Cambodia Table of Contents
In the late 1980s, the KPRAF had several missions. Some were implicit in Cambodia's situation; others were prescribed in the Constitution. Foremost were the duties to defend the nation from foreign aggression, to safeguard the gains of the Marxist revolution in Cambodia, and to ensure domestic security by engaging in combat against insurgents and against domestic foes as determined by the government and the party. In addition to the combat role that was part of their internal security responsibilities, the KPRAF also engaged in propaganda activity on behalf of the government, performed various civic action tasks, and participated in economic production. Because of the poverty of the country, and because the defense budget was not sufficient to meet KPRAF's needs, the KPRAF had to help pay its own way by generating income. In the 1980s, its efforts were limited to growing vegetables and raising poultry and livestock for military use, but, in the future, they could include manufacturing commodities and processing raw materials in military-owned factories.
To accomplish its combat missions, the KPRAF developed its own military doctrine. Although not available in written form to Western observers, this doctrine could be inferred from the Constitution, from the circumstances in Cambodia, and from the dynamics of the Vietnamese military establishment which had acted as mentor and as role model for the KPRAF from its inception. In both the KPRAF and the Vietnamese army there was no doctrinal dichotomy between civilian society and the military establishment as there is in most Western nations. Everyone was potentially a member of the armed forces; in Cambodia as in Vietnam, there were total mobilization of the population and total dedication of whatever resources the nation could muster in order to achieve the military goals the government or the party wished to formulate. The total involvement of the Cambodian population in warfare was enshrined doctrinally in the constitutional statement that "the people as a whole participate in national defense." Because of the security imperatives faced by the Phnom Penh government in fighting a persistent insurgency, virtually the entire able-bodied population was organized into various military and paramilitary bodies. This doctrinal concept worked well defensively when patriotism could be invoked to rally a population against a foreign invader or against a real or fancied, but easily understood, external threat. It worked less well when used to rally indigenous support for a foreign occupier, as the Phnom Penh regime had to do for Vietnam. Hanoi, therefore, incessantly evoked the specter of the return of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge to induce the Cambodian population to join the KPRAF, and through active personal involvement, to render unflinching support to the PRK.
The KPRAF probably was also subject to other doctrinal influences from the military establishments of Vietnam and, ultimately, the Soviet Union, which maintained a substantial advisory presence with the Vietnamese armed forces and a smaller one with the KPRAF. The relevance of the military doctrine of the large armies of the Soviet Union and of Vietnam to the small, questionably trained and equipped KPRAF remained speculative, however, especially in the counterinsurgency environment of Cambodia. Soviet advisers, directly or through Vietnamese counterparts, may have relayed their experiences in Afghanistan and they may have advised on measures for countering Chinese or Western equipment and weapons, on methods of controlling or suborning the population, and on means of employing weapons and weapons systems-- such as artillery, helicopters, and land mines. Vietnamese advisers, focusing on their army's neutralization of insurgent base camps on the Thai border--through large-scale operations supported by indirect fire--in the dry season offensive of 1984 and 1985, may have unwittingly imparted to their Cambodian understudies a predilection for this tactical doctrine.
Data as of December 1987
Cambodia Table of Contents