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Kampuchea: Politics, Economics, and Society

Michael Vickery’s Kampuchea: Politics, Economics and Society, is one in a series of 36 volumes written by various authors that examine the practice of Marxist doctrines in various countries.  Vickery’s offering details the elements of Marxism as they have developed and been employed throughout Cambodia’s history.  The book’s preface lays the groundwork for understanding by providing a map of the country, statistical data and language support.

Kampuchea: Politics, Economics, and Society

In Part I: History, Political Traditions and Social Structure, Vickery first examines Cambodia’s geographic and demographic attributes.  The country is largely tropical with numerous waterways that contribute to its predominantly agricultural economic base.  The estimated population of Cambodia at the time of the book’s publication is 7.2 million, the majority of which are Khmers.

Vickery also offers an historical background that originates from approximately the third century AD and includes political rivalries with Cambodia’s neighbors Thailand, Vietnam and Laos and the country’s French occupation.  In the context of Cambodia’s modern political history, Vickery details the evolution of Marxism that begins in the 1930s with propaganda efforts directed at the Khmers during the Franco-Japanese alliance.  After WWII, democratic reforms initiated by the country’s urban elite led to resistance in its rural areas and an increasing interest in Marxist theory by several factions.

The subsequent revolution let to independence in 1953 however the Geneva Accords hampered any pronounced proliferation of communism in Cambodia.  In the decades following, foreign governments and communist parties, particularly the Soviet Union, would facilitate the embrace of Marxist theory by revolutionaries.  The regime that ultimately came to power in the 1980s after its transformation from the Democratic Kampuchea to the People’s Republic of Kampuchea demonstrated its communist roots with a new focus on the interrelated functions between rural and urban sectors and advancement of the working class.

In Part II: Political Systems, Vickery examines the ruling party of the People’s Republic of Kampuchea(PRK) and its derivation from the country’s earlier communist factions.  Although the sources that offer an historical timeline of communism’s prominent appearance in Cambodia are contradictory, Vickery suggests that it is due to the “relatively low-key treatment” of the issue prior to 1980.

According to Vickery, the Communist Party of Kampuchea did not emerge entirely until 1981 at the Fourth Party Congress.  Vice President of the Front, Chea Sim, offered the following statement in his opening address to the Congress:

“This is a congress of a new era, and an era of independence and socialism…from this 4th congress, for the first time and forever more our party will come out openly in all tasks of leading the state power and the whole people for the purpose of defending and building a new country”.

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