“The banyan tree grows throughout Cambodia. It may reach a height of over 100 feet, and as it grows, new roots descend from its branches, pushing into the ground and forming new trunks. The roots grow relentlessly; many of the ancient temples of Angkor have toppled as these roots have become embedded in the cracks and crevices between their massive stones. A single tree might have dozens of trunks, and it is often impossible to tell which is the original.
This is Cambodia today: a thousand intertwined branches, a thousand stories woven together, a thousand currents of history swirling in different directions. To understand Cambodia in the present, it is necessary to look at Cambodia in the past.” http://www.mekong.net/cambodia/banyan1.htm
This paper will begin by given a cursory overview of Cambodian history that sets the stage for the rule of Norodom Sihanouk, then, in more detail, specific events that happened between 1953 ( the date of Cambodian Independence from France) through 1973 when Sihanouk was overthrown in a coup. With the background set, I will then discuss the version of events as describe by William Blum in his work “Killing Hope.” It is my hope that an objective look can be given into the role that the United States played during the 1950’s, 60’s and early 70’s in Indochina and more specifically Cambodia.
The area that is present-day Cambodia came under Khmer rule about 600, when the region was at the center of a vast empire that stretched over most of Southeast Asia. Under the Khmers, who were Hindus, a magnificent temple complex was constructed at Angkor. Buddhism was introduced in the 12th century during the rule of Jayavaram VII. However, the kingdom, then known as Kambuja, fell into decline after Jayavaram's reign and was nearly annihilated by Thai and Vietnamese invaders. Its power steadily diminished until 1863, when France colonized the region, joining Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam into a single protectorate known as French Indochina.
The French quickly usurped all but ceremonial powers from the monarch, Norodom. When he died in 1904, the French passed over his sons and handed the throne to his brother, Sisowath. Sisowath and his son ruled until 1941, when Norodom Sihanouk was elevated to power. Sihanouk's coronation, along with the Japanese occupation during the war, worked to reinforce a sentiment among Cambodians that the region should be free from outside control. After World War II, Cambodians sought independence, but France was reluctant to part with its colony. Cambodia was granted independence within the French Union in 1949. But the French-Indochinese War provided an opportunity for Sihanouk to gain full military control of the country. In 1953, Cambodia managed to gain their independence in spite of World War II and the First Indochina War. Their independence was obtained through the political savvy of King Sihanouk. Wanting to be released from the pressures of the monarchy, Sihanouk...