Over the last twelve months, since the Khmer Republic became more deeply involved in the South East Asia War, the Soviet Union has drastically reduced it's aid and personnel in the country.
Over the last twelve months, since the Khmer Republic became more deeply involved in the South East Asia War, the Soviet Union has drastically reduced it's aid and personnel in the country. Previously, the Soviet presence in Phnom Penh, capital of Khmer Republic - formerly known as Cambodia - amounted to significant numbers of doctors, nurses, technicians and professors who staffed the Russian built hospital and school. Now, there are only a handful of Russians left, while all military aid to the Khmer Army has been cut off.
But the Soviets still run a cultural centre in Phnom Penh, which gives them a window on the local situation.
SYNOPSIS: The Soviet Union first exchanged ambassadors with Cambodia more than a decade ago. And one of the first things it did was to build this hospital. It cost the Russians over a million dollars. They also staffed it with dozens of doctors, nurses and technicians. But all that has changed now. In the past year most of the Russians have gone home. Today, there are only six left, including this doctor and his interpreter.
Yet losing the Russian doctors has not really bothered the Cambodians. Even though the patient load has doubled here since the war began, they still have enough trained personnel to get by. But what does upset them is the condition of the equipment in the hospital. It is all Russian, and ninety per cent of it is broken. The Cambodians could repair it if they had the spare parts, but the Russians have cut off the supply.
The Soviet Union also constructed this university complex and, while it is still in good shape, all the Russian professors who taught Soviet History and culture here have also gone. The Russians also spent millions equipping the Cambodian Army, but as with other aspects of Soviet Aid, there were other strings attached. The principal ones were spare parts and ammunition. Cambodian officers said there was never enough. The Russians did this deliberately, trying to keep the Cambodian Army on a leash jut in case it turned on the Communist forces operating in the country. And, when the war began, the Russians followed up this tactic by cutting off further military aid. The Cambodians found themselves saddled with a lot of gear that quickly became useless. Still, the Russians have not broken all their ties in Cambodia.
They still run this cultural centre where they teach Russian to anyone who is interested. By staying they continue to report what's going on here in Phnom Penh. As for the Cambodians themselves, they want to keep the Russians around because they might be useful in the future in helping settle the war. But so far, the Russians have not given the Cambodians much encouragement.