In the year leading up to the fortieth anniversary of the fall of Phnom Penh to the Khmer Rouge on 17 April 1975 we are publishing extracts from the newsletters produced by Cambodia for Christ.
Newsletter 7, December 1974
After a day and a night of bitter debate the UN General Assembly defeated by two votes a move to expel Marshall Lon Nol’s government from the UN. For more than two years the Algerians and China have led a non-aligned block battle to oust Lon Nol and give Cambodia’s seat to the Peking based regime of Prince Sihanouk. Their basic argument was that Sihanouk had been overthrown by ‘foreign invaders’ (e.g. Americans), that he was still in authority and that the Khmer Republic would collapse if United States aid were withdrawn. Cambodia’s Asian and Pacific neighbours and the Western nations submitted a counter resolution which instead of supporting either faction simply called on both to hold peace talks, this motion was passed by a narrow two vote margin, the second time this has happened in two years.
This vote was a major victory for democracy and a step towards a possible peace settlement involving some sort of compromise between the present government and the Khmer Rouge, similar to the situation now existing in nearby Laos. The UN vote also means that US aid will continue (currently £285 million a year) and that freedom of worship will still exist in the country — a doubtful possibility under the Communists. The US congress is dubious about continuing commitment to Cambodia, yet a cessation of aid would have amounted in effect to the handover of the country to the Khmer Rouge. The Khmer army could not carry on for a week without petrol and munitions from abroad, and the civilian economy is almost as dependent on American financed imports of foodstuffs and other commodities,
The situation is reported to be bad and the start of the dry season has brought an increase in enemy activity. The end of the war or some sort of agreement would seem to be the only hope for a country struggling to survive. Please pray for a speedy settlement to war and for continued freedom of worship, and praise the Lord for preserving Cambodia as a nation.
Last month Dr Penelope Key, a Christian Doctor with World Vision on a short furlough to England, brought news of the Child Care programme operating in the Khmer Republic. There is a large World Vision medical team in the country: 105 Khmer workers including four doctors, seventeen trained nurses and a large number of auxiliary nurses. A few staff from overseas are also there.
World Vision along with the C&MA run the only four nutrition rehabilitation centres in Cambodia. One centre is open 24 hours a day for emergency cases. Children are admitted with kwashiorkor and other severe forms of malnutrition and they usually stay for about four weeks, long enough to get on their feet again. About 80 children are catered for there. Three day-care centres also exist for less severe cases.
Dr Key holds child-welfare clinics, as possibly 98 percent of children in Cambodia are malnourished. Most families exist on just rice (when it is available and supplies get through); very little fresh fruit and vegetables are to be seen and the average family eat meat once a fortnight. The rice (which is imported) is the highly milled sort, lacking in vitamin B; therefore most of the population suffer from vitamin deficiency. The overall condition of children is deteriorating and many are open to infection. There is a high mortality rate through measles; one in twenty who contract it die. Typhoid, polio, dysentry, pneumonia and tuberculosis are on the increase.
Medical teams have gone out to large provincial refugee areas and report that these are in a very poor condition. Recently an influx of refugees came from a town seventy miles north of the capital. They had been living in trenches for three months and finally 20,000 were ferried out by river. They were later visited by a medical team and the Asian Christian Service.
Boeung Trabek is a new church group started recently when a layman opened his home for services. Already about 70 people come each Sunday. North Dyke is another new group in a refugee area. In Bethany church, Christians are meeting from 6-7 am daily for prayer.
Takhmau Bible School has its highest enrolment of 25 students. Theological Education by Extension classes are held two evenings weekly. About 103 have enrolled. The Operation Mobilisation team from the ship Logos came in September for one week of discipleship training and teaching. Over 100 young people attended. Bible studies in English and French have been started in two private schools. Over twenty other English Bible studies are held weekly in the Youth Centre, in churches and homes. About ten Buddhist monks attend one class.
Christmas programmes have already begun in Phnom Penh and will continue to be held in the various churches until the end of December.