I greatly enjoyed Michelle Vachon’s piece “De Gaulle’s Visit: A Time Before Glory Faded” in Monday’s edition of The Cambodia Daily. However, I wish to clarify a point with respect to my comments noted in the article. Prince Norodom Sihanouk decided to cut off U.S. economic and military aid in November 1963, but not diplomatic relations.
—Letter to the Editor—
The cutting of U.S. aid in 1963 was a significant move. During the previous two-year period, U.S. aid had accounted for over 14 percent of Cambodian governmental revenues, helped to balance the national budget and also provided nearly 30 percent of the military budget, much of which went toward paying the salaries of the officer corps.
There were a number of reasons behind Sihanouk’s decision to cut off U.S. aid. One important factor was his belief at the time that taking a more independent, anti-American stance (at least with respect to Indochina) would make him more attractive to the de Gaulle government and help him gain more French assistance in the coming years.
The U.S. Embassy continued operations, albeit with a skeleton staff, for another year and a half. Cambodian-U.S. relations continued to deteriorate, however.
Randolph Kidder, the new U.S. ambassador, was unable to present his credentials, as Sihanouk refused to see him. Then in April 1965, diplomatic relations with the U.S. were severed and the Embassy officially closed on May 3, 1965. During the period from 1965 to 1969 (which included the time of de Gaulle’s visit in 1966), U.S. interests in Cambodia were ably represented by the Australian Embassy, headed by Ambassador Noel St. Clair Deschamps.
Relations were not resumed until June 11, 1969, with the U.S. Embassy reopening on August 15, 1969, under charge d’affaires Lloyd “Mike” Rives.
Dean and Professor of Law and Communications,
Pannasastra University of Cambodia