Bibliography on Party Politics in CAMBODIA, 1950-1962

Mary Welfling

The limited literature that exists on Cambodian politics during our time period focuses either on Cambodia's external relations with the two great power blocs and her traditional enemies Thailand and South Vietnam, or on Communist subversion and infiltration resulting from the Vietnam war. Internal politics has received little discussion, and the literature on political parties in English is rare. Only one American, Roger M. Smith, has written extensively on Cambodian politics, but even his primary concern is Cambodia's external relations. The same holds true for the English scholar, Michael Leifer, whose discussion of internal politics is subsidiary to Cambodian external affairs.

It was thus decided that French sources should be included in order to obtain the information necessary for the ICPP Project. Even in French, however, Cambodia has not received due attention. As Phillipe Preschez remarks in a review article on Cambodian literature, discussions of ancient history, art, archeology, and customs are dominant, while contemporary Cambodia remains neglected. Since his article in 1961, several helpful sources have appeared, but discussions of party politics from 1950 to 1962 remain far from complete.

Material Processed into ICPP Information Files

Our literature search disclosed 104 English and French language documents relevant to Party politics in Cambodia during 1950-1962. A total of 1,282 pages were read and indexed from these documents. The first table presents a description of the major indexing categories and their frequency of use. The frequency of indexing categories gives an indication of the nature of the literature on Cambodian political parties: 530 codes (issue orientation) reflect the lengthy discussions of Cambodia's policy of neutrality; 360 codes (party leaders) indicate the prominent role played by Prince Sihanouk; and 430 codes (party congress) refer to discussions of the National Congress, which has evolved into a prominent national political institution in Cambodia. This Congress is a semi&endash;annual gathering, open to all Cambodians, where policy is discussed and formulated and where party representatives can be called to account by their constituents.

Some Observations on the State of the Literature

The literature on Cambodian political parties leaves many questions unanswered. Information on the Democratic party scarcely goes beyond statements that it opposed King Sihanouk and pressed for more immediate independence and stronger actions against France. Many aspects of the Sangkum, which has dominated any discussion of parties, also remain untouched. As shown in the table of index codes, information on the organizational variables is totally inadequate. With the exception of the National Congress, no party organs receive special discussion, nor is there any explanation of the relationship between various party organs. Information on "party activities" (2--) and "composition' (3--) is far from complete, and only Cambodia's policy of neutrality (530) and Khmer (Cambodian) Socialism (540) receive separate and detailed discussion.

The second table summarizes the quality of the literature as analyzed for 102 of our 104 documents. It reveals that the vast majority of the literature focuses on the post-1955 time period. This fact reflects the interest generated by Prince Sihanouk's Sangkum Reastr Niyum (Popular Socialist Community) which he formed in 1955 and which immediately altered the pre-1955 multi-party system to a one-party dominant one. Failure to discuss party politics before 1955 has meant that great gaps exist in our understanding of the smaller Cambodian parties, the Democratic party being the most important.

Not only do gaps of information exist, but the data quality table also indicates that the literature is neither theoretical, quantitative, nor well-documented. The inclusion of French sources both broadened the information available and also upgraded the quality. Twenty-eight of the 102 documents were in French, but these sources provided 53% of the pages indexed. Two sources in particular provided an unusual amount of relevant and well-documented information: Phillipe Preschez, Essai Sur La Democratie Au Cambodge, and Claude-Gilles Gour, Institutions Constitutionnelles Et Politique Du Cambodge. Southeast Asia (second edition) is probably the most complete discussion of the contemporary Cambodian political system in English. In neither language, however, is there any in-depth study specifically focusing on political parties. Analyses of the internal structure, activities, and composition of Cambodian political parties would contribute to our inadequate understanding of Cambodian politics and would facilitate cross-national comparisons.