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Murdoch writes: "Half a century after United States B-52 bombers dropped more than 500,000 tonnes of explosives on Cambodia's countryside Washington wants the country to repay a $US500 million ($662 million) war debt. The demand has prompted expressions of indignation and outrage from Cambodia's capital, Phnom Penh."

US Air Force B-52 dropping bombs over Southeast Asia in the 1960s. (photo: Public Domain)
US Air Force B-52 dropping bombs over Southeast Asia in the 1960s. (photo: Public Domain)

US Bombing Devastated Cambodia in 1970s, Now US Is Demanding They Pay Back Millions in 'War Debt'

By Lindsay Murdoch, The Age

12 March 17


alf a century after United States B-52 bombers dropped more than 500,000 tonnes of explosives on Cambodia's countryside Washington wants the country to repay a $US500 million ($662 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 – half as many as were dropped on Japan during the Second World War.

The pilots flew at such great heights they were incapable of discriminating between a Cambodian village and their targets, North Vietnamese supply lines – nicknamed the "Ho Chi Minh Trail."

The bombs were of such massive tonnage they blew out eardrums of anyone standing within a 1-kilometre radius.

War correspondent James Pringle was two kilometres away from a B-52 strike near Cambodia's border.

"It felt like the world was coming to an end," he recalls.

According to one genocide researcher, up to 500,000 Cambodians were killed, many of them children.

The bombings drove hundreds of thousands of ordinary Cambodians into the arms of the Khmer Rouge, an ultra-Marxist organisation which 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.

The debt started out as a US$274 million loan mostly for food supplies to the then US-backed Lon Nol government but has almost doubled over the years as Cambodia refused to enter into a re-payment program.

William Heidt, the US's ambassador in Phnom Penh, said Cambodia's failure to pay back the debt puts it in league with Sudan, Somalia and Zimbabwe.

"To me, Cambodia does not look like a country that should be in arrears…buildings coming up all over the city, foreign investment coming in, government revenue is rapidly rising," Mr Heidt was quoted as saying by the Cambodia Daily.

"I'm saying it is in Cambodia's interest not to look to the past, but to look at how to solve this because it's important to Cambodia's future," he said, adding that the US has never seriously considered cancelling the debt.

Cambodia's strongman prime minister Hun Sen, a former Khmer Rouge commander who defected to Vietnam, hit back, saying "The US created problems in my country and is demanding money from me."

"They 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.

"We should raise our voices to talk about the issue of the country that has invaded other (countries) and has killed children."

Mr Pringle, a former Reuters bureau chief in Ho Chi Minh City, said no-one could call him a supporter of Hun Sen, who has ruled Cambodia with an iron-fist for three decades.

But he said 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."

Mr Hun Sen pointed out that craters still dot the Cambodian countryside and villagers are still unearthing bombs, forcing mass evacuations until they can be deactivated.

"There are a lot of grenades and bombs left. That's why so often Cambodian children are killed, because they don't know that they are unexploded ordnance," he said.

"And who did it? It's America's bombs and grenades."

A diplomat posted in Phnom Penh between 1971 and 1974 told Fairfax Media the food the US supplied Cambodia came from excess food stocks.

"I remember well that shipments of maize were made," he said.

"Cambodians do not eat maize so it was fed to the animals."

He pointed out that the US refused to normalise relations with Vietnam until it accepted to take on the US debt of the former southern regime. your social media marketing partner


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+18 # Salburger 2017-03-12 10:35
Cambodia should demand reparations
+2 # lfeuille 2017-03-12 18:34
Yes, double the so called "war debt".
+18 # munza1 2017-03-12 10:37
The US has the blood on hundreds of thousands of Cambodians on its hands. And now they want dollars from one of the poorest countries in the world. Put the bodies of Cambodian children killed by American ordinance and lay them outside the US Embassy. as payment.
+19 # CDMR 2017-03-12 10:57
Astonishing. This is extortion. Why does the US (and Europe for that matter) always extort money from the weakest and poorest of nations? They answer is that they can. A major reason why the west is so rich and developed is that they have been stealing from the poor nations of the earth for 500 years.

I believe that most citizens in the West would oppose such stealing if they only knew about it.

I say, the US must pay Cambodia for the damage inflicted during its illegal war aganist Cambodia. Loas, Thailand, Vietnam, Philippines, Indonesta, Burma, as well. The US has lots of debts to pay.
+8 # elizabethblock 2017-03-12 11:05
From the musical of "Li'l Abner": The US government wants to test a nuclear weapon on the most useless town or village, and chooses (of course) Dogpatch. Someone tells the villagers, "The gov'ment is spending ten million dollars just to blow your homes to smithereens. So show your 'preciation!"
+18 # DongiC 2017-03-12 14:05
The US is barbaric. Look at the children we killed in the many countries in Cambodia, Syria, Yemen, Central America, Vietnam for starters. We should pay war damages to the many countries that we have injured including $662 million to Cambodia. What utter nonsense, billing themselves for our damage to them. We have become a superbully.
+10 # JayaVII 2017-03-12 17:38
This story fills me with shame and disgust. Why should the victim be paid reparations by the criminal? We should start a movement to cancel this disgusting debt.
+4 # Kootenay Coyote 2017-03-12 20:35
It’s hard to find an analogy for this unjust, stupid & bullying behaviour. What an example for the world, from the Trumpery of the newest Failed State.
+2 # Glen 2017-03-14 16:22
Here it is: a woman who is raped must pay the rapist for his time, energy, and trouble, and pay her own medical bills. The U.S. has raped numerous countries and then claimed innocence and a need for an apology.
0 # maindrains 2017-03-15 17:27
mmm. doesn't the US owe reparations to Nicaragua for mining its harbor? Maybe all the countriees destablised and wrecked by US military action , financial exploitation should add up all their bills and present them to Trump.
0 # dotlady 2017-03-15 23:07
There are no words for this US policy that I can use here.
0 # elkingo 2017-03-16 01:51
And rightly so! American bombs don't grow on trees y'know, and them pilots have to be paid!
Them Dinks should pay for the privilege of being bombed! We don't bomb just anybody y'know, lookit: we ain't bombed Iceland (yet). No more war,,,uh, welfare. Goddamn right. Not paying for services rendered just ain't 'Murican.

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