The Geopolitics of Cambodia During the Cold War Period

Deth, Sok Udom
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Center for Southeast Asian Studies, University of Hawai'i at Manoa
After gaining its independence from France in 1953, Cambodia, like many other newly independent countries, had to face the new escalating global problem of the time: the Cold War. As far as Cambodia was concerned, the effects of the Cold War were discernible from the outset, with the formation of the Indochinese Communist Party in 1951 in Vietnam and its influence on the communist movement in Cambodia. However, it was not ideological conflict alone that accounted for the destruction of Cambodia in the following decades. Michael Leifer, for instance, notes: “Ever since the decline of the ancient Khmer Empire, geography has combined with politics to shape the fortunes of the Cambodian state.”1 Similarly, British journalist William Shawcross also writes: “Cambodia is a victim of its geography and of its political underdevelopment.”2 This essay therefore intends to examine the main factors that were crucial to the development of Cambodian geopolitics during the Cold War era. I would argue that the geopolitics of Cambodia from 1953 to 1991 is characterized mainly by three factors: the Vietnam War, the legacy of French colonial rule, i.e. the country’s territorial disputes with her neighbors, and finally, the rivalry of hegemonic powers in the region as well as the politics of the Cold War itself.
This journal has been published at different time periods under the following titles: Explorations: A Graduate Student Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, Explorations in Southeast Asian Studies, and The Journal of the Southeast Asian Studies Association.
Cambodia, Politics
Access Rights
Email if you need this content in ADA-compliant format.