The People’s Republic of Kampuchea 1979–1989: A draconian savior?

Photo: Agence Kampuchea Presse (Hun Sen addresses a congregation of supporters in 1983 at an unknown location).

Arguably, January 7, 1979 has been the most controversial date in Cambodian history for Cambodian politicians and civilians alike. To some, the date signifies the liberation of Cambodian people from the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime which had killed approximately 2 million people between 1975 and 1979. To others, however, the date marks the invasion of Vietnamese army into Cambodia, after which the country was to be under Vietnamese occupation for a whole decade before their final withdrawal in September 1989. This thesis joins this debate, but it does so by going beyond the simplified political rhetoric of “liberation” vs. “invasion,” and exploring the complexities of Cambodian society under the Vietnamese-backed People’s Republic of Kampuchea (PRK). Chapter 1 of the thesis deals with the historiography of the PRK. Chapter 2 looks at the re-emergence of urban life, market economy, as well as social and political rights under the PRK. Chapter 3 examines the people’s lives in the rural areas, collectivization efforts by the PRK, military and labor conscription, and their impacts on Cambodian society during the 1980s, as well as their legacy for contemporary Cambodia.


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