Cambodia between 1970 and 1975,” he said.
He said China also supported the Khmer Rouge regime from 1975 until its collapse, meaning that both the world powers interfered in the leadership of Cambodia from 1970 to 1979, contributing to the country’s destruction, suffering and tragedy.
The US embassy in Cambodia confirmed to The Post once again via an email on Sunday that there is no evidence that its country was involved in the coup that brought Lon Nol to power in 1970, adding that the country had also made attempts to address its negative war legacy in the Kingdom in the decades since.
“The US has addressed its war legacy by long-standing and substantial efforts for humanitarian demining and removing unexploded ordnance (UXO), including the removal of hundreds of thousands of Chinese-made mines, which have injured and killed people for decades,” the email said.
China’s Ambassador to Cambodia Wang Wentian and the Chinese Embassy could not be reached by The Post for comment on Sunday.