Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Eisenhower book details efforts against Sihanouk

Eisenhower book details efforts against Sihanouk

Queen Elizabeth II is welcomed by US President Eisenhower on October 19, 1957, in Washington. intercontinental/Afp
Queen Elizabeth II is welcomed by US President Eisenhower on October 19, 1957, in Washington. intercontinental/Afp

Eisenhower book details efforts against Sihanouk

A new book on US president Dwight Eisenhower’s diplomatic manoeuvres in Cambodia pulls back the veil on the US government’s unrelenting efforts to break Prince Norodom Sihanouk’s political neutrality during the Cold War.

The book, Eisenhower and Cambodia, published last year by Southeast Asia expert William Rust, unveils the minutiae of the administration’s dealings with Cambodia using previously untapped primary sources.

The book focuses on Sihanouk’s efforts to exert Cambodia’s political neutrality in the wake of the 1954 Geneva Accords, fostering a relationship with China, the US and the Soviet Union in an attempt to stave off coup and assassination attempts from Thailand and Saigon.

The book explores the extent of US involvement in the attempts against Sihanouk. US-Cambodia relations were severely damaged in 1959 when CIA support for warlord Dap Chhuon’s attempt to overthrow Sihanouk was exposed.

“[Chhuon] received money and communications equipment from a CIA officer who operated in the US Embassy under a diplomatic cover,” said Julio Jeldres, a biographer and longtime confidant of Sihanouk. “There was also the bombing of the Royal Palace, organised by South Vietnamese intelligence, which was then monitored by the CIA.”

According to Rust, Eisenhower sought to rid Cambodia of Sihanouk because he refused to join the US fight against communism.

“From the Eisenhower administration’s point of view, the basic problem with Sihanouk was his indifference to the global ideological struggle between the ‘communist bloc’ and the ‘free world’,” Rust wrote.

In a recent book review published by the London School of Economics, acclaimed journalist Elizabeth Becker, who launched her career covering war in Cambodia, noted that much has been written about Richard Nixon’s disastrous interventions in Cambodia, but little on Eisenhower’s role.

Eisenhower had a reputation in foreign policy circles as a moderate who practised restraint in international interventions, Becker writes. But things were different in Indochina. “Eisenhower’s policy towards Cambodia was an unbending ‘Us versus Them’ ideology with no room for outliers,” she wrote.

According to Becker, Rust employs “impressive documentation” to illustrate the dynamics at the beginning of the war between Vietnam and the US. “While the outline of this history has been known, there was some question over US responsibility,” Becker wrote. “Rust’s work eliminates any idea of American innocence.”

MOST VIEWED

  • Hun Sen: Full country reopening to be decided in two weeks

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has announced that if the Covid-19 situation remains stable for 15 consecutive days from the end of the October 5-7 Pchum Ben public holiday, Cambodia will reopen fully, albeit in the context of Covid-19 whereby people have to adjust their lives to

  • Cambodia sets new Covid-19 quarantine rules

    The government has modified Covid-19 quarantine requirements, shortening the duration for, among others, Cambodian officials, foreign diplomats and delegations, investors and inbound travellers in general. According to an official notice signed by Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng late on October 16, quarantine length for Cambodian

  • Cambodia unveils new quarantine regulations

    The government has modified Covid-19 quarantine requirements, shortening the duration for, among others, Cambodian officials, foreign diplomats and delegations, investors and inbound travellers in general. According to an official notice signed by Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng late on October 16, quarantine length for Cambodian

  • Will Evergrande change the way Chinese developers do business in Cambodia?

    China’s property sector policy has exposed the grim financial condition of real estate developers including those operating in Cambodia, which raises questions over the viability of their projects and business going forward The dark blue netting draping over one of Yuetai Group Co Ltd’

  • Phnom Penh governor: Show Covid-19 vaccination cards, or else

    Phnom Penh municipal governor Khuong Sreng late on October 5 issued a directive requiring all people aged 18 and over and the parents of children aged 6-17 to produce Covid-19 vaccination cards when entering schools, markets, malls, marts, eateries and other business establishments that have been permitted

  • Cambodia seeks probe into 'false reports' on Hun Sen's alleged Cypriot passport

    Minister of Justice Koeut Rith on September 6 wrote a letter to his Cypriot counterpart Stephie Dracos requesting cooperation in investigating and providing the truth in relation to the "exaggerative and false allegations" that Prime Minister Hun Sen holds a Cypriot passport. In his letter, the