Half a century after American B-52 bombers dropped more than 500,000 tonnes of explosives on Cambodia’s countryside, Washington now wants the country to repay a $US500 million war debt. The demand has prompted expressions of indignation and outrage from Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh.
Over 200 nights in 1973 alone, 257,456 tons of explosives fell in secret carpet-bombing sweeps. The pilots flew at such great heights they were incapable of discriminating between a Cambodian village and their targets, North Vietnamese supply lines. The bombs were of such massive tonnage they blew out eardrums of anyone standing within a 1-kilometre radius.
According to one genocide researcher, up to 500,000 Cambodians were killed, many of them children. The Kymer Rouge then seized power in 1975 and over the next four years presided over the deaths of more than almost two million people through starvation disease and execution.
Cambodia’s strongman prime minister Hun Sen has hit back, saying “The US … dropped bombs on our heads and then ask up to repay. When we do not repay, they tell the IMF (International Monetary Fund) not to lend us money,” he told an international conference in early March.
A former Reuters bureau chief in Ho Chi Minh City, said no-one could call him a supporter of Hun Sen, but on this matter he is “absolutely correct. … Cambodia does not owe a brass farthing to the US for help in destroying its people, its wild animals, its rice fields and forest cover,” he wrote in the Cambodia Daily.
American Elizabeth Becker, one of the few correspondents who witnessed the Khmer Rouge’s genocide, has also written that the US “owes Cambodia more in war debts that can be repaid in cash.”
[Sydney Morning Herald]