Remembering Cambodia’s 1970 Coup

A look back at a significant development in the country with implications that continue to play out today.

This week marked the 50th anniversary of Cambodia’s 1970 coup, whereby King Norodom Sihanouk was removed from power, paving the way for Lon Nol to take control and remake Cambodia into a short-lived republic. The move is believed to have precipitated the power struggles that would eventually tear the country apart, leading to a civil war, the subsequent Khmer Rouge takeover, millions of deaths, and ten years of Vietnamese occupation.

Today, the coup has become a political prop, a way for Prime Minister Hun Sen to demonize any regime change as leading to mass chaos and civil war. It’s a strategy he has continue to employ over his decades of rule, with manifestations that can be seen even in Cambodia’s contemporary politics.

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