The embassies of China and the United States have traded barbs over who was behind the coup led by marshal Lon Nol to depose then-prince Norodom Sihanouk in the 1970s, and who supported the Khmer Rouge regime.
The US Embassy in Phnom Penh posted comments on its Facebook page on January 30 accusing China of supporting Pol Pot’s 1975-1979 regime.
“There is no substantiated evidence that the US was involved in a coup which brought Lon Nol to power. Instead, there are a lot of evidences which showed that the Chinese government actively supported the Khmer Rouge regime from 1975 to 1979,” read a post by the US embassy.
The Chinese embassy in Phnom Penh responded sarcastically on Friday, saying that the US Central Intelligence Agency was involved in the Lon Nol coup on March 18, 1970.
“Recently, an embassy of a powerful country in Cambodia said publicly that it was not involved in the coup led by Lon Nol in the 1970s. In fact, the coup that plunged Cambodia into years of war was not involved with the US, but the CIA,” read a post by the Chinese embassy.
Arend Zwartjes, a US embassy spokesman, said no evidence showed that the US was involved in the coup.
“The United States 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,” Mr Arend said in an email yesterday.
“We hope the Chinese government will acknowledge its legacy in Cambodia and make amends to all the Cambodians its policies affected,” he said.
Kin Phea, director-general of the International Relations Institute at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said that the US was involved with backing Lon Nol to oust then-prince Sihanouk and then Cambodia plunged into war while China supported the Khmer Rouge regime when it took power in 1975.
“Both countries were involved in the tragedy in Cambodia, so they should not use the past issues that made Cambodia suffer as their political messages and splash water against each other,” Mr Phea said. “It is unjust for Cambodia and it was very painful for Cambodians as both powerful countries caused tragedy to Cambodian people.”
Dan Coats, director of US National Intelligence office, said on January 29 that Cambodia would amend its constitution to allow a Chinese military base to be erected in its territory.
“Cambodia’s slide toward autocracy, which culminated in the Cambodian People’s Party’s retention of power and complete dominance of the national legislature, open the way for a constitutional amendment that could lead to a Chinese military presence in the country,” Mr Coats said in a statement of “Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community.”
The Defence Ministry condemned the comments over the weekend, saying that they were baseless.
“The United States clearly has bad intentions to meddle in the internal affairs of a sovereign state and attempted to destroy the Kingdom’s independence, and neutrality,” the statement said.
In December, Chinese Ambassador to Cambodia Wang Wentian lashed out at some Western countries for accusing China of constructing a military base in Koh Kong province, which both China and Cambodia have denied.
CPP spokesman Sok Eysan said that the government would not allow any foreign military bases in Cambodia.
“The Royal Government of Cambodia absolutely does not allow establishment of foreign military bases in the territory of the Kingdom of Cambodia,” Mr Eysan said.