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SINCE the U.S. incursion into Cambodia in the spring of 1970, and the subsequent saturation-bombings The Crimson has supported the Khmer Rouge in its efforts to form a revolutionary government in that country. But for the past 3 years, little or no information about the Khmer Rouge reached the West
In the vacuum of information we made certain assumptions about the Khmer Rouge that in retrospect, were illusory. Because the Khmer Rouge had ties with the Republic of China, it was assumed that the Khmer Rouge's policies and social programs would have affinities with Maoism. It was assumed that while the NLF was working at grass roots campaigns to reform land use and to set up village councils, the Khmer Rouge was working on similar projects in their own country. But most important of all, it was assumed that because the Khmer Rouge fought against the forces of Lon Nol's regime and stood up against troops and brutal American bombing raids--symbols of American imperiallsm--that it was a good and courageous revolutionary movement.
In the days following the mass exodus from Phnom Penh, reports in the western press of brutality and coercion put these assumptions into doubt. But there were other reports on the exodus. William Goodfellow in the New York Times and Richard Boyle, the last American to leave Phnom Penn in the Colorado Daily reported that the exodus from major cities had been planned since February, that unless the people were moved out of the capital city they would have starved and that there was a strong possibility of a cholera epidemic. The exodus, according to these reports, was orderly; there were regroupment centers on all of the major roads leading out of Phnom Penh and people were reassigned to rural areas, where the food supplies were more plentiful.
There is no way to assess the merits of these conflicting reports--and if there were instances of brutality and coercion, we condemn them--but the goals of the exodus itself were good, and we support them.
Our assumptions may not have been the best, and it was the incomplete reports from Cambodia on the exodus that finally demonstrated the problems of supporting a revolutionary movement of the basis of such assumptions alone.
In March of 970 the Khmer Rouge, or as it is known in Cambodia, the National United Front of Kampuchea set up broad outlines for social reform within the political and economic institutions established by Prince Norodom Sihanouk in the early 196. The United Front manifesto suggests democratic guarantees for civil, liberties, including freedom of speech. Its economic policies are committed to building an independent, self-sufficient national economy for Cambodia. And the United Front's program calls for the nationalization of banks and foreign trade, eliminating the two worst problems in Cambodia's recent history: foreign economic exploitation and widespread usury. And most important of all, in the mainly rural agrarian Cambodian society, the United Front guarantees the right for all peasants to own the land they cultivate.
There are reports that in the countryside all movement across provincial boundaries in prohibited and that in some provinces possession of the old Cambodian currency, the rien, is punishable by death. According to the New York Times, one high ranking official administering the province of Battambang recently said that "the law now is the law of the soldier, the law of the gun."
These reports are sporadic and they can not reflect the complete truth about the situation in Cambodia. If they are true, these actions must be condemned. The new government of Cambodia may have to resort to strong measures against a few to gain democratic socialism for all Cambodians. And we support the United Front in the pursuit of its presently stated goals.
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