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

  • Locations shut, dozens more Covid-19 positive

    The Ministry of Health has closed 23 locations in connection with the February 20 community transmission of Covid-19 and summoned for testing anyone who had direct contact with affected people and places. The number of discovered related infections has risen to 76, including 39 women. In a press release,

  • Kingdom's Covid cluster cases jump to 194

    The Ministry of Health on February 25 confirmed 65 new cases of Covid-19, with 58 linked to the February 20 community transmission. The latest cluster cases include nine Vietnamese nationals, five Cambodians, one each from Korea, Singapore and Japan, with the rest being Chinese. This brings the total number

  • Cambodia's Covid cluster cases rise to 137

    The Ministry of Health on February 24 recorded 40 more cases of Covid-19, with 38 linked to the February 20 community transmission. Of the 40, two are imported cases involving Chinese passengers. The 38 include two Vietnamese nationals and one Cambodian, with the rest being Chinese. This brings the total cases

  • Covid cluster raises alarm, health bodies urge vigilance

    The Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Cambodia have expressed great concern over the February 20 cluster transmission of Covid-19 in the community. Both entities appealed for vigilance and cooperation in curbing further spread of the virus. Ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine said

  • PM confirms third Covid-19 community transmission

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on February 20 announced the Kingdom's third outbreak of Covid-19 community transmission after 32 people tested positive in just over 10 hours. Addressing the public from his residence after an emergency meeting, Hun Sen said: "I dub it February 20 Community Event, in which 32 cases

  • Cambodia to make auto-rickshaws

    Locally-assembled electric auto-rickshaws could hit the Cambodian market as soon as early in May after the Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC) gave the greenlight to an investment project at the weekend. According to a CDC press release, it will issue a final registration