Lecture 6: Cambodia at the time of the Democratic Party : 1946-1953.


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Lecture 6: Cambodia in the 20th Century

Cambodia at the time of the Democratic Party : 1946-1953. Dr Henri Locard

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Lecture 6: Cambodia at the time of the Democratic Party : 1946-1953.

  1. 1. From Haèm Chieu to the Democrats
  2. 2. I - The interrogations & trial of Haèm Chieu, Nuong Duong, Pach Chhœun & others Hem Chieu and Nuon Duong had been sent to the Ph. P. Prison Centrale, where they were interrogated. They were later joined by Pach Chhœun. • After 10 days Haèm Chieu and Nuon Duong were put in handcuffs and taken by car to a ship sailing to Prey Nokor. They were put into the Prison Centrale in Saigon. Bunchan Mol and Venerable Pang Khat were sent from P.P. and put into the same prison. They met there 7 or 8 soldiers who had been brought from other detention centres along with Pach Chhœun. • Conditions in Prey Nokor prison were much better than in Ph. P. “Achar Haèm Chieu was there, and still preaching; he was the best, the number one preacher among the preacher monks.” [Kuy Lôt, 32-36] Although Haèm Chieu had been disrobed, he still considered himself a monk. Not only did he preach to the prison inmates, but he practiced the eight basic precepts and he would refuse to eat after noon.
  3. 3. Viet revolutionaries in Saigon Prison centrale • Bunchan Mol explains that the Viet prisoners living in the same ward were not like the Khmers: they had been politically educated for some time. They treated one another as brothers and encouraged one another to struggle hard to free their nation. • Achar Haèm Chieu and Nuon Duong were put with them and were able to learn much from them. Capital punishment was usually carried out at 5 a.m. The victims would call out their farewells to their compatriot friends: “Dear friends of common blood! We are going to die, all our friends please remember to continue the struggle until it is successful”. Then they would sing songs and shout: “ Long live Ho Chi Minh, Long live Ho Chi Minh!” Then all would stand to attention in respect for the souls of the heroes who were going to die. This kind of hero worship for those who had sacrificed themselves for the Revolution was to become the new religion under Democratic Kampuchea from 1975 to 1979.
  4. 4. Monireth & the Independence movement • What is certain from the French investigation was that the ‘plot’ or attempt at bringing independence to Cambodia, was only in its infancy. It had been devised only a few months before by a small group of men. Who was at the head of the movement? • If we read certain declarations of Haèm Chieu, it is clearly the 33-year-old Prince Sisowath Monireth. • But at other times, he insists that the person at the head of the movement wished to remain in the shadows and no one knew his identity. At other times, Haèm Chieu and others claimed it was a “Cambodian magistrate” who also remained prudently in the background – and this was of course Son Ngoc Thanh.
  5. 5. Monireth’s career (1909-1975-76) • At 25, created the original Cambodian Scout movement Angkar Khamarak Kayarith in 1934, that spread over several provinces and numbered more than 1,000 members. • One of his first acts as Prime Minister was to create the first modern Cambodian army, plus officers’ school. Having won the consent of the French, who had just returned to power in Cambodia after the defeat of the Japanese in World War II, Monireth succeeded in forming those out of former colonial army. • In later years, Prince Monireth temporarily acted as Head of State from April 6 to June 13, 1960 in his capacity as chairman of the Regency Council. • 3rd PM of Cambodia from17 Oct. 1945 – 15 Dec. 1946, succeeded Son Ngoc Thanh as PM & was succeeded by Prince Sisowath Youtevong
  6. 6. Monireth – 2 • Was there or was there not a “Monireth Affair? I have found no clear answer in the French military archives. It seems, from the French archives, that in the end, he was not in fact involved. All we can say is that, at the time, there were many Khmers who wished that he had been involved, and this is of great significance, even if he had done nothing at that stage. • Nhem Phuong, who divulged the conspiracy to the colonial police, claimed that his fellow soldiers believed that Prince S. Monireth was at the head of the movement and they rejected the idea that it was Son Ngoc Thanh. Another important witness, Chum Muong, told H. C. that Prince Monireth was at the head of the plan to rebel against the French. • Muong managed to escape after the arrest of H. C. and was sentenced to death in absentia. His nationalist views were wellknown and he was closely associated with Nagaravatta. He was a close friend of H. C. from early childhood as they came from the same district and were related.
  7. 7. Monireth – 3 • Haèm Chieu admitted that he was not really certain if Prince Monireth was at the head of the conspiracy or if some, like his friend Chum Muong, made others believe that Monireth was involved so that it would be easier to gain followers among the military, as the Prince was so popular. • The Prince himself is a particularly tragic figure when we conjure up the image of a dignified old man, wearing all his French medals, passing the fatal gate of the French embassy in April 1975, just after the Khmer Rouge takeover, after being denied admittance, walking past to his death. A Prince who should have been at the centre stage of Cambodian politics was fated to be brushed aside: Fate in the shape of Admiral Jean Decoux, in 1941, Fate in the shape of the ominous and ruthless Angkar in 1975.
  8. 8. The plight of Monireth - 4 . • All we can say for sure is that after the failure of the plot, Admiral Jean Decoux exiled Monireth to Tong in Tonkin with the French Foreign Legion. The Prince later refused to be attached to Decoux’s cabinet in Gialong Palace in Hanoi. He was repatriated to Cambodia but kept under house arrest in Kampot, under surveillance of the French police who kept a close watch on his few visitors. He was only liberated after the 9th March 1945 Japanese coup, and the first months of “Cambodian independence”, when he became an advisor to the first Cambodian government.
  9. 9. Pach Chhœun (1896-1971-75) • Pach Chhœun could have been the best political brain of the socalled plotters (Son Ngo Thanh, Sim Var, Nuon Duong and Bun Chamnol). He put a very sensible argument for the Cambodian decision to act: he was by then (around May 1942) convinced that the Thai fascists and collaborationists with Japan and Nazi Germany would not stop at Battambang and Siemreap and were about to conquer the whole of Cambodia west of the Mekong river. He had heard that the Thais were gathering troops at Aranyaprathet. The great river was going to be an international border, as it was between Laos and Thailand. • His Nagaravatta bi-weekly was then in great difficulties. It had been closed for a month from April 1942 by the censors, and P.C. the founder and editor, had been – very likely wrongly – accused of manipulating the accounts of the papers. Through a special financial inspector, the French authorities were after banning the paper altogether – which in the end they did as a result of the monks’ demonstration.
  10. 10. Son Ngoc Thanh (1908-1977) • From the various confessions gathered by the French authorities, perhaps the only individual who deserved to be arrested was Son Ngoc Thanh. • He appears to have made a clear decision about the use of force against the French military and civilian authorities, unlike others among his associates. He was planning to hire criminals and street delinquents to murder French army officers [Le Blanc archives].
  11. 11. Haèm Chieu’s confessions - 1 • The rôle of confessions before the development of forensic science. • HC was a very special detainee. He considered himself completely innocent of any wrong doing. Alas, he was somewhat ahead of his time and such an attitude was neither understood in his culture nor welcomed by the Vichy regime that expected every subject to kowtow to the authorities. • Convinced of his innocence, he asked on the occasion of each interrogation to be given sheets of paper so that he could candidly write down the details of the nationalist movement to which he was contributing with a singular determination. The various stages of these written confessions would constitute the scenario of a stage drama or the script of a film. As later with the Khmer Rouge interrogators of S-21, the colonial police investigation was based almost entirely on prisoners’ confessions. When HC realized that his candour implicated other compatriots and that he was risking his own death, he became a tragic hero and the innocent victim of circumstances that overwhelmed him.
  12. 12. • On 18th July 1942, in his second written statement (we do not have the first), HC gave the names of a number of tirailleurs (native infantrymen), Tom, Khut, Kong, Pom who had come to see him in the course of May and June to complain that they had met with many difficulties during the Thai-Indochinese war. His contacts with the seasoned Vietminh prisoners, in Saigon prison, then opened his eyes to the danger of his situation. The Vietnamese told him he should never have admitted anything nor named any names. This was when HC tried to save his and his friends’ lives by claiming that he only played a very minor part. Then, when confronted with his earlier written statement under oath, he had to retract and admit that what he first said to the police in Phnom Penh was the truth. Only in Saigon did HC hear about the 20th July demonstration. It made his position even more precarious as he was further seen as a dangerous schemer who had planned to totally disrupt public order. At one stage, HC was framed by the Intendant de Police from Hanoi and convinced to re-write his confession in such a way as to minimize his role and implicate others, in the hope, he was led to believe, that he would be liberated – an enormous lie.
  13. 13. Haèm Chieu’s confessions - 3 • On 12th August, HC was interrogated again and required to account for all the contradictions in his written confessions. Torn between his natural candour and the sincerity of a deeply religious personality, the desire to save his friends – both military and civilian - and the natural inclination to save his own neck, the monk was faced with a dilemma that led him to twist the truth and renege on his strict ideals. But he managed to refuse to renounce his convictions – as so many detainees at S-21 had to under torture. In the end, on 7th September the monk was faithful to his own self and admitted that his first innocent declarations were nearest to the truth. He assumed the full responsibility, not to the tactical and political aspect of the plan for liberation, but the moral responsibility for wishing to turn his compatriots into responsible and free 20th century citizens, and no longer the obedient “children” of the colonial power. He was essentially a propagandist for nationalist and democratic ideals.
  14. 14. Sentence • Haèm Chieu, Nuon Duong, and Pach Chhœun were sentenced to death on 29th December 1942. After their trial they were sent back to Saigon Prison Centrale and told to wait for the final decision of Pétain. • Their death sentences were later commuted to life imprisonment in Koh Tralach, off the coast of the Mekong delta, in the South China Sea (Poulo Condore for Europeans, Con Son for Vietnamese).
  15. 15. II - Poulo Condore - Koh Tralach • We have, in the colonial Archives of Aix-en-Provence, a report on the penal colony of Poulo Condore dated 6th September 1941, or some fifteen months before our Cambodian prisoners arrived. It tallies with the description of Bunchan Mol, but is in complete contradiction with the description of the island given to visitors today. There were no chained skeleton-like inmates staring miserably at onlookers in the shape of wax figures the Hanoi authorities have installed for the edification of tourists. The site, constructed for propaganda purposes by the Communist regime, describes more the prisons of the Vietminh themselves than those from the days of French Indochina. The Vietminh prisons were to serve as a model for the Khmer Rouge prisons later.
  16. 16. Koh Tralach - 2 • No prisoner was chained or starved to death nor even shut in any room. If they misbehaved or tried to escape, Buchan Mol mentioned some forms of mistreatment, although these were officially banned by the authorities and the inspectors in particular. Inmates were free to move around the island, working for eight hours and fed three meals each day. Working hours were from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. in the morning, from 1 to 5 in the afternoon. Prisoners had time to rest after lunch or play games; similarly, after 6 p.m., they could practice political indoctrination. The diet was, it is true a little more stringent for ‘politicals’ than for ‘criminals’: (who lived in separate quarters), as the former had ‘only’ 750 grams of rice a day, and the latter 850. They had meat four times a week, a daily ration of 200 grams of dried fish, vegetables, fish sauce, oil, etc. … Second helpings were freely available. Or so the report goes ….. if we are to believe it.
  17. 17. Koh Tralach - 3 • The Cambodian detainees were kept busy constructing a road around the island; there was an electric power station, a brickyard, a sawmill, ironworks, smithy, joiner’s workshop, lime kiln, all well fitted out, basketwork, salt marshes, a rice mill, fishery, pigsty, 184 cattle, fruit trees, coconut trees, and a pepper plantation. The garden of the director was said to be beautiful. • The sanitary situation seemed to be excellent at that time as, for the year 1940-41 the percentage of sick people was 19%, and of deaths, 0.45%, while it was about 0.50 % in the average population. But the inspector warned it would soon deteriorate as the prison population jumped from 2,290 in March 1940 to 4,204 in September 1941. That surge in numbers was said to be caused by the transfer of some 500 inmates from Saigon’s Central Prison. Another reason mentioned in the report was the numerous political prisoners waiting to be courtmartialled in Saigon — mainly from Vietnam of course. With the shortage of new buildings, there was a danger of overpopulation and the inspector feared that the health of workers would suffer in the future. There was a high risk of an epidemic that might spread rapidly.
  18. 18. Koh Tralach - 4 • The ward number 2 was reserved for ‘politicals’. In September 1941, they were already some 1,100. There may have been twice as many by the time Hem Chieu and his companions arrived. There was a dire shortage of space and guards and prisoners worked freely (“travaillent en liberté”). They complained about the lack of space and were viewed as the most impudent and difficult prisoners. Noël de Gentil, counsel for the prosecution at the Saigon Court of Appeal, visited penal establishment 2 on 27th March 1941. He described a vast courtyard in the centre planted with tall trees: on the left, there was a building for the Communists, on the right for the Nationalists. It had a kitchen, a henhouse, a dovecote and wells. Noël de Gentil wrote that the Communists he saw first complained of the attitude of the Nationalists towards them, and later the Nationalists complained of the Communists. [Indo/GGI/ // 65.927]
  19. 19. Koh Tralach - 5 According to Bunchan Mol, the prisoners were forced to do either light work like being a servant of the French or patrolling the island to check if prisoners were trying to escape. Hard labour included collecting wood, seaweed, working in the rice mill, cutting trees, fishing, working in the salt farm, or the fruit and vegetable farm. “Among the prisoners, some rested after work, some chatted or joked with one another, some played chess or raek [Khmer chess]. However, there was an unusual set of prisoners, split into groups of 5 or 6 people, who attempted to learn English, French or Russian, for example. They used white lime as chalk to write on the cement floor where we slept”. He noticed that the majority were Vietnamese, belonging to the politica group of the Vietminh. “They were always teaching one another about politics : to do whatever was possible to keep themselves aware and struggling psychologically. They also made efforts to teach the common law prisoners about their ideology, their understanding, and encouraged them along the right path towards progress.”
  20. 20. Koh Tralach - 6 • Criminals apparently did not disturb the ‘politicals’. “This group always taught politics to members of their own group. Their concern was the independence of their country. They also re-educated criminal prisoners so that these criminals could become good citizens. • Among those prisoners were future Secretaries-General of the Vietnamese Communist Party, Le Duan and Nguyen Van Linh who were on Poulo Condore from 1940 to 1945. For the Vietminh, this kind of imprisonment was regarded as their ‘university of politics’. General Giap did not qualify as Party Secretary because his degree in law resulted from a conventional education. That was the kind of ‘university’ Haèm Chieu attended in the last months of his life.
  21. 21. III - The death of Haèm Chieu • I found no trace of the number of prisoners on Poulo Condore by the time HC died. We have a figure of 2,290 in March 1940 and 4,204 in September 1941. Bunchan Mol speaks of 10,000. If the figure is multiplied by two each year of the Vichy repression - political in particular - that sort of figure might have been reached. What is certain is that “congestion coincided with a dramatic deterioration of sanitary conditions”. • In December 1943, HC died at the age of 46 of dysentery or cholera. He died in the lap of Nuon Duong who was also sick. He encouraged his companions, especially Bunchan Mol and Nuong Duong, “to continue the revolutionary movement”. He said to Nuon Duong before he died: “I’m not scared of death; but still I am sorry not to see Kampuchea independent.” He also added that “single individuals cannot achieve the goal of constructing the nation, but it was possible if all the people were united. I cannot save the country alone, as our country belongs to every Khmer”.
  22. 22. V - 1945- 1949 : the Return of the French • While 4th December 1945 Royal Ordinance had abolished the declaration of independence earlier in the year. • On the other hand, on the advice of the French authorities, the King accepted to endow the kingdom with a modern constitution, in order to put an end to absolute monarchy. For that purpose, a mixed Khmero-French commission was appointed to make sure it would guarantee fundamental human rights, institute Assemblies elected by universal suffrage, create a Government responsible in front of the National Assembly and the King, guaranteeing the separation of the legislative, executive and political powers. The next step was to elect a constituent assembly that would be elected by universal suffrage also.
  23. 23. 1 – Creation of the first legal parties - The Democratic Party (Procheathippatay) was founded on 21st April 1946 by Chhean Vam (1916-2000), then principal of Lycée Sisowath, along with Ieu Koeus (1905-1950) and Sim Var (1906-1989), previously associated with Nagaravatta. Prince Sisowath Youtévong (1913-1947), who returned a few months later from France, became its leader. He had spent 15 years in France where he received a scholarship to Lycée St. Louis in Paris. He passed a B.A. at the Science Faculty of Montpellier in 1938 and earned a Doctorate in physical sciences in 1941. Later he had a diploma in investigative astronomy. He married a French woman Dominique Lavergne and had been a member of the French Socialist Party. Chhean Vam had a B.A. in History and Geography was the Secretary General. • - Prince Norodom Norindeth (1906-1975), created the Liberal Party (Sereipheap) on 16th June 1946. He was the grandson of both Norodom and Sisowath and had studied in France. • - Prince Norodom Montana (1902-1975), a grandson of Prince Duong Chakr, who had attended the Royal School of Administration in Phnom Penh, founded the Progressive Democratic Party on 23rd June 1946. He had 13 children with various wives. •
  24. 24. Chhean Vam (1916-2000) • He passed baccalaureate in 1938 after studying at Sisowath and took a BA in History-Geography in Paris in 1941. He taught at Lycée Sisowath & became principal in 1946. He married Thiounn Thieum. • When the Democratic Party was founded he became first secretary-general for a few months before Prince Sisowath Yuthévong returned from France. • He became Minister of education in Youtévong’s first Cabinet from Dec. 1946 to July 1947. He remained Minister of Education after Youtévong’s death and until 1948 when he became PM from Feb. to Aug. 1948, but soon after retired from politics. • He was head of SONEXIM, State-owned import-export agency during the Sangkum. In 1978, while in Svay Rieng, he managed to escape to Vietnam & to France. 12/10/1979, Vice-President of the Khmer People’s national Liberation Front of Son Sann. Died in Paris in 2000.
  25. 25. 2 – First universal suffrage elections • In the 1st months of 1946, the mixed Khmero-French commission set up to write a draft constitution had completed its work while the King was in France. The elections to the Constitutional Assembly, with universal male suffrage, took place 1st September 1946 . • In the meantime, the three parties busied themselves setting up provincial offices and recruiting members. The Democratic Party was essentially made up of the readership of Nagaravatta, that is most of the national and provincial young civil servants. The presence at the head of the party of returnees from France, with their University degrees of Chhean Vam and Youtévong constituted a powerful magnet. • Norodom Norindeth’s party benefited both from the wealth of his family and the very strong support of French administrators, and in particular General d’Alessandri Commissaire de la République. The Democratic Party accused him of being in favour of French status quo and the 7th January1946 Modus vivendi that had already been rejected by Cambodian public opinion.
  26. 26. The elections of 1st September 1946 • The turnout of this first universal male suffrage elections was 60%. The Democrats won a sweeping victory, gaining 50 seats out of 69 (67); the Liberals got 16 (14,12) seats and independents 3 (5). • The first meeting of the Assembly took place on 4th September and its debates were to last for eight months, with many diplomatic shuttles between the Assembly and the Royal Palace. • In theory, the King was not obliged to change anything in the government presided over by Monireth, as the Assembly was just supposed to vote a new constitution.
  27. 27. The first democratically elected government - 1 • The French Commisaire de la République advised the King to ask Princes Yuthévong and Norindeth to enter the Government. This meant that there would be 4 Princes in the Government out of 6 members. Faced with that situation, Prince Monireth, with his usual lack of diplomacy, abruptly gave his resignation and refused to form a new government. • Sihanouk then decided to ask Yuthévong to form the new government. Norindeth considered himself as a Prince of higher rank then Youtévong and therefore refused to serve in his government. Youtévong could then form a homogeneous Democratic government. • By the end of April 1947, the Constituent Assembly had almost unanimously voted the new constitution.
  28. 28. The first democratically elected government -2 • That constitution was to a large extent a copy of the French 1946 constitution, with this difference that the head of State was not a president of the Republic elected for seven years, but a King who was there ad vitam. • The preamble of the constitution defined Cambodia as “a Kingdom associated to the French Union”. Civil liberties were provided for all; and political rights were recognized for all, except Buddhist monks, women and soldiers on the active list. • It provided for a bicameral legislature, namely the National; Assembly and the Council of the Kingdom”. There was also a Council of the Crown.
  29. 29. The tribulations of democracy - 1 • It might appear that this was a major step for Cambodia to enter the new modern age that would soon bring prosperity and happiness to the Cambodian people. Not only Cambodia was clearly becoming more and more autonomous, gradually running its own affairs, but Cambodians themselves were offered the opportunity to free themselves from the yoke of an absolutist political regime, a mirror image of a strictly hierarchical society, and learn to live as free and responsible citizen. • Still, as the history of the following 60-odd years was to show, this had not been the case for most of the time and for most Cambodians. By the early 21st century, too many Cambodians, in the government or in the country, it seems have not yet entered modernity, as superstitions are widespread, the lack of understanding of the rule of law and a rigidly hierarchical conception of the power structure have continued to prevail.
  30. 30. The tribulations of democracy - 2 • Another cause for the subsequent failure of good governance was inherent to the new constitution itself. In the French Constitution of its Fourth Republic, “power was decided between the executive and the legislature, but the legislature retained the right to bring down the executive should there be disagreements on policy. This arrangement resulted in protracted instability in France, an instability that was to be matched in Cambodia.[Osborne]. • More importantly, and unlike in Great Britain or the United States, in those year of the Cold War, there was little consensus among the French public about how France should be governed and what was the rôle of the State. France was not consensual, but sharply divided between the supporters of the so-called “capitalist” model and supporters of the “socialist” or “communist” model.
  31. 31. The tribulations of democracy - 3 • Post WWII France, being divided approximately half and half, it was most difficult to find a workable majority between these sharply antagonistic groups. • Something similar was going to happen in Cambodia, not between the parties, but inside the Democratic Party itself, with communist revolutionaries unable to promote their ideas in the open and attempting to subvert the Democratic Party from inside. • On top of that, the Cambodians followed the French model in another way: neither the Prime Minister, nor any of his Ministers needed to be members of the legislature. So these people, not belonging to the institution that censured them, could much more easily be voted out of office by a vote of no confidence of the Assembly. It meant that the Government, the King and the Assembly had to agree on every piece of policy, which was a difficult thing to achieve.
  32. 32. The tribulations of democracy - 4 • Finally, a more fundamental cause for the predicament of C. democracy was that, through a universal suffrage extended to mostly illiterate electors, professional administrators could be replaced by untrained and corrupt demagogues who were suddenly catapulted into positions for which they had little competence and expertise. Demagogy, according to Nhiek Tioulong, could reign supreme to the detriment of the experts. This is what he explains in a sub-chapter, “Évolution ou révolution dans la vie publique khmère” of his Chroniques khmères. • Since the creation by the Protectorate of professional cadres to staff the administration, diplomas and a lot of hard work were necessary to reach the top echelons of the State. With the introduction of political parties and universal suffrage, shortcuts could be taken to pretend to high political posts. Outbidding your political opponents during electoral campaigns, making the most demagogic promises, trading of favours, shady deals, corruption of civil servants and electors, etc. … could suddenly promote you into the forefront
  33. 33. The tribulations of democracy - 5 • The result was that middle level civil servants, mekhum from small communes, clerks, tradesmen, compradores (= native representatives or intermediaries of French or foreign businessmen), suddenly became heads of great national departments, or members of ministerial cabinet offices as they were promoted deputies by universal suffrage. • As parliamentarians, they were entitled to the same salaries as those top civil servants could earn after 25 years of faithful service. Thus, according to Tioulong still, elective parliamentary democracy “introduced mediocrity and amorality”.
  34. 34. The early death of Yutévong - 1 • The tragic thing – tragic for the PM and tragic for Cambodia – Youtévong only survived his premiership for a couple of months as he died of his lingering tuberculosis, plus malaria he caught at Kep, and overwork in July 1947. The King appointed a caretaker government before the general elections to the first legislature of the National Assembly and the Council of the Kingdom that were to take place on 31st December. Prince Watchayavong, grandson of Sisowath, exalumnus of the Ecole libre des Sciences Politiques de Paris (at least 25 children). • After the death of Yutevong, dissentions developed within the Democratic Party. A few, among whom Lon Nol and Prince Sirik Matak, decided to form a new party; “La Rénovation nationale”.
  35. 35. The early death of Yutévong - 2 • At the elections of December 1947, out of the 782,000 electors, 464,000 voted, that is 59%, or about the same percentage as the previous elections. • The Democratic Party obtained 293,000 votes, or 65% and 55 seats [Chandler, Tragedy, gives 73% of the votes and 54 seats, 38], the Liberals, 149,000, or 32% and 20 seats. The “Rénovation nationale”, 3%, “Démocrates progressistes”, 1%, the “Union Nationale”, 0,4% and all of them no seats. With a majority of more than 2/3 of the seats, it looked as if the Democratic Party would be in a position to rule during the next four years of the legislature with no difficulty. Yet, that was not to be the case.
  36. 36. The early death of Yutévong - 2 • Chhean Vam, again General Secretary to the Democratic Party, was naturally requested by the King to form a government, although he was not a parliamentarian. It was supported by 46 votes to 19. • Seven months later, he requested to have full powers to investigate the affairs of the illicit sale of rationed cotton thread in which a vicepresident of the Assembly, Sam Nhean, father of Sam Sary, was said to be implicated. Vam was defeated by 21 votes in favour and 25 against. He gave his resignation on 1st August 1948. • Penn Nouth who left the Royal Palace where he was the King’s advisor, was invested by 41 votes to 21. That Cabinet would last also for 7 months, as, in February 1949, because of a problem of corruption. • A vote of no confidence, proposed by the lawyer Yem Sambaur, was passed with a large majority. The latter, in his turn was requested to form a government and he was invested by 41 votes to 24. On 18th September 1949, because of a new quarrel among the Democrats, the Yem Sambaur government was disavowed by a clear majority of 53 votes to 7. That meant it was overthrown.
  37. 37. The sovereign re-enters the political stage • In front of that instability, the King decided to re-appoint Yem Sambaur on 29th September 1949. Although that was contrary to the Constitution, he would govern for two years without an assembly that was dissolved. According to the constitution, national elections should have taken place within two months. But it was decided that, because of the insecurity in the countryside, elections had to be postponed. The justification was also based on article 21 of the Constitution that said: “All powers emanate from the King”. • A few weeks later, Ieu Koeuss, the President of the National Assembly, was assassinated by a grenade attack on the night of 14th January 1950 against the seat of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party where Kœuss was correcting proofs. A number of people were blamed, including Prince Norindeth, the president of the Liberal Party, who fled to France. Some 50,000 people formed a procession at his funeral, “the largest political procession in Cambodian history to date and the most spontaneous” (Chandler). Sihanouk was present at the funeral, but did not mention the event