Colonial Cambodia
In 1863, Cambodia
Cambodia , officially known as the Kingdom of Cambodia, is a country located in the southern portion of the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia...

 under king Norodom
Norodom of Cambodia
Norodom I ruled as king of Cambodia from 1860 to 1904. He was the eldest son of King Ang Duong, who ruled on behalf of Siam, and half-brother of Prince Si Votha as well as the half-brother of King Sisowath. Norodom is cognate with Narottam in Sanskrit which means Best of men . Norodom was...

 became a protectorate of France. In October 1887, the French
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 announced the formation of the Union Indochinoise (Union of Indochina
French Indochina
French Indochina was part of the French colonial empire in southeast Asia. A federation of the three Vietnamese regions, Tonkin , Annam , and Cochinchina , as well as Cambodia, was formed in 1887....

), which at that time comprised Cambodia
Cambodia , officially known as the Kingdom of Cambodia, is a country located in the southern portion of the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia...

, already an autonomous French possession, and the three regions of Vietnam
Vietnam – sometimes spelled Viet Nam , officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam – is the easternmost country on the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia. It is bordered by China to the north, Laos to the northwest, Cambodia to the southwest, and the South China Sea –...

Tonkin , also spelled Tongkin, Tonquin or Tongking, is the northernmost part of Vietnam, south of China's Yunnan and Guangxi Provinces, east of northern Laos, and west of the Gulf of Tonkin. Locally, it is known as Bắc Kỳ, meaning "Northern Region"...

, Annam
Annam (French Colony)
Annam was a French protectorate encompassing the central region of Vietnam. Vietnamese were subsequently referred to as "Annamites." Nationalist writers adopted the word "Vietnam" in the late 1920s. The general public embraced the word "Vietnam" during the revolution of August 1945...

, and Cochinchina
Cochinchina is a region encompassing the southern third of Vietnam whose principal city is Saigon. It was a French colony from 1862 to 1954. The later state of South Vietnam was created in 1954 by combining Cochinchina with southern Annam. In Vietnamese, the region is called Nam Bộ...

). In 1893, Laos
Laos Lao: ສາທາລະນະລັດ ປະຊາທິປະໄຕ ປະຊາຊົນລາວ Sathalanalat Paxathipatai Paxaxon Lao, officially the Lao People's Democratic Republic, is a landlocked country in Southeast Asia, bordered by Burma and China to the northwest, Vietnam to the east, Cambodia to the south and Thailand to the west...

 was annexed after the French threatened Siam
Thailand , officially the Kingdom of Thailand , formerly known as Siam , is a country located at the centre of the Indochina peninsula and Southeast Asia. It is bordered to the north by Burma and Laos, to the east by Laos and Cambodia, to the south by the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia, and to the...

's King Chulalongkorn with war, thereby forcing him to give up the territory.

French colonial occupation

The seat of the Governor-General for the whole of French Indochina was based in Hanoi, which was situated in Tonkin (now northern Vietnam). Cambodia, being a constituent protectorate of French Indochina, was governed by the Résident Supérieur (Resident-General) for Cambodia, who was directly appointed by the Ministry of Marine and Colonies in Paris. The Resident-General was in turn assisted by Residents, or local governors, who were posted in all the provincial centers, such as, Battambang
Battambang is the capital city of Battambang province in northwestern Cambodia.Battambang is the second-largest city in Cambodia with a population of over 250,000. Founded in the 11th century by the Khmer Empire, Battambang is well known for being the leading rice-producing province of the country...

, Pursat
Pursat is the capital of Pursat Province, Cambodia. Its name derived from a type of tree.- Notes :...

, Odong, and Siem Reap
Siem Reap
Siem Reap is the capital city of Siem Reap Province in northwestern Cambodia, and is the gateway to Angkor region.Siem Reap has colonial and Chinese-style architecture in the Old French Quarter, and around the Old Market...

. Phnom Penh
Phnom Penh
Phnom Penh is the capital and largest city of Cambodia. Located on the banks of the Mekong River, Phnom Penh has been the national capital since the French colonized Cambodia, and has grown to become the nation's center of economic and industrial activities, as well as the center of security,...

, the capital, was under the direct administration of the Resident-General.

The Resident-General held considerable power, but the person in the position frequently wanted more. In 1897, the ruling Resident-General complained to Paris that the current king of Cambodia, King Norodom
Norodom of Cambodia
Norodom I ruled as king of Cambodia from 1860 to 1904. He was the eldest son of King Ang Duong, who ruled on behalf of Siam, and half-brother of Prince Si Votha as well as the half-brother of King Sisowath. Norodom is cognate with Narottam in Sanskrit which means Best of men . Norodom was...

 was no longer fit to rule and asked for permission to assume the king's powers to collect taxes, issue decrees, and even appoint royal officials and choose crown princes. From that time, Norodom and the future kings of Cambodia were figureheads and merely were patrons of the Buddhist religion in Cambodia, though they were still viewed as god-kings by the peasant population. All other power was in the hands of the Resident-General and the colonial bureaucracy. Nonetheless, this bureaucracy was formed mostly of French officials, and the only Asians freely permitted were ethnic Vietnamese
Vietnamese people
The Vietnamese people are an ethnic group originating from present-day northern Vietnam and southern China. They are the majority ethnic group of Vietnam, comprising 86% of the population as of the 1999 census, and are officially known as Kinh to distinguish them from other ethnic groups in Vietnam...

, who were viewed as the dominant Asians in the Indochinese Union.

In 1904, King Norodom died. Rather than pass the throne on to Norodom's sons, the French passed the succession to Norodom's brother Sisowath
Sisowath of Cambodia
Sisowath I was king of Cambodia from 1904 to his death in 1927.Sisowath was born in Battambang in Cambodia. He was the son of King Ang Duong and half brother of Prince Si Votha and King Norodom....

, whose branch of the royal family was more submissive and less nationalistic to French rule than Norodom's, who was viewed as the more nationalistic branch of the family. Likewise, Norodom was viewed as responsible for the constant Cambodian revolts against French rule. Another reason was that Norodom's favorite son, who he wanted to succeed him as king, Prince Yukanthor, had, on one of his trips to Europe, stirred up public opinion about French colonial brutalities in occupied Cambodia.
Meanwhile, the rule of King Sisowath, and his son, King Sisowath Monivong
Sisowath Monivong
Sisowath Monivong was the king of Cambodia from 1927 until his death in 1941.Sisowath Monivong was the second son of King Sisowath. He was born in Phnom Penh in 1875. During this time, his uncle, King Norodom was ruling from Odong, the capital at that time, as a puppet king for the French...

, were peaceful, even though the monarchs were nothing but puppets and pliant instruments of the French. During Sisowath's reign, the French succeeded in getting Thailand's reformist king, King Chulalongkorn
Phra Bat Somdet Phra Poramintharamaha Chulalongkorn Phra Chunla Chom Klao Chao Yu Hua , or Rama V was the fifth monarch of Siam under the House of Chakri. He was known to the Siamese of his time as Phra Phuttha Chao Luang . He is considered one of the greatest kings of Siam...

, to sign a new treaty in 1907, which returned the northwestern provinces of Battambang
Battambang is the capital city of Battambang province in northwestern Cambodia.Battambang is the second-largest city in Cambodia with a population of over 250,000. Founded in the 11th century by the Khmer Empire, Battambang is well known for being the leading rice-producing province of the country...

 and Siemreab back to Cambodian rule. In this sense, the Sisowath branch of the family is seen in restoring Cambodian land, even though it all passed under oppressive French colonial rule.

Economy during the French colonial occupation

Not long after the French first established an autonomous presence in Cambodia in 1863, the French realized that their dream of Cambodia becoming the "Singapore of Indochina" was an illusion and that Cambodia had no hidden wealth. Thereafter, Cambodia's economy was not significantly modernized. France collected taxes efficiently, but otherwise brought few changes to the Cambodian village economy.

Discrimination against non-Vietnamese by the French continued, especially when it was revealed that Cambodians paid the highest taxes per capita in Indochina. In 1916, a tax revolt brought tens of thousands of peasants to Phnom Penh to petition King Sisowath Monivong for a reduction in taxes. The French, who had thought the Cambodians were too quiet and indolent to organize a protest, were shocked. Despite the protest, King Sisowath Monivong could do nothing. In 1925, villagers killed a French resident who threatened to arrest tax delinquents.

Some areas of the economy did develop under French rule. The French built some roads and railroads on Cambodian territory. While relatively few kilometers of railways were laid, one important line connected Phnom Penh and the Thai border through Battambang. The cultivation of rubber
Natural rubber, also called India rubber or caoutchouc, is an elastomer that was originally derived from latex, a milky colloid produced by some plants. The plants would be ‘tapped’, that is, an incision made into the bark of the tree and the sticky, milk colored latex sap collected and refined...

 and corn
Maize known in many English-speaking countries as corn or mielie/mealie, is a grain domesticated by indigenous peoples in Mesoamerica in prehistoric times. The leafy stalk produces ears which contain seeds called kernels. Though technically a grain, maize kernels are used in cooking as a vegetable...

 was economically important, and soon Battambang and Siemreab provinces became the rice bowls of Indochina. During the 1920s, Cambodia profited when rubber and corn were in demand, but after the Great Depression
Great Depression
The Great Depression was a severe worldwide economic depression in the decade preceding World War II. The timing of the Great Depression varied across nations, but in most countries it started in about 1929 and lasted until the late 1930s or early 1940s...

 in 1929, Cambodia began to suffer, especially among rice cultivators whose falling incomes made them more than ever the victims of moneylenders.

Industry was primarily designed to process raw materials for local use or for export. Immigration into Cambodia was considerable; and Cambodia became quite ethnically diverse. As in Burma and Malaysia, which were both under British
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 rule, foreigners dominated the work force of the economy. Vietnamese, despite their privileged position, became laborers on rubber plantations. Soon, many Vietnamese immigrants began to play important roles in the colonial economy as fisherman and businessmen. The Chinese had been living in Cambodia for centuries, and they dominated commerce before the French arrival. Under the French, this status quo remained the same, but the French placed restrictions on the Chinese. Nonetheless, Chinese merchants and bankers in Cambodia developed commercial networks that extended throughout Indochina to China as well.

Emergence of Khmer nationalism

Unlike Vietnam, Cambodian nationalism was politically quiet during from the 1900s to the 1930s. This was probably so because of the reigning monarch and the way the French handled the monarchy. Khmer villages who were used to abuse of power believed that if the monarch was on the throne, Cambodia was fine as it was. At the same time, low literacy rates in Cambodia, which the French were reluctant to improve, stopped nationalist currents to spread as they were in Vietnam.

However, Cambodian nationalism was emerging among the educated urban Khmer elite. When the French restored the monuments at Angkor Wat
Angkor Wat
Angkor Wat is a temple complex at Angkor, Cambodia, built for the king Suryavarman II in the early 12th century as his state temple and capital city. As the best-preserved temple at the site, it is the only one to have remained a significant religious centre since its foundation – first Hindu,...

, the pride of many Cambodians' was awakened at their country and their past history. Many of the new urban educated elite were graduates of the Cambodian History department at Lycee Sisowath in Phnom Penh. There, resentment at the way Vietnamese students were favored resulted in a petition to King Monivong in the 1930s. Significantly, the first major nationalists, members of the Khmer Krom
Khmer Krom
The Khmer Krom are Khmer people living in the Mekong Delta and the Lower Mekong River area. Under the Khmer Rouge regime- according to the conservative estimates are that 150,000. Under the rule of Vietnam from 1979-93, Cambodia may have lost 20,000 Khmer Krom...

, were members of the Cambodian minority who lived in Vietnam. Son Ngoc Than and Pach Choeun began publishing Nagaravatta (Angkor Wat), the first Khmer newspaper. It mildly condemned French colonial policies, its corruption, its usury in rural areas, foreign domination of the economy, and also criticized the Vietnamese for their past imperialism and their privileged position in Indochina.
The Khmer were lucky in escaping the suffering endured by most other Southeast Asian peoples during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

. After the establishment of the Vichy regime
Vichy France
Vichy France, Vichy Regime, or Vichy Government, are common terms used to describe the government of France that collaborated with the Axis powers from July 1940 to August 1944. This government succeeded the Third Republic and preceded the Provisional Government of the French Republic...

 in France in 1940, Japanese
Empire of Japan
The Empire of Japan is the name of the state of Japan that existed from the Meiji Restoration on 3 January 1868 to the enactment of the post-World War II Constitution of...

 forces moved into Vietnam and displaced French authority. In mid-1941, they entered Cambodia but allowed Vichy French colonial officials to remain at their administrative posts. The pro-Japanese regime in Thailand, headed by Field Marshal Phibunsongkhram
Plaek Pibulsonggram
Field Marshal Plaek Pibunsongkhram , often known as Phibun Songkhram or simply Phibun in English, was Prime Minister and virtual military dictator of Thailand from 1938 to 1944 and 1948 to 1957.- Early years :...

, requested assurances from the Vichy regime that, in the event of an interruption of French sovereignty, Cambodian and Laotian territories formerly belong to Thailand would be returned to Bangkok's authority. The request was rejected. In December 1940 the French-Thai War
French-Thai War
The Franco-Thai War was fought between Thailand and Vichy France over certain areas of French Indochina that had once belonged to Thailand....

 erupted, and the Thai Burapha Army invaded Cambodia the following month. The French were hard-pressed to resist against the better-equipped Thai forces on the ground and in the air, but nevertheless managed to score a naval victory in the Gulf of Thailand
Gulf of Thailand
The Gulf of Thailand , also known in to Malays as Teluk Siam literally meant Gulf of Siam, is a shallow arm of the South China Sea.-Geography:...

 . At this point, Tokyo
, ; officially , is one of the 47 prefectures of Japan. Tokyo is the capital of Japan, the center of the Greater Tokyo Area, and the largest metropolitan area of Japan. It is the seat of the Japanese government and the Imperial Palace, and the home of the Japanese Imperial Family...

 intervened and compelled the French authorities to agree to a treaty ceding the province of Battambang and part of the province of Siemreab to Thailand in exchange for a small compensation. The Cambodians were allowed to retain Angkor. Thai aggression, however, had minimal impact on the lives of most Cambodians outside the north-western region.

King Monivong died in April 1941. Although his son, Prince Monichao, had been considered the heir apparent, the French chose instead Norodom Sihanouk
Norodom Sihanouk
Norodom Sihanouk regular script was the King of Cambodia from 1941 to 1955 and again from 1993 until his semi-retirement and voluntary abdication on 7 October 2004 in favor of his son, the current King Norodom Sihamoni...

, the great grandson of King Norodom. Sihanouk was an ideal candidate from their point of view because of his youth (he was nineteen years old), his lack of experience, and his pliability.

Japanese calls of "Asia for the Asiatics" found a receptive audience among Cambodian nationalists, although Tokyo's policy in Indochina was to leave the colonial government nominally in charge. When a prominent, politically active Buddhist monk, Hem Chieu
Hem Chieu
Hem Chieu was a Buddhist monk and a prominent figure in the development of Cambodian nationalism.Chieu was a professor at the Higher School of Pali in Phnom Penh, and strongly objected to attempts by the French colonial authorities, beginning in the late 1930s, to romanize the Khmer writing system...

, was arrested and unceremoniously defrocked by the French authorities in July 1942, the editors of Nagaravatta led a demonstration demanding his release. They, as well as other nationalists, apparently overestimated the Japanese willingness to back them, for the Vichy authorities quickly arrested the demonstrators and gave Pach Choeun, one of the Nagaravatta editors, a life sentence . The other editor, Son Ngoc Thanh, escaped from Phnom Penh and turned up the following year in Tokyo.

In a desperate effort to enlist local support in the final months of the war, the Japanese dissolved the French colonial administration on March 9, 1945, and urged Cambodia to declare its independence within the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere
Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere
The Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere was a concept created and promulgated during the Shōwa era by the government and military of the Empire of Japan. It represented the desire to create a self-sufficient "bloc of Asian nations led by the Japanese and free of Western powers"...

. Four days later, King Sihanouk decreed an independent Kampuchea (the original Khmer pronunciation of Cambodia). Son Ngoc Thanh returned from Tokyo in May, and he was appointed foreign minister. On August 15, 1945, the day Japan surrendered, a new government was established with Son Ngoc Thanh acting as prime minister. When an Allied force occupied Phnom Penh in October, Thanh was arrested for collaboration
Collaborationism is cooperation with enemy forces against one's country. Legally, it may be considered as a form of treason. Collaborationism may be associated with criminal deeds in the service of the occupying power, which may include complicity with the occupying power in murder, persecutions,...

 with the Japanese and was sent into exile in France to remain under house arrest. Some of his supporters went to north-western Cambodia, then still under Thai control, where they banded together as one faction in the Khmer Issarak
Khmer Issarak
The Khmer Issarak was an anti-French, Khmer nationalist political movement formed in 1945 with the backing of the government of Thailand. It sought to expel the French colonial authorities from Cambodia, and establish an independent Khmer state....

 movement, originally formed with Thai encouragement in the 1940s.

Struggle for Khmer unity

Cambodia's situation at the end of the war was chaotic. The Free French, under General Charles de Gaulle
Charles de Gaulle
Charles André Joseph Marie de Gaulle was a French general and statesman who led the Free French Forces during World War II. He later founded the French Fifth Republic in 1958 and served as its first President from 1959 to 1969....

, were determined to recover Indochina, though they offered Cambodia and the other Inchochinese protectorates a carefully circumscribed measure of self-government. Convinced that they had a "civilizing mission
Civilizing mission
is a rationale for intervention or colonisation, proposing to contribute to the spread of civilization, mostly amounting to the Westernization of indigenous peoples....

," they envisioned Indochina's participation in a French Union of former colonies that shared the common experience of French culture. Neither the urban professional elites nor the common people, however, were attracted by this arrangement. For Cambodians of practically all walks of life, the brief period of independence, from March to October 1945, had been enjoyable. The lassitude of the Khmer was a thing of the past.

In Phnom Penh, Sihanouk, acting as head of state, was placed in a delicate position of negotiating with the French for full independence while trying to neutralize party politicians and supporters of the Khmer Issarak and Viet Minh
Viet Minh
Việt Minh was a national independence coalition formed at Pac Bo on May 19, 1941. The Việt Minh initially formed to seek independence for Vietnam from the French Empire. When the Japanese occupation began, the Việt Minh opposed Japan with support from the United States and the Republic of China...

 who considered him a French collaborator. During the tumultuous period between 1946 and 1953, Sihanouk displayed the remarkable aptitude for political survival that sustained him before and after his fall from power in March 1970. The Khmer Issarak was an extremely heterogeneous guerrilla movement
Guerrilla warfare
Guerrilla warfare is a form of irregular warfare and refers to conflicts in which a small group of combatants including, but not limited to, armed civilians use military tactics, such as ambushes, sabotage, raids, the element of surprise, and extraordinary mobility to harass a larger and...

, operating in the border areas. The group included indigenous leftists, Vietnamese leftists, anti-monarchical nationalists (Khmer Serei
Khmer Serei
The Khmer Serei, or "Free Khmer", were an anti-communist and anti-monarchist guerrilla force founded by Cambodian nationalist Son Ngoc Thanh.-Origin:...

) loyal to Son Ngoc Thanh, and plain bandits taking advantage of the chaos to terrorize villagers. Though their fortunes rose and fell during the immediate postwar period (a major blow was the overthrow of a left-wing friendly government in Bangkok in 1947), by 1954 the Khmer Issarak operating with the Viet Minh by some estimates controlled as much as 50 percent of Cambodia's territory.

In 1946, France allowed the Cambodians to form political parties and to hold elections for a Consultative Assembly that would advise the monarch on drafting the country's constitution. The two major parties were both headed by royal princes. The Democratic Party
Democratic Party (Cambodia)
The Cambodian Democratic Party was a left-leaning, pro-independence political party formed in 1946 by Prince Sisowath Yuthevong, who had previously been a member of the French Section of the Workers' International....

, led by Prince Sisowath Yuthevong, espoused immediate independence, democratic reforms, and parliamentary government. Its supporters were teachers, civil servants, politically active members of the Buddhist priesthood, and others whose opinions had been greatly influenced by the nationalistic appeals of Nagaravatta before it was closed down by the French in 1942. Many Democrats sympathized with the violent methods of the Khmer Issarak. The Liberal Party, led by Prince Norodom Norindeth
Norodom Norindeth
Prince Norodom Norindeth was a member of the royal family of Cambodia. Active as a politician and diplomat during the 1940s, 50s and 60s, he is notable mainly for founding the Cambodian Liberal Party , the first Cambodian political party.-Biography:Norindeth was a grandson of Norodom of Cambodia...

, represented the interests of the old rural elites, including large landowners. They preferred continuing some form of the colonial relationship with France, and advocated gradual democratic reform. In the Consultative Assembly election held in September 1946, the Democrats won 50 of 67 seats.

With a solid majority in the assembly, the Democrats drafted a constitution modeled on that of the French Fourth Republic
French Fourth Republic
The French Fourth Republic was the republican government of France between 1946 and 1958, governed by the fourth republican constitution. It was in many ways a revival of the Third Republic, which was in place before World War II, and suffered many of the same problems...

. Power was concentrated in the hands of a popularly elected National Assembly. The king reluctantly proclaimed the new constitution on May 6, 1947. While it recognized him as the "spiritual head of the state," it reduced him to the status of a constitutional monarch, and it left unclear the extent to which he could play an active role in the politics of the nation. Sihanouk would turn this ambiguity to his advantage in later years, however.

In the December 1947 elections for the National Assembly, the Democrats again won a large majority. Despite this, dissension within the party was rampant. Its founder, Sisowath Yuthevong, had died and no clear leader had emerged to succeed him. During the period 1948 to 1949, the Democrats appeared united only in their opposition to legislation sponsored by the king or his appointees. A major issue was the king's receptivity to independence within the French Union, proposed in a draft treaty offered by the French in late 1948. Following dissolution of the National Assembly in September 1949, agreement on the pact was reached through an exchange of letters between King Sihanouk and the French government. It went into effect two months later, though National Assembly ratification of the treaty was never secured.

The treaty granted Cambodia what Sihanouk called "fifty percent independence": by it, the colonial relationship was formally ended, and the Cambodians were given control of most administrative functions. Cambodian armed forces were granted freedom of action within a self-governing autonomous zone comprising Battambang and Siemreab provinces, which had been recovered from Thailand after World War II, but which the French, hard-pressed elsewhere, did not have the resources to control. Cambodia was still required to coordinate foreign policy matters with the High Council of the French Union, however, and France retained a significant measure of control over the judicial system, finances, and customs. Control of wartime military operations outside the autonomous zone remained in French hands. France was also permitted to maintain military bases on Cambodian territory. In 1950 Cambodia was accorded diplomatic recognition by the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 and by most non-communist powers, but in Asia only Thailand and South Korea
South Korea
The Republic of Korea , , is a sovereign state in East Asia, located on the southern portion of the Korean Peninsula. It is neighbored by the People's Republic of China to the west, Japan to the east, North Korea to the north, and the East China Sea and Republic of China to the south...

 extended recognition.

The Democrats won a majority in the second National Assembly election in September 1951, and they continued their policy of opposing the king on practically all fronts. In an effort to win greater popular approval, Sihanouk asked the French to release nationalist Son Ngoc Thanh from exile and to allow him to return to his country. He made a triumphant entry into Phnom Penh on October 29, 1951. It was not long, however, before he began demanding withdrawal of French troops from Cambodia. He reiterated this demand in early 1952 in Khmer Krok (Khmer Awake!) a weekly newspaper that he had founded. The newspaper was forced to cease publication in March, and Son Ngoc Thanh fled the capital with a few armed followers to join the Khmer Issarak. Branded alternately a communist and an agent of the United States Central Intelligence Agency
Central Intelligence Agency
The Central Intelligence Agency is a civilian intelligence agency of the United States government. It is an executive agency and reports directly to the Director of National Intelligence, responsible for providing national security intelligence assessment to senior United States policymakers...

 (CIA) by Sihanouk, he remained in exile until Lon Nol
Lon Nol
Lon Nol was a Cambodian politician and general who served as Prime Minister of Cambodia twice, as well as serving repeatedly as Defense Minister...

 established the Khmer Republic
Khmer Republic
The Khmer Republic or République Khmère, was the republican government of Cambodia that was formally declared on October 9, 1970. The Khmer Republic was disestablished in 1975 and was followed by the totalitarian communist state known as Democratic Kampuchea.-Background:Formally declared on October...

 in 1970.

Campaign for independence

In June 1952, Sihanouk announced the dismissal of his cabinet, suspended the constitution, and assumed control of the government as prime minister. Then, without clear constitutional sanction, he dissolved the National Assembly and proclaimed martial law in January 1953. Sihanouk exercised direct rule for almost three years, from June 1952 until February 1955. After dissolution of the assembly, he created an Advisory Council to supplant the legislature and appointed his father, Norodom Suramarit
Norodom Suramarit
Norodom Suramarit was King of Cambodia from 1955 until his death. He is the father of King Norodom Sihanouk and the grandfather of Cambodia's current king, Norodom Sihamoni...

, as regent.

In March 1953, Sihanouk went to France. Ostensibly, he was traveling for his health; actually, he was mounting an intensive campaign to persuade the French to grant complete independence. The climate of opinion in Cambodia at the time was such that if he did not achieve full independence quickly, the people were likely to turn to Son Ngoc Thanh and the Khmer Issarak, who were fully committed to attaining that goal. At meetings with the French president and with other high officials, Sihanouk was suggested as being unduly "alarmist" about internal political conditions. The French also made the thinly veiled threat that, if he continued to be uncooperative, they might replace him. The trip appeared to be a failure, but on his way home by way of the United States, Canada, and Japan, Sihanouk publicized Cambodia's plight in the media.

To further dramatize his "royal crusade for independence," Sihanouk, declaring that he would not return until the French gave assurances that full independence would be granted. He then left Phnom Penh in June to go into self-imposed exile in Thailand. Unwelcome in Bangkok, he moved to his royal villa near the ruins of Angkor in Siemreab Province. Siemreab, part of the autonomous military zone established in 1949, was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Lon Nol, formerly a right-wing politician who was becoming a prominent, and in time would be an indispensable Sihanouk ally within the military. From his Siemreab base, the king and Lon Nol contemplated plans for resistance if the French did not meet their terms.

Sihanouk was making a high-stakes gamble, for the French could easily have replaced him with a more pliable monarch; however, the military situation was deteriorating throughout Indochina, and the French government, on July 3, 1953, declared itself ready to grant full independence to the three states of Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos. Sihanouk insisted on his own terms, which included full control of national defense, the police, the courts, and financial matters. The French yielded: the police and the judiciary were transferred to Cambodian control at the end of August, and in October the country assumed full command of its military forces. King Sihanouk, now a hero in the eyes of his people, returned to Phnom Penh in triumph, and independence day was celebrated on 9 November 1953. Control of residual matters affecting sovereignty, such as financial and budgetary affairs, passed to the new Cambodian state in 1954.

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