The Third Indochina Conflict

Courtesy Reuters

Today’s struggle in Indochina is the third since World War II. It is a complex conflict, with some actors onstage and others off in the wings. On its surface, it arose initially from a struggle between Vietnam and the Khmer Rouge—the Cambodian communists, led by Pol Pot, who took power in Phnom Penh in the spring of 1975. The Khmer Rouge governed for three-and-a-half bloody years, during which time as many as one million Cambodians may have perished. On Christmas Day 1978, Vietnamese forces invaded Cambodia. In a matter of weeks, the Khmer Rouge government was replaced by one subservient to Hanoi, with Heng Samrin as its nominal leader. To this day, Vietnam maintains 150,000 to 160,000 troops in Cambodia and provides much of the country’s administrative infrastructure.

While the Khmer Rouge was ejected from the seat of power, it was not destroyed. From sanctuaries that typically have straddled the northern

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