The Prince Who Fought Pol Pot

Norodom Chantarangsey was an uncle of Norodom Sihanouk.

By 1973 Chantarangsey had denounced his nephew Sihanouk, renounced his Norodom name, and joined Lon Nol’s anti-royalist army. He was a Brigadier-General, probably the best Lon Nol had. He was also the loosest of loose cannons, carving out his own private kingdom where neither the KR nor Lon Nol dared touch him. The following is from the New York Times, April 1973:

“ONE of the more bizarre characters in the drama is Brig. Gen. Norodom Chantarangsey, who has become a virtually independent warlord astride Highway Four, which leads to the port of Kompong Saom (previously known as Sihanoukville).

As a teenager, Prince Chantarangsey fought the French, later joined the army and attended military academies in Vietnam and France. On his return to Cambodia in 1957, he was put in jail by his uncle, Prince Sihanouk, for suspected disloyalty.

After three years of imprisonment, Chantarangsey was let out, and promptly went into a variety of lucrative business ventures. Eventually, Sihanouk made him a director of the Phnom Penh casino. Like all those involved with this establishment, Chantarangsey made a fortune. When Sihanouk was ousted, Chantarangsey was asked if he would raise a brigade to fight the Cornmunists. He would, and did. Today he commands the 13th Brigade and controls an area of about 200 square miles, with 60 villages and 100,000 people.

“Uneasy about this possible rival, Lon Non has tried to detack some of Chantarangsey’s units for duty elsewhere. Chantarangsey, who has his own dreams for the future, would not allow his force to be chipped away. Under a compromise, the units have been detached on paper, but in fact they remain in Chantarangsey’s feudal fief and under his direct command. The reason Chantarangsey can enjoy such independence—and this is where the corruption comes in—is that he has been using his money to buy American arms from the neighboring generals, and it would not be safe to challenge him.”

How it ended: executed by the Khmer Rouge in April 1975.

Australian journalist Spencer Dale speaks about his friendship with the general in this Youtube clip “Dale of Cambodia”

Philip Coggan

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