The recent visit to Cambodia of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton brought out old ghost of the Cambodian history. We say ‘Cambodian history’, however, it belongs also to the US history in a very special way. The US Congress is enabling a new trade act for Cambodia under the code H.R. 5320. Now well, it happens that Congressmen Dana Rohrbacher and Bill Delahunt (find them in the collage I did with some prominent historical figures, down Lon Nol and at the side of Pol Pot) stated that ‘United States may not reduce or forgive any debt owed by Cambodia to the United States.’ (see csis.org.)
You can find a good description of this story in The Independent as well.
Maybe Rohrbacher and Delahunt do not know Cambodia. Talking as they do, it seems that they rather look at numbers and debts. Now well, there are two kind of debts: borrowings and historic debts. Borrowings, of course, must follow the rule of international law. It does not matter what happens to the debtor, a debt is a debt.
However, our prominent US congressmen, by defending the interests of their nation, cannot see an ethic fact: historic debts can be thousands of times more expensive than borrowings.
In a first instance, the government of Lon Nol, who overthrown the legitimate government of Prince Norodom Sihanouk in 1970, was not a legal regime. US was lending funds to a dictatorship. Legally, the government of current Primer Minister Hun Sen can declare that the period 1970-1975 was a misgovernment (and it was.) Insisting in a payment and even proposing methods of how to pay it in ways that seem charitable, is an open intention to legitimize such dictatorship that opened Cambodia to a nightmare.
Second, it was President Richard Nixon and his Secretary of State, who ordered the secret bombing of Cambodia between 1969 and 1974 producing 150 thousand civilians death. Here a report of University of Yale’s scholar Ben Kiernan from his book ‘The Pol Pot Regime’ (ISBN 974-7100-43-6):
‘On 3 August 1973, U.S. aircraft bombed the hill village of Plei Loh in north-eastern Cambodia, home of the montagnard tribal people known as Khmer Loeu, or Upland Khmers. An American agent reported that ‘the village was totally destroyed, with 28 civilians and five VC guerrillas killed.’ (ref. U.S. Army Bomb Damage Assessment, 20 August 1973. Declassified 1987.) The next day, B-52d attacked nearby Plei Lom village, ‘killing twenty people, including children.’ (ref. U.S. Department of Defense, Intelligence Information Report, No. 2 724 2014 73, 16 August 1973.) On 10 August, Plei Lom was bombed again, killing thirty montagnards. (ref. same) On the same day B-52s srtuck nearby Plei Blah village: fifty died. The U.S. army report on this event noted that ‘the Communist intend to use this incident for propaganda purposes.’
Of course they used it for propaganda purposes, as the report stated. In such a wonderful way that intending to stop the Ho Chi Ming Route, the bombing contributed only to bloom the Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge.
As Congressmen Rohrbacher and Delahunt like numbers, we go to a simple mathematical operation: if 1 is related to 2 and 2 is related to 3, therefore, 1 and 3 are correlated as well.
Let us play this game: if Nixon’s government did not backed an illegitimate Lon Nol government, the Vietnamese War, surely, would not enter into Cambodia and, probably, Cambodia were today a prosperous nation (that is a probability…) If Nixon did not order a secret bombing over Cambodia, the guerrilla of Pol Pot could end as another minor group, as there were many around and it would mean not Tuol Sleng, not an expensive and late Tribunal of War and not many other social evils that Cambodia suffered for too many years.
Therefore, who has to pay to whom? The question is opened.