Son Ngoc Thanh
Son Ngoc Thanh (December 7, 1908 – August 8, 1977) was a Cambodia
Cambodia , officially known as the Kingdom of Cambodia, is a country located in the southern portion of the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia...

n nationalist and republican policitian, with a long history as a rebel and (for brief periods) a government minister.

Early life

Thanh was born in Travinh, 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 –...

, to an ethnic 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...

 father and a Sino-Khmer Krom mother. He was educated in Saigon, Montpellier
-Neighbourhoods:Since 2001, Montpellier has been divided into seven official neighbourhoods, themselves divided into sub-neighbourhoods. Each of them possesses a neighbourhood council....

 and Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

, studying law for a year before returning to Indo-China. He found work as a magistrate in Pursat
Pursat is the capital of Pursat Province, Cambodia. Its name derived from a type of tree.- Notes :...

 and as a public prosecutor in 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,...

 before becoming Deputy Director of the Buddhist Institute. Along with another prominent early Khmer nationalist, Pach Chhoeun, he established the first Khmer language
Khmer language
Khmer , or Cambodian, is the language of the Khmer people and the official language of Cambodia. It is the second most widely spoken Austroasiatic language , with speakers in the tens of millions. Khmer has been considerably influenced by Sanskrit and Pali, especially in the royal and religious...

 newspaper, Nagaravatta, in 1936. The political outlook of Nagaravatta, which urged Khmers to break the commercial monopoly of foreign traders by starting their own businesses, was to make Thanh and his colleagues receptive to Japanese fascism, or as he termed it "National Socialism". Thanh's ideology was essentially republican
Republicanism is the ideology of governing a nation as a republic, where the head of state is appointed by means other than heredity, often elections. The exact meaning of republicanism varies depending on the cultural and historical context...

, right-wing, and modernising in outlook, which was to make him a longstanding opponent of the King 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...

. Despite his nationalism, he was also a strong advocate of pan-Asian cooperation, and advocated the teaching of the Vietnamese language
Vietnamese language
Vietnamese is the national and official language of Vietnam. It is the mother tongue of 86% of Vietnam's population, and of about three million overseas Vietnamese. It is also spoken as a second language by many ethnic minorities of Vietnam...

 in Cambodian schools, as it was a potential conduit for modernising ideas.

Involvement in government

After demonstrations against the French in July 1942, Thanh fled to Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

, returning when Sihanouk declared Cambodia's independence
Independence is a condition of a nation, country, or state in which its residents and population, or some portion thereof, exercise self-government, and usually sovereignty, over its territory....

 on March 12, 1945, during the Japanese occupation. In August, Thanh became Prime Minister. With the restoration of French control in October, he was arrested, and sent into exile first in Saigon and then in France. Many of his supporters joined 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....

 resistance to fight the colonial power. In 1951, the authorities brought Thanh back, to considerable popular acclaim; refusing a Cabinet position, he made alliances with various leaders of the Khmer Issarak rebels, and established another newspaper (Khmer Kraok) which advocated revolt against the French administration and was quickly banned. In 1952, accompanied by his lieutenant Ea Sichau (a French-educated customs official and leftist intellectual) and a number of supporters, Thanh disappeared into the forests in the area of 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...

, and began to organise resistance.

Thanh attempted to gain overall control of the Issarak movement (split between the Khmer National Liberation Committee
Khmer National Liberation Committee
The Khmer People's Liberation Committee was a Cambodian anticolonial movement, formed by Khmer Issarak elements on February 1, 1948...

, the more overtly leftist United Issarak Front
United Issarak Front
The United Issarak Front was a Cambodian anti-colonial movement 1950–1954., organized by the left-wing members of the Khmer Issarak movement. The UIF coordinated the efforts of the movement as of 1950, and waged war against the French Union forces...

, and a variety of regional warlords and guerrilla leaders) throughout the early 1950s; a few of these, such as Prince Norodom Chantaraingsey
Norodom Chantaraingsey
Prince Norodom Chantaraingsey was a member of the Cambodian royal family, and a Cambodian nationalist. Initially a leader of the guerrilla resistance against the colonial French, he went on to become a prominent general in the Khmer National Armed Forces during the Cambodian Civil War, as well as...

 and Puth Chhay, temporarily supported his overall leadership. By 1954, however, he had been increasingly sidelined by the leftists, and received overtures from the CIA, who would fund many of his activities in future. Though Thanh retained a high degree of support amongst the Khmer Krom, in subsequent years he would have relatively little influence or popular support within Cambodian domestic politics, especially as Sihanouk's Sangkum
The Sangkum Reastr Niyum , commonly known simply as the Sangkum, was a political organisation set up in 1955 by Prince Norodom Sihanouk of Cambodia...

 movement absorbed most centrist and rightist elements.

The Khmer Serei

The First Indochina War
First Indochina War
The First Indochina War was fought in French Indochina from December 19, 1946, until August 1, 1954, between the French Union's French Far East...

 ended in 1954. From his base near Siem Reap, Thanh organized the 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:...

 militia, mainly recruited from amongst the Khmer Krom, to fight Sihanouk, who had come to regard Thanh as one of his greatest enemies. In his 1959 "Manifesto" of the Khmer Serei, Thanh charged Sihanouk with allowing the "Communization" of Cambodia at the hands of North Vietnam. The Khmer Serei operated in the border areas of Thailand and South Vietnam, making clandestine anti-Sihanouk radio broadcasts, but made little headway, although they were suggested as a source of military power in a number of coup plots (such as the Bangkok Plot
Bangkok Plot
This international conspiracy to topple Prince Norodom Sihanouk of Cambodia was alleged to have been initiated by right-wing politicians Sam Sary, Son Ngoc Thanh, the regional Cambodian warlord and governor Dap Chhuon, and the governments of Thailand and South Vietnam with possible involvement of...

). After the Cambodian military and 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...

 overthrew Sihanouk in 1970, Thanh was invited to participate in the new 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...

 government - initially as an adviser to the Acting Head of State, Cheng Heng
Cheng Heng
Cheng Heng was a Cambodian politician, who acted as the country's Head of State from 1970–1971, and was a relatively prominent political figure during the Khmer Republic period ....

 - and put his Khmer Serei troops at its service.

In 1972, Thanh again became Prime Minister, but after being the target of a bomb attack (possibly organised by Lon Nol's brother, Lon Non
Lon Non
Lon Non was a Cambodian politician and soldier who rose to his greatest prominence during the Khmer Republic .Non was the younger brother of Prime Minister Lon Nol...

) he was soon dismissed by Lon Nol and exiled himself to South Vietnam
South Vietnam
South Vietnam was a state which governed southern Vietnam until 1975. It received international recognition in 1950 as the "State of Vietnam" and later as the "Republic of Vietnam" . Its capital was Saigon...


Thanh was arrested after the Communist victory in Vietnam, and died in their custody in 1977.
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