Angkar Loeu

Angkar Loeu means "higher organization" in Khmer. It was a tightly disciplined party vanguard of the Communist Party of Kampuchea that imposed bloody tyranny on Cambodians during the Khmer Rouge rule from 1975-1978. The use of "Angkar Loeu" is a characteristic of Pol Pot’s policies of extreme secrecy through which he could hide the identities of the leadership, not only from Cambodians but foreigners as well.

Buddhist Liberal Democratic Party(BLDP)

Buddhist Liberal Democratic Party was a direct successor of the Khmer People’s National Liberation Front (KPNLF), an anti communist resistant movement created by Prime Minister Son Sann. During the registration of political parties for the 1993 United Nations sponsored elections, Son Sann changed his political party to the Buddhist Liberal Democratic Party. The party won 10 out of 120 seats at the National Assembly. He then joined with FUNCINPEC and the CPP to form a coalition government. The BLDP was split into two hostile political factions, Son Sann’s faction and Ieng Mouly’s faction. The intense political confrontation between these two factions finally led to the demise of the party in 1997. Son Sann’s faction then created another political party named the Son Sann Party, while Ieng Mouly’s faction became the Buddhist Liberal Party. They both contested the 1998 general elections but did not succeed in winning any seats in the National Assembly.

The State of Cambodia (SOC)

The State of Cambodia is the direct successor of the People’s Republic of Kampuchea, a name given to Cambodia between 1979 and 1989 during the Vietnamese occupation. The change of the country’s name was accompanied by some fundamental transformation of policies, namely the reintroduction of a market economy and private ownership of property, the adoption of Buddhism as the state religion, and the abolition of death penalty. The changes of the country’s name and state policies reflected the strategies of the former communist leaders to disassociate themselves from their past policies and from the Vietnamese in order to increase their chances in the coming multi-party elections outlined in the Paris Peace Agreements.

Cambodian People’s Party (CPP)

The Cambodian People’s Party is the successor of the People’s Revolutionary Party of Kampuchea that was formed in 1979 with Vietnamese guidance. The change of name and leaders in 1991 reflected the political strategy of its leaders in anticipation of the coming multi-party elections enshrined in the Paris Peace Agreements. The CPP is the dominant political party in Cambodia, headed by Chea Sim, currently President of the Senate and Hun Sen, currently the prime minister.

After the 1993 United Nations sponsored elections, the CPP joined FUNCINPEC in a coalition government headed by two prime ministers Prince Ranariddh and Hun Sen as first and second respectively. Although FUCINPEC won the plurality of votes, CPP remained in control of the government because of its strong power base not only in the military and security forces but also in the administration at the local levels. An effort by FUNCINPEC to challenge the CPP’s dominant role led the latter to oust the former in a violent coup in July 1997, forcing many FUNCINPEC and other opposition politicians into exile. Under pressure from the international community, especially the donor countries, the CPP agreed to organize a general elections in 1998. This time, the CPP won the plurality of votes but fell short of a majority necessary to form a government. Once again, the CPP formed a coalition government with FUNCINPEC. The second coalition government has coexisted peacefully, resulting in the first relative political stability that Cambodian has enjoyed in several decades.

Coalition Government of Democratic Kampuchea (CGDK)

1982-1990 A tri-party, anti-Vietnamese coalition set up in 1982 along the Thai-Cambodian border comprised of the royalist FUNCINPEC, led by Prince Norodom Sihanouk, the republican, non-communist Khmer People National Liberation Front led by veteran Khmer politician, Son Sen, and the Khmer Rouge headed by Khieu Samphan. This government-in-exile was officially recognized by the United Nations and it occupied the Cambodian seat at the United Nations until the signing of the Paris Peace Agreement in 1991. This coalition was not a unified force, rather its factions retained separate political identities and ideologies as well as freedom of action. These three factions had nothing in common except its commitment to drive the Vietnamese forces out of Cambodia. During the course of its existence, the three parties faced political infighting and internal armed clashes.

Democratic Kampuchea (DK) The Khmer Rouge took control of Cambodia on April 17, 1975. With the promulgation of a new constitution on January 5,1976, the Khmer Rouge established Democratic Kampuchea, initially with Prince Norodom Sihanouk as head of state. Khieu Samphan later succeeded Prince Sihanouk when he resigned the post in April of that year. Pol Pot was the Prime Minister of the government of Democratic Kampuchea. On Christmas Eve of 1978, the Vietnamese army, acting ostensibly in response to the request of the Kampuchean National United Front for National Salvation, invaded Cambodia and drove the remnants of the DK forces to the Thai border. There they formed a coalition with two Khmer non-communist forces to fight against the Vietnamese. The regime of Democratic Kampuchea is better known in Cambodia as samay a-Pot, "the time of the despicable Pot."

Democratic National United Movement (DNUM)

Democratic National United Movement was a political movement established by Ieng Sary in 1995 with headquarters in Pailin, a former Khmer Rouge stronghold in northwestern Cambodia. Although the movement at first maintained its neutrality regarding conflicts between the CPP and FUNCINPEC, it later supported the CPP.


FUNCINPEC is a French acronym for the United National Front for an Independent, Peaceful, and Cooperative Cambodia, which was formed by Prince Norodom Sihanouk in 1982 with the support of ASEAN, China, and western countries to oppose the Vietnamese occupying forces and Vietnamese backed government in Phnom Penh. FUNCINPEC joined the Khmer Rouge and the KPNLF in a tripartite-government, known as the Coalition Government of Democratic Kampuchea, which controlled the Cambodian seat at the United Nation until 1990. FUNCINPEC, under the leadership of Sihanouk was an active party in the process of peace negotiations that lead to the signing of Paris Peace Agreement in 1991. Under the terms of the agreement, the Supreme National Council (SNC) was created to represent Cambodian sovereignty. Prince Norodom Sihanouk transferred the leadership of FUNCINPEC to his son Prince Norodom Ranariddh in order to become the president of the SNC. Ranariddh led FUNCINPEC in the 1993 United Nations sponsored elections and won a plurality of votes. With the CPP’s refusal to honored the election results, FUNCINPEC, through King’s Sihanouk mediation, was forced to accept a power sharing arrangement in which the government was headed by two prime ministers, with Prince Ranariddh as first prime minister and Hun Sen as second prime minister.

From 1994, FINCINPEC showed signs of internal division. The CPP undertook direct tactics of divide and rule and intervention into FUNCINPEC, whereupon a number of FUNCINPEC parliamentarians defected to the CPP’s side. The tension between FUNCINPEC and CPP reached its climax and broke into armed conflict in July 1997 during which the military and security wings of FUNCINPEC were almost destroyed and its leaders, including Prince Norodom Ranariddh, fled the country into exile. Under pressure from international community and skillful intervention by King Sihanouk, a second general elections was held in which FUNCINPEC came in second after the CPP. After intense negotiations, FUNCINPEC accepted the results of the elections and joined with CPP to form a new coalition government with Hun Sen as the Prime Minister.

Khmer People’s National Liberation Front (KPNLF)

Khmer People’s National Liberation Front (KPNLF) was a non-communist resistance movement created by former prime minister Son Sann in October 1979 to oppose the Vietnamese occupying forces and Vietnamese installed government in Phnom Penh. In 1982, it joined FUNCINPEC and the Khmer Rouge to set up a so-called Coalition Government of Democratic Kampuchea with Son San as prime minister. The KPNLF was a party to the negotiation process resulting in the signing of the Paris Peace Agreements in 1991 that paved the way for the United Nations supervised elections in 1993.

In an attempt to broaden its appeal to the Cambodian voters in the 1993 United Nations sponsored elections, KPNLF registered as Buddhist Liberal Democratic Party. In the electoral contest, BLDP won 10 out of 120 seats at the National Assembly.

Khmer Rouge

The Khmer Rouge, the French phrase for "Red Khmers" was a label given to the Cambodian communist movement by Prince Norodom Sihanouk in the 1960s. The movement was later dominated by a group of French educated, Cambodian Marxists led by Pol Pot. With Vietnamese advice, the movement did not openly challenge Sihanouk’s government with arms. After the overthrow of Prince Norodom Sihanouk in 1970 by Lon Nol, the movement began open, armed resistance. With support from rural peasants and appeals from Norodom Sihanouk, who joined the movement under a united front, the Khmer Rouge defeated the US backed Lon Nol government in April 1975. From 1975 to 1978, the Khmer Rouge under Pol Pot’s leadership put into place its utopian socialist revolution in Cambodia, a revolution that resulted in the death of more than 1.5 million people and the near total destruction of Cambodia.

The Khmer Rouge regime was ousted by Vietnamese forces in January 1979. The Khmer Rouge fled to the Thai border where, with support from China and Thailand, they were able to regroup and transform themselves into a fierce guerrilla force that waged war against the Vietnamese forces and Vietnamese installed government in Phnom Penh. In 1982, the Khmer Rouge joined two other non-communist movements, FUNCINPEC and KPNLF in a so-called Coalition Government of Democratic Kampuchea, an entity that occupied the Cambodian seat at the United Nations. As part of the coalition, the Khmer Rouge participated in the peace process that finally led to the signing of the Paris Peace Agreements (PPA). The PPA gave the UN through UNTAC the authority to take control of Cambodia during the transitional period and to supervise elections. Facing the prospect of defeat, the Khmer Rouge boycotted the elections.

The 1993 elections produced a coalition government. The Khmer Rouge continued to be a formidable challenge to the new government. Successive campaigns to defeat the Khmer Rouge militarily met with failure. However, the Khmer Rouge finally disintegrated as result of internal division revealed: first by the defection of Ieng Sary and his forces in Pailin to the government in 1996, second by the murder of Son Sen on orders from Pol Pot in the 1998, and finally by the capture and trial of Pol Pot by Ta Mok forces in the same year. Ta Mok was finally captured by government forces in 1999 and now is awaiting trial on charges of genocide. The Khmer Rouge as guerrilla movement ceased to exist. However, a number of top Khmer Rouge leaders are still living freely in Pailin.

National United Front for National Salvation of Kampuchea (NUFNSK)

National United Front for National Salvation of Kampuchea (NUFNSK) was established in December 1978 with Vietnamese assistance and guidance and with Heng Samrin as its president. It was in the name of NUFNSK that the Vietnamese forces invaded Cambodia on Christmas Eve of 1978. NUFNSK was the fundamental organ out of which PRK state power and the first PRK government developed. It later changed its name first in 1981 to the "Front for the Construction of the Motherland of Kampuchea" and then at the end of the same year to the "Solidarity Front for the Construction and Defense of the Motherland of Kampuchea." The Front was used by the party to gather mass support in an effort to strengthen the state and the government.

People’s Republic of Kampuchea (PRK)

People’s Republic of Kampuchea is the name given to Cambodia from 1979 to 1989 during the Vietnamese occupation. Its president, Heng Samrin, had been a Khmer Rouge military commander in the eastern zone until early 1978 when he fled to Vietnam to escape Pol Pot’s violent political purges. The high-ranking officials of this government were comprised largely of Cambodians who had defected from the Khmer Rouge ranks or who were Cambodian communist veterans who had spent many years in Vietnam.

The PRK was committed to building socialism but it allowed a mixed planned and market economy. Industry, large-scale agriculture, finance, and foreign trade were in the hands of the state, while small-scale agriculture, retail marketing, and handicrafts were privately owned.

Contrary to the practices under Democratic Kampuchea during which cultural and religious beliefs of all forms were prohibited, the PRK allowed some cultural and religious freedoms. Buddhism was reintroduced, but it was not declared the state religion. Music, dance, and theater were permitted but they had to contain revolutionary propaganda.

With the political settlement in sight, in 1989 the PRK changed its name to the State of Cambodia.

Supreme National Council (SNC)

The Supreme National Council was set up under the Peace Paris Agreement signed in 1991 by the Cambodian warring factions. Under the terms of the agreement, SNC represents "the unique legitimate body and source of authority in which, throughout the transitional period, the sovereignty, independence and unity of Cambodia are enshrined." Once created, SNC was to represent Cambodia at the United Nations and delegate power to the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) during the transitional period until the establishment of the new government. The SNC was headed by Prince Norodom Sihanouk.

United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC )

United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia was established under the terms of the 1991 Paris Peace Agreement. UNTAC was created by the UN Security Council with civilian and military components to ensure the implementation of the peace agreement. Under the direct responsibility of the UN Secretary General, UNTAC was given the responsibility to guarantee a neutral political environment conducive to free and fair elections scheduled for May 1993. To accomplish this task, UNTAC deployed approximately 22,000 civilian, military and security personnel to Cambodia with a budget of around US 2 billion dollars. UNTAC began its deployment in March 1992 and ended its mission in September 1993 when the newly elected National Assembly convened and a new constitution was promulgated. During this period, UNTAC did not succeed in achieving its assigned goals, that included the demobilization of the armed forces of all factions and the control of key ministries of the State of Cambodia. Despite these failures, UNTAC was successful in other areas, including the resettlement of refugees from the Thai-Cambodian refugee camps and organization of free and fair elections.

    <     Back to Top       |        Return to Table of Contents     >