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Distributed for National University of Singapore Press

Britain and Sihanouk’s Cambodia

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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Table of Contents

Chapter One: From Geneva to Geneva
Bandung and the Five Principles
Sihanouk’s First Visit to the PRC
The Philippines and SEATO
Interviews and Articles
The Frontier with South Vietnam
The Neutrality Law
South Vietnam and the Recognition of China
Son Ngoc Thanh and Sam Sary
The Aftermath
The Zhou Visit
The Laos Conflict
Sarit, Laos and Sihanouk
The Laos Agreement
Chapter Two: Another Geneva?
A Conference Proposal
Responses and Replies
The Ratanakiri Bombing
The Cambodian Proposals
American Drafts
Tripartite Talks in Paris
French Action
Reviving the Proposals?
Chapter Three: Three Deaths
A Renewed Proposal
Tripartite Talks Again
Barbaric Rejoicings
SEAD and Embassies
Persuading Saigon
Handling the Drafts
Reactions in the Region
Confrontation and Conference
Cable’s Reflections
Chapter Four: Policies and Elections
A New Proposal
New Cambodian Drafts
The Attack on the Embassies
A Further Effort
Another Last Chance
A Thai Conversation
Two Decisions
American, British and Cambodian Policies
The Security Council
The Tonkin Gulf
Elections and their Impact
Chapter Five: A Conference in Vietnam?
President and Prime Minister
The Indochinese People’s Conference
Another Prime Ministerial Visit
Severing Relations with the US
Frontier Declarations
The British Embassy
Malcolm MacDonald
Chapter Six: Communists and Coup
Friend No. 1
Wilson and Moscow
China Friendship
The Thlok Trach Incident
President de Gaulle and the Frontiers
The Bowles Mission
A British Frontier Declaration
Eugene Black
US Declaration

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