64. Intelligence Memorandum, Washington, January 31, 1975.1 2

January 31, 1975


SUBJECT: Consequences Within Cambodia of a Communist Takeover*

*This memorandum, prepared under the aegis of the National Intelligence Officer for South and Southeast Asia, was drafted by the Office of Current Intelligence and coordinated within CIA.

The immediate objective of the Khmer Communists (KC) following any capitulation of the Cambodian Government (GKR) would be the occupation of urban centers so as to fully disarm the Cambodian Armed Forces (FANK) and take over the machinery of state. Bloodletting would be inevitable as KC units mopped up pockets of resistance and their leaders settled old scores with some leading provincial and national GKR officials and senior FANK officers unable to flee the country. Bureaucrats, technicians, intelligentsia, and former FANK officers would no doubt be subjected to an intense indoctrination and “re-education” process which would most likely involve incarceration, coercion, and some, but probably not mass, exemplary executions. The lower strata of urban society would probably undergo a less formal and traumatic process.
Once in full control of the former GKR zones, the KC would begin pursuing the long-term objective: centralization of control over the instruments of production by a KC government. Essentially this would mean the implementation in the former GKR zones of programs long underway in KC controlled territory. These would include:
  • — the confiscation of privately-owned land and the tools of agriculture and the establishment of Communist-controlled collectives;
  • — the gradual replacement of Buddhism by Communist-controlled mass front organizations;
  • — the destruction of the traditional administrative system and its replacement by a centralized government under the leadership of the Khmer Communist Party;
  • — the nationalization of all light industry and means of commerce.
Such measures have not gone down well with the land-proud and independent-minded Cambodian peasantry and over the years have caused almost two million peasants to abandon their farms and flee to the GKR zone. Smoldering resentment among those that have remained behind has on occasion resulted in small-scale uprisings which the KC have put down ruthlessly. Even if they won full control of the country, they would continue to meet similar resistance to their programs. The KC lack the organizational pool of well trained cadres possessed by their Vietnamese allies, but they could be expected to push their efforts to regiment and collectivize Khmer society relentlessly, using force where necessary.
Most population centers in zones presently controlled by the GKR would have large numbers of refugees following a KC takeover and except for the Battambang area, stocks of basic commodities would be extremely low. Living conditions for all would deteriorate markedly as these commodities ran out. To ease the situation the KC would forcefully resettle the large numbers of refugees now in the GKR zone and might also have to evacuate many city-dwellers into the countryside where conditions would not be much better. The Communists would have major difficulties in coping with refugees and with supply shortages for some months — and the population would suffer real hardship — unless the KC were provided liberal and rapid assistance.
The situation would ease as soon as the next seasonal crop cycle began, although difficulties would remain. Some dependence on imported foods might persist, but consumption of vegetable crops with short growing spans and use of readily available fish would reduce external needs. Since so much of the sharp decline in rice production from the 3.8 million ton level in 1969 to less than 1 million tons in recent years has been a function of wartime disruption to the countryside, there is an excellent chance that Cambodia would rapidly reapproach self-sufficiency in basic foodstuffs even without significant changes in technology or major inputs of equipment or chemicals.
Attached as of possible interest are several earlier brief memoranda prepared by the Central Intelligence Agency on various aspects of rule in areas of Cambodia already under KC control.
  1. Source: Central Intelligence Agency, NIC Files, Job 79R01142A, Box 1, Life in Cambodia After a Communist Takeover. Secret. According to the covering memorandum, not published, the CIA prepared this memorandum for Habib. CIA briefing memoranda, “The Khmer Communists’ ‘Communal’ Campaign,” January 29, 1974; “The Rebellious Chams,” January 22, 1974; and “Problems in the Pagodas,” February 5, 1974, attached but not published.
  2. This intelligence memorandum assessed the potential internal consequences of a communist takeover in Cambodia.