Cambodian Civil War Lesson for Kids: Causes & Summary

Instructor: Courtney Hurst

Courtney has taught third grade and has a master's degree in curriculum and instruction.

Cambodia is located in the continent of Asia. In this lesson, you will learn about the causes of the Cambodian Civil War. Learning about other countries history helps you to understand the world you live in!

An Overview of the Cambodian Civil War

Think about your classroom rules. Your teacher most likely went over these rules at the beginning of the year. Now, imagine your class getting in a fight with another class about whose rules are better. This is similar to what happened in Cambodia during their civil war.

The Cambodian Civil War began in the late 1960s when rural farmers fought back against increased taxes demanded by the government. When leader King Sihanouk was removed from office while outside the country in 1970, he began working in neighbouring countries to gain back power. Meanwhile, the Khmer Rouge, or Cambodian communists who supported a country being publicly owned and its people only being paid for what they can do, had disagreements with the new leader, Lon Nol and his Khmer Republic. By the end of 1975, the Cambodian communists were able to take over and Lon Nol's government had broken.

Change in Cambodian Leadership

One of the causes of the Cambodian Civil War was disagreement between King Sihanouk's administration and the his Prime Minister, Lon Nol. Under King Sihanouk, poor rural rice farmers weren't paid what their crops were worth. When they tried to complain, the local police were hard on them. This led to an uprising, and also to the growth of the Khmer Rouge and communist influence in Cambodia.

King Sihanouk

Prime Minister Lon Nol began working on what he thought would be a better government by creating an increase on the government tax, or income, from the rice grown and the landowners were not happy. These people came together to defend themselves. They believed it was wrong for Lon Nol to take their hard earned money in order for everyone to be considered equal.

Prime Minister Lon Nol

After King Sihanouk was removed from office, Lon Nol was in charge. He still wanted a very structured country but with more private ownership. Cambodia's economy was still unstable though. King Sihanouk worked to form a communist government outside Cambodia and allied with the communist Khmer Rouge. Lon Nol's Khmer Republic resisted communism.

Regional Conflict

Regional conflict was another important cause of the Cambodian Civil War. King Sihanouk had allowed neighboring communist North Vietnam to move supplies for its own war with South Vietnam through Cambodia. The Khmer Rouge supported the North Vietnamese and were okay with this. The Khmer Republic defended Cambodia against communist North Vietnam. They did not want North Vietnamese troops in their country.

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