Cambodian Women in the Revolutionary War for the People’s National Liberation (1973)
Just like the men, Cambodian women, yesterday and today, have contributed greatly to the struggle against foreign aggression in defense of the fatherland.
After the anti-national and anti-popular coup d’état on March 18, 1970, the group of traitors Lon Nol, Sirik Matak, and Son Ngoc Thanh sold Cambodia cheap to the U.S. imperialists and allowed them to transform it into a neo-colony and a military base.
Since then, with the loss of its independence, neutrality, sovereignty and territorial integrity, Cambodia has been plunged into a most cruel war which brings untold suffering to the women and people of the country.
Applying the Nixon doctrine which consists of making Indochinese fight Indochinese and Cambodians fight Cambodians, the American imperialists, their lackeys in Saigon and Bangkok, and the group of traitors in Phnom Penh, have perpetrated innumerable crimes against our people.
Implementing the policy of “kill all, burn all, destroy all,” everywhere the U.S. puppet troops go, they sow mourning, misery and desolation. The enemy every day commit mass slaughter in which neither individuals nor bonzes (Buddhist monks) nor priests are spared, in their pillage and rape that the Phom Penh press and world opinion have convincingly revealed. Every day their planes pour millions of tons of bombs on our territory, killing men, women, old and young indiscriminately, devastating and systematically flattening the houses and rice fields of the peaceful populations, as well as historic monuments such as Angkor Wat, and monasteries.
In the areas provisionally controlled by the enemy, apart from fascist repression, women are still obliged to cope with the high cost of living, a lack of necessary elementary provisions, notably rice, and find it very difficult to make ends meet. To this are added other worries: their husbands and their sons could be conscripted at any moment at all, their daughters kidnapped and raped by the troops of Phnom Penh and Saigon. The American way of life, a depraved society, and prostitution have poisoned the minds of so many girls and women.
More than ever, Cambodian women know that the only possible way to free themselves from this thrall-ring is to join in the struggle with the men, without hesitation or compromise, against the American aggressors and their valets for the national liberation.
At the front, women take part in combat, in medical teams, in destroying every communications, in voluntary work teams. Behind the lines, women play a top-level role. Numerous guerrilla units have been formed entirely of women. Women take charge of various tasks, replacing men who have left for the front: village defense, making booby-traps, agricultural production, planting, medical work, etc… Mothers have shared their children’s meals with fighters from FAPLNK (Cambodian People’s National Liberation Armed Forces) , others have entrusted their young ones to neighbors, in order to fulfill liaison missions.
Many other such examples demonstrate the political responsibility of women in Cambodia. While carrying out their national duty, the women of Cambodia are also well aware of their international obligations. The primordial task which lies before them is to stand in the front line against imperialism, particularly U.S. imperialism. In this, they are offering their worthy contribution to the cause of popular national liberation of the people’s of the world, notably those of Asia, Africa and Latin America, which are not yet free of the yoke of colonialism, both old and new.
Moreover, women in Cambodia possess a legitimate pride in having helped to improve the conditions of women in general. For, arming themselves with their high revolutionary morality and demonstrating supreme revolutionary heroism, they have achieved exploits which our people hold in high esteem. They are thus contributing to tearing apart those backward perceptions of women which still have currency in the world.
“All our sisters,” writes Madame Khieu Ponnary, President of the Association of Democratic Women of Kampuchea, “are determined to lead their just struggle against American imperialism and its puppets, until final victory under the direction of the National United Front of Kampuchea, with the Head of State, Prince Norodom Sihanouk, as president. In this just fight of ours for the ideals of independence, peace, liberty, and progress, we know that we are not alone. From all over the world we receive messages of solidarity. Demonstrations of support are breaking out in all parts of the globe in aid of the just cause of the Cambodian people, and condemning unequivocally the crimes of American imperialism and its valets. May we now take this opportunity to express the deep gratitude of the Association of Democratic Women of Kampuchea to the women of the whole world, without forgetting American women, who, faithful to the same ideals of peace, justice, liberty and progress have spontaneously taken their stand by our side. They have in this way contributed to isolate American imperialism and its valets, and to bring about the triumph of the just cause of the forces for independence, democracy and peace in the world.”
Young Women Guerrilla Fighters Overrun an Enemy Post
Village T is situated on the edges of the area provisionally controlled by the enemy in Kompong Speu province. A company of puppet troops set up a position there under the orders of their torturer–captain. Since then, the villagers had to cope with all sorts of trials and exactions. For even the shortest journey, they have to seek permission from the commander of the post. Otherwise they would wind up accused of being agents of the “Khmer Rouges” or the “Vietcong–North Vietnamese” and would be subjected to the worst sorts of torture. many have come out of such treatment sick, behind, others have gone mad or even died. The families of the prisoners, in order to get their loved ones free, often had to sell what little they had (house, plot of land, buffalo) and even their own children to the torturer-captain the ransom demanded. The villagers must still pay “loans” in the form of money, rice, pork, poultry, which no one dares try to avoid. Worse still, the traitorous captain and his men embark on orgies of rape against the girls and the women of the village.
The inhabitants of this area, victims of exploitation and sorts of robbery by the torturer-captain and his men, have a miserable life full of humiliation. However, despite severe enemy repression day and night, the local branch of FUNK (National United Front of Kampuchea) is still intact, to guide the people in their struggle.
In order to free the villagers from the cruel claws of the eager puppets the American imperialist aggressor, the local branch of the FUNK decided to wipe out the enemy position without endangering the population, in conformity with its wishes.
Representatives of the FUNK branches from surrounding villages met secretly to set in motion a plan to attack the position. One question raised, however, stopped everyone short: “How can we attack the enemy if none of us, even the guerrillas, are armed, because of the continual troops searches of the houses and sweeps into the forest?” When a lively discussion of how to find a solution began, a young girl guerrilla interrupted: “We must take the enemy’s arms in order to wipe him out.”
“An excellent idea,” everyone nodded. “But how are we going to do it?” they asked. “None of us can even approach the enemy position. How, then, could we possibly get inside?”
The young girl, with a childish smile on her lips, started explaining in detail how her group intended to outwit the enemy. Everyone approved of her well though out plan.
A week passed. The carnival atmosphere in village T was quite out of the ordinary. Here, they were putting up a lean-to; there, a kitchen. Over there, they piled up the rice; over there they cut down trees and plants for the decorations. On that day the people from the neighboring villages came to village T in large numbers, some bringing poultry with them, some bringing vegetables. Festival music could be heard from the end of the village to the other. It seemed that a wedding was about to take peace.
In the barracks, the soldiers also arranged the tables for a feast. Nothing unusual about that; the parents of the bride and bridegroom had come to the quarters to ask the captain’s permission for their children to get married. Permission was granted on condition that the parents organize a feast that same day for he and his men. “But,” he added, “I want to be served the bride herself and all the bridesmaids will wait on my men. None of the others will be allowed into the barracks today.” The parents reluctantly decided to give in to the wishes of the traitor.
Three o’clock in the afternoon; twenty people, young and old, men and women, headed towards the barracks, carrying on their heads or on their shoulders the provisions for the feast.
When they arrived in front of the post, the sentry stopped them, and told them to put down their loads. He called to other troops inside and they came out to carry in the provisions. Then the sentry ordered our people to go back to the village immediately.
Four-thirty: Ten girls elegantly dressed and accompanied by hefty boys carrying five cases of alcohol, presented themselves at the post. This time, the sentry let the girls in, but stood in the way of the men and ordered them to go back home.
At the sight of the lovely ladies, four plain-clothes officers drinking at a table rejoiced.
One of them asked the girls:
“You, girls, can you dance the ramvong?”
“Yes, of course we can,” they replied.
This set the four shouting and clapping their hands excitedly.
Then, the captain gave the order to three of the soldiers to stand guard, one at the entrance and the two others at the lookout, while he told the rest to relax at the tables with their rifles by their side, taking turns to do guard duty.
Hearing this order, the girls begged the commander:
“We are afraid of guns. Monsieur le Capitaine, please don’t let your men sit down or dance with us with all those rifles! Otherwise how can we generously give you our attention and our dancing?”
At this, laughter filled the room. The officers wanted to appear gallant.
“My darlings, you have nothing to fear from these rifles. We would never use them on girls so lovely and fresh as you all are right now! If we don’t carry our guns, how can we defend you when the Khmers Krahom come?” (Khmers Krahom is the popular Cambodian term for Khmer Rouges, or Khmer Reds.)
“Yes,” replied the prettiest one, “we agree with you, but we only want you to put your rifles in some place where they won’t get in the way when we’re dancing.”
The captain granted the girls’ request and told his men to put their rifles in bundles near the tables.
Then the party started. First the meal was served. The three prettiest girls waited on the officers, the others on the soldiers. They concentrated on being attentive and thought only of one thing; to make them drink as much as possible.
The bell went for the changing of the guard but not one of the merrymaking soldiers took the least notice. They kept on drinking glass after glass and quickly got drunker and drunker. The three angry soldiers on guard came in and sat down at the tables cleared for them by our girls.
The drunken soldiers and officers all shouted and sang loudly. They forgot about dancing. All of a sudden, one of the girls clapped her hands three times.
Quick as a flash, without giving the enemy time to work out what was happening, the girls firmly grabbed the gun and pointed them at the soldiers.
Simultaneously, one girl fired a shot and ordered the soldiers “Hands up!”. They were caught off guard and in no time ten hefty youths, the same ones who had carried the casks of alcohol, charged into the room and tied up the soldiers.
The villagers from round about heard the shots and ran towards the post to find out what had happened. An unexpected but welcome sight met their eyes. They gathered for a meeting in the fields to denounce the crimes committed by the torturer-captain and his whole board, straw dogs for the traitors of Phnom Penh and eager servants of U.S. imperialism.
That same night, the guerrillas marched the captive soldiers into the liberated zone and presented them to the local FUNK headquarters.
Village T, as well as the surrounding villages were thus liberated and its inhabitants became masters of their lands, their villages and their communes, and they benefited from their newly-won democratic freedoms.