Japanese occupation of Cambodia

Kingdom of Cambodia
  • ព្រះរាជាណាចក្រកម្ពុជា
  • Preăh Réachéanachâk Kâmpŭchéa
Protectorate of Vichy France under Japanese military control (1941–1945)
Constituent territory of French Indochina (1941–1945)
Client state of Japan (1945)
Flag Coat of arms
Capital Phnom Penh
Government Client state
   1941-1945 Norodom Sihanouk
Historical era World War II
   Established 1941
  Japanese invades French occupied Cambodia August 1941
  Coup de force February 1945
  Surrender of Japan 15 August 1945
  Reestablishment of French authority in Cambodia
October 1945
   Disestablished 1945
Currency Cambodian riel
Preceded by
Succeeded by
French Protectorate of Cambodia
French Protectorate of Cambodia
Today part of  Cambodia

The Japanese occupation of Cambodia was the period of Cambodian history during World War II when the Kingdom of Cambodia was occupied by the Japanese although officially the French protectorate over Cambodia remained through Vichy France until 1945 when Cambodia became an officially independent state with a Japanese military presence there.

The Japanese occupation in Cambodia lasted between 1941 and 1945 and, in general, the Cambodian population escaped the brutalities inflicted on civilians by the Japanese occupiers in other countries of Southeast Asia. Even though initially allowing the Vichy French Indochina colonial government to remain nominally in charge, in 1945 the Japanese authorities in Cambodia ended up establishing a pro-Tokyo puppet state.[1]

Historical background

The 1940–41 Franco-Thai War left the French Indochinese colonial authorities in a position of weakness. The Vichy government signed an agreement with Japan to allow the Japanese military transit through French Indochina and to station troops in Northern Vietnam up to a limit of 25,000 men.[2]

Meanwhile, the Thai government, under the pro-Japanese leadership of Field Marshal Plaek Phibunsongkhram, and strengthened by virtue of its treaty of friendship with Japan, took advantage of the weakened position of France, and invaded Cambodia's western provinces to which it had historic claims. Following this invasion, Tokyo hosted the signature of a treaty in March 1941 that formally compelled the French to relinquish the provinces of Battambang, Siem Reap, Koh Kong as well as a narrow extension of land between the 15th parallel and the Dangrek Mountains[3] in Stung Treng Province.

As a result, Cambodia had lost almost half a million citizens and one-third of its former surface area to Thailand.[4]

Japanese occupation

In August 1941, the Imperial Japanese Army entered the French protectorate of Cambodia and established a garrison that numbered 8,000 troops. Despite their military presence, the Japanese authorities allowed Vichy French colonial officials to remain at their administrative posts.

On 20 July 1942, there was a major anti-French demonstration in Phnom Penh after a prominent monk, Hem Chieu, was arrested for allegedly preaching seditious sermons to the colonial militia. The French authorities arrested the demonstration's leader, Pach Chhoeun, and exiled him to the prison island of Con Son.[1] Pach Chhoen was a respected Cambodian intellectual, associated with the Buddhist Institute and founder of Nagaravatta, the first overtly political newspaper in the Khmer language in 1936, along with Sim Var.[5] Another of the men behind Nagaravatta, Son Ngoc Thanh (a Paris-educated magistrate) was also blamed for the demonstration, which the French authorities suspected had been carried out with Japanese encouragement.

Collaborationist Kingdom of Kampuchea

In 1945, in the closing stages of World War II, Japan made a coup de force that temporarily eliminated French control over Indochina. The French colonial administrators were relieved of their positions, and French military forces were ordered to disarm. The aim was to revive the flagging support of local populations for Tokyo's war effort by encouraging indigenous rulers to proclaim independence.

On 9 March 1945 young king Norodom Sihanouk proclaimed an independent Kingdom of Kampuchea, following a formal request by the Japanese. Shortly thereafter the Japanese government nominally ratified the independence of Cambodia and established a consulate in Phnom Penh.[6] On 13 March king Sihanouk changed the official name of the country in French from Cambodge to Kampuchea. The new government did away with the romanisation of the Khmer language that the French colonial administration was beginning to enforce and officially reinstated the Khmer script. This measure taken by the short-lived governmental authority would be popular and long-lasting, for since then no government in Cambodia has tried to romanise the Khmer language again.[7]

Son Ngoc Thanh returned to Cambodia in May. He was initially appointed foreign minister and would become Prime Minister two months later.[8] The Cambodian puppet state of Japan lasted from March to October 1945.

The Japanese occupation of Cambodia ended with the official surrender of Japan in August 1945. After Allied military units entered Cambodia, the Japanese military forces present in the country were disarmed and repatriated. The French were able to reimpose the colonial administration in Phnom Penh in October the same year. After arresting Son Ngoc Thanh for collaboration with the Japanese, the French colonial authorities exiled him to France, where he lived in house arrest. Some of his supporters went underground and escaped to Thai-controlled northwestern Cambodia, where they were eventually to join forces in a pro-independence group, the Khmer Issarak. This anti-French, politically heterogeneous nationalist movement was organised with Thai backing, but would later split into factions.[9]

See also


External links

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