This Week In Cambodian History: May 14-20

On May 14, 1897, French Resident Superieur Albert Louis Huyn de Vernéville was replaced by Antoine Étienne Alexandre Ducos.

On May 14, 1953, current King, HRH Norodom Sihamoni was born. His Majesty King Norodom Sihamoni is the son of His Majesty Norodom Sihanouk, the former King of Cambodia and of Her Majesty Queen Norodom Monineath Sihanouk of Cambodia.

On 14 May, 1975, the Khmer Rouge loaded the crew of seized American vessel the SS Mayaguez onto a of the fishing boat and they left Koh Tang following two of the Swift Boats on a heading for Kampong Som. They came under fire from US planes tracking the situation. The boat carrying the crew arrived in Kampong Som at 10.10, and were taken ashore.

On May 15, 1826, Henri Mouhot- French naturalist and explorer was born in Montbéliard, Doubs, France, near the Swiss border. His journals and illustrations Voyage dans les royaumes de Siam, de Cambodge, de Laos were published posthumously after his death in 1861.

On May 15, 1975, around six hundred US Marines in five CH-53 Knives and three HH-53 Jolly Greens attempted to recapture the SS Mayaguez and rescue the crew. Poor intelligence and underestimation of the Khmer Rouge led to 15 killed in action, 3 captured and later killed,23 killed en route in helicopter failure, 50 wounded and 3 CH-53 helicopters destroyed.

At 06:07, minutes before the assault began, the Khmer Rouge information and propaganda minister, Hu Nim, made a radio broadcast announcing that Mayaguez and her crew would be released. The section of his communique on the release was:

“Regarding the Mayaguez ship. We have no intention of detaining it permanently and we have no desire to stage provocations. We only wanted to know the reason for its coming and to warn it against violating our waters again. This is why our coast guard seized this ship. Their goal was to examine it, question it and make a report to higher authorities who would then report to the Royal Government so that the Royal Government could itself decide to order it to withdraw from Cambodia’s territorial waters and warn it against conducting further espionage and protractive activities. This applies to this Mayaguez ship and to any other vessels like the ship flying Panama flags that we released on May 7, 1975.”

The crew were released around 4 hours later. The SS Mayaguez was towed away from Koh Tang island by the destroyer USS Harold E. Holt,

On May 15, 1994, the United Nations Military Liaison Team (UNMLT-Cambodia) was disbanded.

May 16, 1945, was set as the “birthday” of the Cambodian National Police by Royal Decree #0806/342 from King Norodom Sihamoni, dated 8 August 2006.

On May 16, 1955, the U.S. government agreed to provide military assistance to the Cambodian government.

On May 16, 1973, Hang Thun Hak was replaced as Prime Minister by In Tam.

In Tam

On May 16, 1993, The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) sent six observers headed by Andrew Peacock of Australia to monitor the election process until June 4, 1993.

 On May 16, 2002, U.S. Ambassador to Cambodia, Kent M. Wiedemann left the role after almost 2 years.

Kent M. Wiedemann

On May 16, 2012, a 14-year-old girl named Heng Chantha was shot dead by armed officials during a forced eviction in Kratie province. Around 1,000 families in Prama village, Kampong Damrei commune were being moved off lank earmarked for a rubber plantation leased to Russian firm Casotim.

On May 17, 1950, Cambodia joined the World Health Organization.

On May 17-18, 1972, as part of Operation Angkor Chey, FANK troops crossed the frontlines around Siem Reap airport and advanced on Phnom Bakheng. They reached as far as Angkor Wat before being driven back by Khmer Rouge and Vietnamese forces

On May 17, 1994, Charles H. Twining Jr presented his credentials to become US Ambassador. He was the first Ambassador to Phnom Penh since John Gunther Dean left the city in 1975.

On May 18, 1956, the government of the Soviet Union provided diplomatic assistance and diplomatic recognition to the Cambodian government. 

On May 18, 1970, with Vietnamese Communists reportedly just 25 miles from Phnom Penh, President Nixon reiterated his promise to get U.S. forces out of Cambodia by June 30th, and members of the Senate were pledged to hold Nixon to that promise. The war was also proving costly, with reports that the government would probably have to borrow $11 billion in 1970, double the previous years amount.

On May 19, 1925, Saloth Sar (AKA Pol Pot) was born in Kampong Thom province.

On May 19, 1970, the U.S.A.F. began Operation Freedom Deal- providing tactical air support, bombing and air supplies to support FANK forces. The operation lasted until August 1973. By the last day of Operation Freedom Deal, 250,000 tons of bombs had been dropped on the Khmer Republic, 82,000 tons of which had been released in the last 45 days of the operation.

On May 20, 1970, Chairman Mao declared his support for the ousted Sihanouk.

Sihanouk and Mao on May 1, 1970  (Xinhua/Kyodo)

On May 20, 1975, The Khmer Rouge made their approach to religion clear on, when, at a conference in Phnom Penh it was decided to “Eliminate religions, as they are all reactionary.”

On May 20, 1984, the first ‘National Day of Hatred’ was first launched. The date was selected since it marked the beginning of mass killings in Democratic Kampuchea on May 20, 1976. It was also the date that the Khmer Rouge had initiated forced collectivization in southern Takéo in 1973. The day is now known as the National Day of Remembrance.

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