Forty Years Ago: Part 7

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(e.g. Americans), that he was still in authority and that the Khmer Republic would collapse if United States aid were withdrawn.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.

Child Care

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.

The Provinces

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.

The Church

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.

Forty Years Ago: Part 6

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 6, October 1974

After four years of guerrilla warfare the Khmer have learned to carry on regardless of restrictions, shortages and many basic necessities being unobtainable. The inevitable inconveniences are accepted, life must go on. There has been an increase in political activity recently, and news reports of renewed bombing, but few details to include in this letter. Marshal Lon Nol, President of the Khmer Republic, made a public call for peace on 9th July. No prior conditions before talking together were asked from the Khmer Rouge, the North Vietnamese and the Vietcong from South Vietnam. Mr. Dean, the USA Ambassador in Phnom Penh, is working for a peaceful solution to the war.

The war has had its effects on schooling, as many French teachers and lecturers left the country when bombing increased earlier this year. The building programme has had to be curtailed due to supplies being needed for other projects and a slowing down of materials reaching the capital due to hazards along the Mekong River.

The Lord continues to bless Church growth. One missionary writes that church groups are beginning in many homes, the pattern in Acts is being reproduced, with spontaneous growth of fellowships primarily in the homes of new Christians. These new believers radiate their love for Christ.

Our prayers are requested for the establishing of a Church at Battambang after the meetings held by Ravi Zacharias in July. Many attended but few have carried on who professed faith in Christ. On this same theme we as the body of Christ are urged to pray much for the young converts in this land, that they may be kept during a period of confusion for them with numerous groups now coming to Cambodia. With so many Christians being untrained babes in Christ, it is difficult for them to determine who is genuine and who is not. Training sessions are being held and Bible classes taught but it is difficult to properly instruct all of those who come to Christ before they are contacted by other groups.

Please remember Major Chhirc Taing in Phnom Penh. He has many responsibilities in the Church: Executive Secretary, advisor to other projects, also head of the World Vision child-care programme. His duties as Secretary to the Minister of Defence are also very demanding. Pray that he may soon be reunited with his wife and daughter who are in Edinburgh.

Thank you for continued prayer for the Khmer people and those who work among them. May peace soon come, and the harvest be brought in while the open-door and opportunity exists.

The Cambodian Herald

Cambodian Herald front page

The latest edition of our newsletter, a special edition of the Cambodian Herald is available for download.

This edition features the forthcoming visit to Cambodia by a team of CCC Council members.

You can also download Issue 17 and Issue 16.

Please contact us if you would to receive a printed copy of this issue or go on our mailing list.

The Man Who Led Pol Pot’s Executioner to Christ

Christopher LaPel was raised in a Buddhist family, but as a boy he was fascinated by the symbol of the cross. It was not until he had endured the suffering of the killing fields, in which his father, mother and sister died from exhaustion and malnutrition and his brother was executed, that he discovered the true meaning of the cross of Jesus Christ.

Years later, Christopher encountered Kaing Khek Ieu, also known as Duch, who had supervised the Khmer Rouge’s notorious interrogation, torture and execution centre at Tuol Sleng. Christopher led Duch to Christ and baptised him.

Duch was subsequently arrested, tried, convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment for his crimes. Christopher testified at his trial and now visits Duch in prison, where they read the Bible and break bread together.

Read more of Christopher LaPel’s story in the article ‘He survived the killing fields, led Pol Pot’s murderous general to Christ‘.

Forty Years Ago: Part 5

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 4, May 1974

This month in Cambodia the monsoon rains began to fall, bringing to a halt until October most of the military activity – perhaps a time of peace for a while. Life goes on as normal for the Khmer people accustomed now to the signs of war in their midst: soldiers, refugees, curfews and power cuts. The past three years have seen progress and some setbacks for the government of Cambodia in the defence of their country. Though the communists are strong in the rural areas and have conscripted many Cambodians for their “liberation” army, they have had few major successes, and their two campaigns to take the capital of Phnom Penh have failed after many predictions that it would fall. In three years the Khmer Rouge have only succeeded in taking one provincial capital, the small but historically significant town of Oudong, once the Royal Capital, a town of about 50,000 people lying about 24 miles north-west of Phnom Penh. Oudong fell in March this year. The bombing of Phnom Penh’s suburbs which caused panic and confusion and led to the exodus of many foreigners stopped after a month due to heavy shelling of the communist position by government forces. The Khmer army is beginning to regain confidence and it seems as if the present situation could continue indefinitely, with neither side able to gain complete victory.

Missionaries in Phnom Penh report that although the war has had its effect, military-wise it is calmer than expected and rocket scars are not as evident as the news media would lead one to think. The airport was 90% destroyed in 1970, but today you would not detect that it had been hit. Malnutrition amongst refugees is one of the biggest problems and although many relief agencies are at work, refugees do not have the money to buy proper food and the children especially are suffering.

All Cambodians are aware of the serious political and economic situation. Khmer Christians are praying, that there may be many more years of opportunity to share their faith with their own people. One young Cambodian when asked if he was prepared to stand for his faith in the event of a hostile takeover said he was, and that he fully expected to be behind bars one day because of his love for Jesus Christ. It is commonly felt among Christians in Cambodia that a regime hostile to Christianity could put the Cambodian Church back into the shadows once again. Christians need to remember this tiny land of seven million people and its small, but growing Church. In letters from Khmer Christians they always plead that we urge the Body of Christ everywhere to pray for Cambodia and the Christian witness there. Will you pray?


We do not have a copy of Newsletter 5, so the next extracts to be published will be from Newsletter 6, first issued in October 1974.