THE VIETNAM PROTECTION
Vietnam established a satellite regime called the People’s Republic of Kampuchea (PRK) in January 1979. The new government included many former members of the Khmer Rouge who had defected to Vietnam, as well as some Cambodians who had sought refuge in Vietnam before the Khmer Rouge victory in 1975. After coming to power, the regime restored much of Cambodia’s pre-1975 way of life, including the practice of Buddhism and a nationwide education system. For the time being, however, agriculture remained collectivized. Like all previous regimes, the new government treated its opponents harshly; like the Khmer Rouge, it severely limited people’s freedom of expression. The pro-Vietnamese Kampuchean Peoples’ Revolutionary Party (KPRP) monopolized political power and swept the 1981 elections for the National Assembly.
Meanwhile, remnants of the Khmer Rouge and other Cambodians who had fled to Thailand formed an anti-Vietnamese government in exile, which continued to be known as DK. China, Thailand, and the United States had disapproved of the overthrow of DK, viewing it as Vietnamese aggression, and encouraged the formation of the government in exile. With the support of these countries, DK retained Cambodia’s seat in the United Nations (UN). Only a few foreign governments, including the USSR and India, recognized the PRK as Cambodia’s legitimate government. Foreign aid to Cambodia was largely limited to the Soviet-led bloc of Communist nations.
Throughout the 1980s, Vietnam maintained more than 100,000 troops in Cambodia. Conflict between PRK and DK forces, combined with Cambodia’s relative isolation, produced continuing economic instability. Thousands of people were killed in battle or maimed by landmines. In 1985 Cambodia’s foreign minister, Hun Sen, became prime minister of the PRK.
Weary of socialism and the harsh conditions inside Cambodia, more than 500,000 Cambodians sought asylum in Thailand in the 1980s. More than 300,000 of these people eventually resettled in other countries, especially France and the United States. This outflow deprived Cambodia of thousands of trained personnel and removed many members of the small elite, whose ranks had already been thinned through execution and fatal illnesses under the Khmer Rouge.