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Friday, February 27, 1998 Published at 21:22 GMT

World: S/W Asia

Cambodia - Background and Time Line
image: [ Millions died during Pol Pot's reign and Cambodia is still not at peace. ]
Millions died during Pol Pot's reign and Cambodia is still not at peace.


King Norodom Sihanouk, father of Prince Ranariddh, is overthrown by a right wing coup while on a trip to Russia, and the monarchy is abolished.


Vietnam invades and overthrows Pol Pot regime.


Royalists together with the Khmer Rouge battle against the Vietnamese backed government of Hun Sen. He had joined the Khmer Rouge in the early 70s but broke with the group and fled to Vietnam in 1977.


After elections, Hun Sen is made co-prime minister with Prince Norodom Ranariddh, head of the Royalist party.

Ranariddh won but Hun Sen forced himself into the position of Second Prime Minister due to the strength of his troops.

August 1996

The Khmer Rouge begins to fracture when a top cadre, Leng Sary splits with those loyal to Pol Pot.


Tension rises as Ranariddh and Hun Sen battle for control of the government, and Ranariddh tries to win support from a wave of Khmer Rouge defectors.

July 5, 1997

Fighting begins after troops loyal to Hun Sen move against those loyal to Prince Ranariddh.

Hun Sen justifies the action by claiming that Ranariddh had been negotiating with the Khmer Rouge and trying to smuggle defectors into the capital, Phnom Penh.

July 8, 1997

Hundreds of foreigners evacuated from the country by Thai military aircraft.

Hun Sen's forces have long outnumbered those of Ranariddh in Phnom Penh and in the east and south, while Ranariddh has more strength in the far north.

A powerful faction of Khmer Rouge defectors controls territory along the Thai border in the west.

Khmer Rouge forces have also been involved in the fighting against Hun Sen's troops.

It is unclear how strong Hun Sen's position is and whether the coup will develop into a full civil war.

A senior official in the interior ministry, Hok Sok, who was loyal to Ranariddh, is executed, raising fears of a purge of members of FUNCINPEC, the Royalist party.

The coup leaves King Norodom Sihanouk, father of Prince Ranariddh, marginalised for the second time in his reign.

He is abroad in Beijing and Prince Ranariddh flees to France.

Hun Sen tells royalist party members to choose a new first prime minister.

He says he does not want to become first prime minister but he will hold elections, as planned, next year.

July 16, 1997

Cambodia's foreign minister accepts Hun Sen's invitation to serve as his co-premier.

July 25, 1997

Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot, now almost 70, is denounced by his former comrades at a "show trial" and mass rally in a north Cambodian jungle clearing and sentenced to house arrest for life.

At the trial, Pol Pot is condemned for a catalogue of crimes, including the June massacre of Khmer Rouge defence chief Son Sen and 11 members of his family.

Pol Pot is now likely to live out his life quietly with his family despite being condemned and apparently sentenced to life in detention for his crimes.

American journalist Nate Thayer reports witnessing the scene and said that, although it was stage-managed, Pol Pot's denunciation was genuine and the radical Khmer Rouge of old were finished.

As the Khmer Rouge weakened, many inside the groups saw it would be unable to sustain a military struggle and favoured working within the political system.

This led to a number of defections and a contest between Hun Sen and Norodom to win over elements of the Khmer Rouge, with an intensification of the factional struggle between the two.

When a Khmer Rouge faction signed a deal with FUNCINPEC on July 4, Hun Sen, realising the danger, launched a coup the next day forcing Norodom to flee.

The subsequent show trial of Pol Pot is an attempt by the Khmer Rouge to break with the past and gain support internationally for their fight against the Hun Sen government and against the fear of Vietnamese influence through that government.

August 6, 1997

Prince Norodom formally replaced as first prime minister by the foreign minister, Ung Huot. More than two thirds of the 120 member National Assembly voted by secret ballot in favour Ung Huot's nomination.

December 1997

The Union of Cambodian Democrats - the four main opposition parties - threaten to boycott elections unless seven conditions are met, including a trial of those believed guilty of human rights abuses following the coup.

The conditions are unlikely to be met, though the government wishes to avoid a large-scale boycott.

January 1998

Hun Sen struggles to consolidate political and military power. He also fails to win international legitimacy after continued criticism of human rights abuses.

Two UN human rights officials visit the capital to voice their concern.

Since the coup, the World Bank and International Monetary Fund have withheld funds, and tourism and foreign aid and investment have all but vanished.

Six opposition newspapers are briefly suspended in January, accused of defaming Cambodia's leaders and threatening national security. But opposition politicians who fled after the coup regroup.

Overthrown Prince Norodom Ranariddh says he plans to return, despite Hun Sen's threat to put him on trial.

The election promised for May is postponed to July 26.

February 1998

King Norodom Sihanouk offers to pardon his son if he is put on trial, but Prince Ranarridh refuses the offer, saying that this would imply he admits guilt.

He says he will not stand trial because he doesn't trust the impartiality of the system.

Publicly, the international community insists Ranarridh be allowed to return and contest the election, but the European Union does not call for this explicitly.

Fighting continues between Hun Sen's troops and forces loyal to Prince Ranarridh.

February 17, 1998

Hun Sen and Prince Ranariddh accept a Japanese proposal to try the prince in absentia, then allow a royal pardon.

Representatives of the prince say he could return within weeks.

Hun Sen is motivated by international community pressure and the need for Japanese electoral aid.

The prince must return by March 20 to register for the election, but so far no court date has been set.

His party may find campaigning difficult because much of the its equipment was lost or looted after the coup.


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