Britain and Sihanouk's Cambodia

Nicholas Tarling

Britain and Sihanouk's Cambodia

Nicholas Tarling

Distributed for National University of Singapore Press

392 pages | 6 x 9
Paper $42.00 ISBN: 9789971697075 Published July 2014 For sale in North and South America and China only
Diplomatic relations between Cambodia and Britain at the height of the Cold War provide unique insights into the overall foreign policies of both nations.  King Norodom Sihanouk’s strategy of preserving the independence and integrity of Cambodia through a policy of neutrality grew ever more challenging as the Cold War heated up in Indochina and conflict in Vietnam became a proxy war between the superpowers. Despite its alliance with the United States, Britain’s diplomatic objectives in the region largely aligned with Cambodia’s, and British criticism of US policy towards Cambodia was a problem in the alliance.


British diplomatic records present a fascinating window into Cambodian decision-making, and the rationale behind Sihanouk’s sometimes apparently irrational policies. The reports yield new insights into Sihanouk's efforts to sustain Cambodia’s integrity vis-à-vis its more powerful neighbours.
Equally, a fine-grained analysis of British-Cambodia relations reveals much about the dynamics of British foreign policy in the period. Britain's ultimate dependence on its powerful American ally limited its influence in the region. After 1967, indeed, it ceased to have a strategic role. Over the period, British frustrations grew, even as it remained consistent in its foreign policy objectives and approaches.
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