Khmer People's National Liberation Front - Origins


On 5 January 1979 a "Committee for a Neutral and Peaceful Cambodia" (Comite por un Cambodge Neutre et Independent, CCNI) was established in Paris composed of Son Sann (a leading Cambodian neutralist, ex-President of the National Bank of Cambodia, and Prime Minister from 1967 to 1968), Sim Var, Yem Sambaur, Hhiek Tioulong, Nong Kimmy, Thonn Ouk and Chai Thoul. It issued a six-point declaration condemning the Khmer Rouge and the "North Vietnamese Aggression", urged adherence to the 1954 Geneva Accords and 1973 Paris Peace Conference proposals, demanded an immediate ceasefire in Cambodia, and the establishment of a democratically-elected government to be established following a referendum.

Vietnam had invaded Democratic Kampuchea in December 1978 and entered Phnom Penh on January 6, 1979. Immediately the Royal Thai Government approached Son Sann with offers of support for a non-communist resistance force. Son Sann, in turn, flew to New York to ask Prince Norodom Sihanouk (who was preparing to address the UN General Assembly) to lead the KPNLF, but Sihanouk declined and even refused his support.

In February 1979, General Dien Del and Nguon Pythoureth flew to Thailand to form the Khmer People's National Liberation Armed Forces (KPNLAF). The two went from camp to camp persuading local leaders to join. Those who agreed to fight under Son Sann were Chea Chhut (at Nong Chan), ex-Khmer National Armed Forces Colonel Prum Vith, Ta Maing and Om Luot (at Nong Samet). By mid-1979 there were 1600 armed soldiers in the KPNLAF.

In August 1979 Son Sann went to Thailand with his sons (Son Soubert and Son Monir), Neang Chin Han (former Director of the Executive Cabinet under President Lon Nol), Madame Suon Kaset Sokhomaly, Colonel Thou Thip, Colonel Ea Chuor Kim Meng, Suon Sophat and Buon Say, all from France. The KPNLF was proclaimed on October 9 at Sok Sann, a camp in the jungles of the Cardamom Mountains that contained "barely 2000 men" and was a merger of 13 quite disparate groups such as the Khleang Moeung (500 men), Cobra (led by Colonel Prum Vith) and Khmer Islam Movement, the Prey Veng, the Nationalist Movement, Oknha Son Kuy, Kauv Tjlok, the Khmer Neutralist Movement, the Black Indra, United Free Khmer, ASW, Tonle Bassak, and the Kompong Thom Movement. The following month the first shipment of 3000 rifles arrived from Beijing. Son Sann assumed the leadership of the KPNLF together with an executive committee and a military council.

The KPNLF was thus established as a right-wing, pro-Western, anti-Communist political faction in opposition to the Vietnamese-installed and backed People's Republic of Kampuchea.

US President Ronald Reagan authorized the provision of aid to KPNLF in an effort to force an end to the Vietnamese occupation. In 1982, the U.S. government initiated a covert aid program to the non-communist resistance (NCR) amounting to $5 million per year, ostensibly for non-lethal aid only. This amount was increased to $8 million in 1984 and $12 million in 1987 and 1988. In late 1988, the United States pared back CIA funding to $8 million, following reports that $3.5 million had been diverted by the Thai military. At the same time, the Reagan Administration gave new flexibility to the funds, permitting the NCR to purchase US-made weapons in Singapore and other regional markets. In 1985, the United States established a separate, overt aid program to the non-communist resistance which came to be known as the Solarz Fund after one of its chief sponsors, Rep. Stephen Solarz. The overt aid program channeled about $5 million per year of humanitarian aid to the non-communist resistance through USAID.

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