There was an article just today where a university history professor stated that Cambodians can be proud of their independence since it was achieved by peace and not war. 
This is the way an experienced expat views the history as it really happened.
Taken by itself that statement is true as back in 1953 Sihanouk indeed obtained independence from France by negotiations. One should remember though that France normally did not grant independence without a prior bloody war, e.g. Vietnam, Algeria. In 1953 though France had become tired of waging wars with their colonies and the sentiment in the French populace was turning. After all France had survived a brutal World War against Germany and her allied powers not too long ago.
But what this dear professor seemed to have forgotten were the intervening years between 1970 and 1997 which was practically a period of interminable skirmishes, coups, and internal wars. Or did he forget that Sihanouk had given the U. S. a pretext for the illegal and unjustified bombing of Cambodia by granting the Vietnamese army access to Cambodia territory to wage their war against the puppet regime in Saigon? Or did he forget that Sihanouk was toppled by Lon Nol because he was not able to contain the emerging Pol Pot forces? Or did he forget that Lon Nol fought a bloody war against the Pol Pot forces? Or did he forget the Vietnamese invasion (for the benefit of Cambodia though) that led into a prolonged jungle warfare by a coalition of unlikely allies against the Vietnamese invaders? Or did he forget the jungle warfare by Pol Pot forces against the Vietnamese installed Cambodian regime until 1993?

A fragile peace came only after the U. N. finally brought itself to vote for an unparalleled rescue mission that brought the first free elections to Cambodia, which was promptly disputed by the losing governing CPP which then threatened to secede with the Eastern provinces. Only after Sihanouk brokered a deal came a less violent period that was still occasionally threatened by the remaining Pol Pot loyalists who had fled into the jungle. Again, did the good professor forget the bloody coup by the minority partner in the government in 1997?  Only after that coup began the time when real progress in terms of peace was achieved. The current regime in short order secured a lasting period of quiet and a sort of tranquility by all sorts of sometimes questionable agreements – although at what cost? Yes, today there is peace and growing prosperity in Cambodia but still at the expense of certain human values.

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