Topic: Cambodia (1975)

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Cambodia (1975)/Security Council #17 (historic) Edison Novice Conference: January 23, 2016

Topic: Cambodia (1975)

Chair’s Note:

Welcome to Historical Security Council! We hope all of you find this committee to be interesting and challenging. You will be representing a nation from the 1975 Security Council; while in real life this committee was essentially nonexistent until after the conflict, this committee will engage all delegates into a situation where they will have the opportunity to change history by mitigating, or perhaps even preventing, the Cambodian genocide. Good luck!

*** Policy is very important ***

Position Paper notes:

Part 1: Background --- All events encompassing the genocide

Part 2: UN Involvement --- All events encompassing the genocide, but a focus

on events from 1975 and before

Part 3: Solutions and Policy --- Only 1975 and before
Committee notes:

For committee, please do not meta, which is essentially MUN jargon for bringing up information that occurred post-1975. The committee will begin exactly on the evening of April 17, 1975, the day that Pol Pot took over the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh and began the killings. Also remember that tensions between the USSR and the US are at a height, so delegates need to produce solutions that both nations can agree to, or face the likely possibility of a veto. Because of the rapidly changing situation in Cambodia it is vital to act quickly, even if certain nations act as potential blocks. Negotiation will be key. Good luck.

Historical Update:

After lunch your committee will receive an update on the situation; depending on what your committee has said or done, the Khmer Rouge government will react. Be prepared.


In the toll of the Cambodian Genocide stood the deaths of more than 25% of the population, or 1.6 million people. Over the course of 5 years, intellectuals, monks, the crippled, the mentally ill, and even foreign ethnic minorities were systematically targeted and murdered by the Khmer Rouge, headed by the infamous Pol Pot.

Pol Pot was born March of 1925 under the name of Saloth Sar, and, ironically, was ethnically mixed with Chinese roots and was a member of the Cambodian economic middle class. In 1949, Saloth Sar was issued a scholarship by the French government to study electronics at the Ecole Francaise d'Electronique et d'Informatique (EFRIE) in Paris. During this time Sar would join the Khmer Students' Association and the French Communist Party, which advocated for the liberation of the uneducated peasantry as opposed to the traditional factory worker supported by Marxist policies. After 3 years of failing his exams, Saloth Sar returned to Cambodia in 1952.

The rise of the Khmer Rouge would begin when Sar, in 1953, joined the Khmer Viet Minh, the communist revolutionary party in Cambodia during the 1950s. Although the party would be disbanded after the 1954 Geneva accords, Sar would supply strategy to the party. For example, his indoctrination and recruitment of local villages through means of coercion and violence, would serve as a valuable tool to the future Khmer Rouge.

Following the 1955 election of Prince Sihanouk, Sar joined the Kampuchean People's Revolutionary Party (KPRP) protesting the elections that were commonly believed to be rigged. He was accompanied by moderate communists from the Pracheachon Party, whom would eventually secure 4% of the vote. In 1962, the Pracheachon Party was forced to disband after government arrests, giving further legitimacy to the KPRP’s claims. Following his assimilation into the radical leftist party, Sar changed his name to Pol Pot. In 1964, Pot, with support from Vietnam, established a base camp on the border and waged a violent revolution against the Prince; however, in 1970 General Lon Nol, a military commander, took control of the Cambodian government.
In doing so, the General made the fatal error of aligning with the United States, giving Pol Pot the propaganda tool to be waging war not only for independence, but against imperialism (especially considering over 50,000 - 150,000 Cambodians had been killed through US airstrikes). In 1966, the KPRP was reformed, and became the Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK) or, informally, the Khmer Rouge.

Pol Pot’s party grew and expanded, even without the support of Communist China, and by 1975 the Khmer Rouge had over 700,000 soldiers, mostly young peasants. On April of that year, the Khmer Rouge marched into the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh, marking the beginning of a 5 year reign of terror and the Cambodian genocide. Within days of the takeover, Pot’s government nationalized all private sector entities, declaring the start of “year zero,” which was the government’s plan to revert the country to a eastern agricultural state. By January of 1977, all children under the age of 8 were separated from their families and were taken to government concentration camps to be indoctrinated. Pot, at this time, was initiating his plan of “radical egalitarianism,” which systematically murdered all individuals considered to be “corrupted” by the CPK: including Muslims, monks, intellectuals, or even individuals with contact with any of those socially classified as outsiders. Accounts from eyewitnesses claim that even individuals wearing glasses, a sign that one could read, were killed. Many of those not killed were sent to concentration camps or prisons, such as the infamous Tuol Sleng encampment, a previous high school redesignated to Security Prison 21 (S-21),where over 12,000 detainees were tortured and murdered, to be indoctrinated, imprisoned, or executed.

Pol Pot did not stop with civilians, however. By 1977 CPK troops began attacking Vietnamese posts in the border regions, under the guise of protecting against an invasion by North Vietnam. However, this accomplished the exact opposite, with the Vietnamese using the strikes to justify an invasion, and in 1978 the Vietnamese army invaded the country. Within 1 year, the Khmer Rouge government was displaced, fleeing into the jungles between the Cambodian and Thailand border, where Pol Pot would remain until his death in 1998.

UN Involvement:

On April 12, 1975 the United States extracted all US soldiers and civilians from Cambodia in accordance to orders from President Nixon. 5 days after the pull-out, the Khmer Rouge marched into Phnom Penh. The UN failed to respond, for the United States was in the midst of extracting military assets from South Asia; the Security Council failed to adopt any definite action in Cambodia. Even when action was petitioned by Thailand in 1978, the US and China consistently voted against said action to prevent granting legitimacy to the Vietnamese installed Heng Samrin regime, thus allowing the Khmer Rouge’s immoral government to sustain its presence in the borderlands between Thailand and Cambodia.

Even though the Security Council refused to act, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) attempted to negotiate a ceasefire and on 12 October 1977, Thailand’s foreign minister, Uppadit Pachariyangkun, met with Khmer Rouge Foreign Minister, Ieng Sary, at the United Nations headquarters in New York. While the two agree to end armed border conflicts, 7 days later, on February 9th, over three hundred Khmer Rouge soldiers attacked Thailand, abducting several hundred villagers before returning to Cambodia. In turn, attacks on Thailand would continue until the CPK government was overthrown in 1978.

Aid agencies played a minor but important role, with United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) delivering more than than 2,000 tons of food per month in just Khmer Rouge controlled areas by 1979. Unfortunately, these agencies failed to prevent the systematic murder perpetrated by Pol Pot’s forces, and many of supplies given to refugees were eventually confiscated by Khmer Rouge troops.

Khmer Rouge would continue to hold their seat in the United Nations into the late 1990’s. In 1991, the United Nations Transitional Authority, and under the Paris Agreements of 1991 the UNSC in resolution 718 openly supported the commitment. The UNTAC, with a military consisting of 15,900 troops, announced the ceasefire had been successful by May of 1992. The UNTAC, under the General Secretary’s orders, began a phase of disarmament that was opposed by Khmer forces. Efforts to persuade the Khmer Rouge to disarm began
to fall through by October of 1992, with officials refusing to disarm. Regardless, the UNSC demanded in resolution 783 that the election commence. Despite further UN efforts attempts at talks, Khmer officials would refuse to negotiate until 1999, when the movement collapsed after the Cambodian Royal Government forcibly arrested the remaining officials.

In 2003, the United Nations would establish the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia to prosecute Khmer Rouge officials that played a role in the genocide. In addition, in 2005 the World Summit agreed to endorse the Right to Protect Doctrine, which officially announced that the United Nations should intervene in genocides, and was affirmed by the UN General Assembly in resolution A/RES/60/1.

Questions to Consider:

  1. How can the UNSC, while staying within jurisdiction, protect the citizens of Phnom Penh?

  2. How can the United Nations bring the Khmer Rouge to the negotiation table, considering the anti-Western rhetoric employed by Pol Pot?

  3. Where is your country's position on this topic? Are they leaning in favor of the Soviets or the US? Are they directly affected by the conflict in Cambodia? What are some possible solutions that both the US and Soviet Union can agree on?

  4. What actions can be taken to protect civilians without violating Cambodia’s sovereignty?

  5. What can the Security Council do to protect fleeing refugees?

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