Sak Sutsakhan

This is a Cambodian name; the family name is Sak.
Sak Sutsakhan
Chairman of the Supreme Committee
In office
April 12, 1975  April 17, 1975
Preceded by Saukham Khoy (acting)
as President of the Khmer Republic
Succeeded by Norodom Sihanouk
as President of the State Presidium
Personal details
Born February 8, 1928
Battambang, Cambodia, French Indochina
Died April 29, 1994(1994-04-29) (aged 66)
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Political party Liberal Democratic Party
Military service
Allegiance Cambodia (pre-1970 Kingdom of Cambodia)
Cambodia (Khmer Republic)
Khmer People's National Liberation Front
Service/branch Khmer People's National Liberation Armed Forces
Years of service 19571994
Rank Major general

General Sak Sutsakhan (8 February 1928[1] - 29 April 1994) was a Cambodian politician and soldier who had a long career in the country's politics. He was the last Head of State of the Khmer Republic, the regime overthrown by the Khmer Rouge in 1975. Sak Sutsakhan formed a pro-US force known as the "Khmer Sâ" (White Khmer).[2]

Early life

Sutsakhan was born in Battambang. He was the cousin of Nuon Chea, who would later go on to be a prominent member of the Khmer Rouge. He studied at the Royal Military Academy and the French General Staff School in Paris; his subsequent career with the small Cambodian army, the Forces Armées Royales Khmeres (FARK) resulted in his rapid promotion, and under the Sangkum regime of Prince Norodom Sihanouk he became the world's youngest Minister of Defence in 1957 at the age of 29.

The Khmer Republic

Main article: Cambodian Civil War

Following the Cambodian coup of 1970, in which Prince Norodom Sihanouk was deposed by General Lon Nol, Sutsakhan continued his career within the army, now renamed the Khmer National Armed Forces (FANK), and oversaw its substantial expansion in 1971-72. He served as Minister of Defence several times, was the commander of the FANK Special Forces, and had a good reputation amongst U.S. diplomats and military advisors as a competent senior officer, as well as a capable and non-corrupt politician.[3]

After the U.S. embassy staff and acting President Saukam Khoy departed Phnom Penh on April 12 during Operation Eagle Pull, a seven-member Supreme Committee, headed by Lieutenant-General Sak Sutsakhan, assumed the authority over the collapsing Republic. Sutsakhan took over the post of Head of State and chaired the Governing Council that attempted to negotiate a conditional ceasefire with the Khmer Rouge, who were besieging Phnom Penh. Sutsakhan remained in the capital until the communist forces entered it on April 17, escaping with his family on the last Khmer Air Force helicopter to leave Phnom Penh's National Stadium.[4] Sutsakhan was married and had four children.

Exile and the KPNLF

For more details on this topic, see Khmer People's National Liberation Front.

Sutsakhan settled in the United States, and became an American citizen. After the Khmer Rouge had been expelled by Vietnamese forces in 1979, politician Son Sann and former FANK General Dien Del set up the Khmer People's National Liberation Front (KPNLF), a non-communist and largely republican movement dedicated to expelling the regime installed by the Vietnamese (the People's Republic of Kampuchea). The KPNLF was initially a coalition of various disparate 'resistance' and even semi-bandit groups based in the refugee camps along the Thai-Cambodian border; however the recruitment of Sutsakhan, who arrived from the US in 1981, helped to lend considerable legitimacy to the cause.[5] Sutsakhan became commander of the KPNLF's armed wing, the Khmer People's National Liberation Armed Forces (KPNLAF), and attempted to impose a centralized structure on its armed factions.

In 1982 a formal political alliance, the Coalition Government of Democratic Kampuchea, was formed between the KPNLF, the FUNCINPEC royalists headed by Prince Norodom Sihanouk and the remaining forces of the Khmer Rouge. After 1985 Sutsakhan was to meet with Son Sen of the Khmer Rouge and Prince Norodom Ranarridh, Sihanouk's son, who commanded FUNCINPEC's military arm, the Armée Nationale Sihanoukiste (ANS), to arrange military cooperation between the three movements.

By 1985, Sutsakhan and Sann began to disagree on the conduct of the war, especially on the issue of cooperation with the royalist (ANS), which Sutsakhan favoured. The resulting split in the KPNLF hampered the operations of its armed forces: despite some initial successes in the northwest of Cambodia, the KPNLAF was shattered by a Vietnamese offensive in 1984-1985 and was largely restricted to guerrilla warfare after this point.

After the Paris Peace Accords of 1991, Sutsakhan was to split from Son Sann and the KPNLF, and formed the Liberal Democratic Party.

He died in Phnom Penh in 1994.


In 1980, Sutsakhan published The Khmer Republic at War and the Final Collapse, which remains a major source of information on the Cambodian Civil War. Available online at .

See also


  1. Some sources give 2 August.
  2. Haas, Cambodia, Pol Pot, and the United States: the Faustian pact (1991), page unknown.
  3. Shawcross, Sideshow: Kissinger, Nixon and the Destruction of Cambodia (1979), p. 232.
  4. Sutsakhan, Lt. Gen. S. The Khmer Republic at War and the Final Collapse Washington DC: U.S. Army Center of Military History, 1987, p. 168. See also Part 1Part 2Part 3.
  5. Corfield, J. A History of the Cambodian Non-Communist Resistance 1975-1983, Monash University, 1991


Preceded by
Lon Nol
(Head of State)
President of Cambodia
Succeeded by
Norodom Sihanouk
(Head of State)
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