Sihanouk left China in great secrecy. He drove down the Ho Chih Minh trail in?
Sihanouk left China in great secrecy. He drove down the Ho Chih Minh trail in a convoy of 20 Soviet jeeps, accompanied by his wife Princess Monique, two trusted advisors and 105 North Vietnamese guard.
They moved in daylight, stopping on the way to bathe, camp and eat. Sihanouk claimed that American planes occasionally came into eight but the Vietnamese guards never urged the travellers to take cover.
At the Cambodian border, Sihanouk stepped out of his jeep to meet the leaders of the Cambodian resistance. These men, lead by Khieu Sampan, a former school master, were long thought to be dead. Sihanouk drove them into jungle exile six years ago. Now he himself was returning from three years of exile in Peking, after being overthrown by General Lon Hol.
One of Sihanouk's first acts was to pick up a handful of Cambodian ???oil to take back to Peking.
At meetings in the command headquarters of the Cambodian resistance, the communist leaders and the former King sat together in council. Sihanouk was confirmed by his former enemies as head of state. Khieu sampan and his comrades would be left to continue the war and administer the areas under their control.
According to Sihanouk, military briefings convinced him that the war was being slowly won. His commanders told him the main obstacle was American air power. He claims the Cambodian resistance is fighting the Lon Nol government without North Vietnamese help and they are sure that time is on their side.
Not far from the historic ruins of Angkor Wat, soldiers and civilians gathered in the forest to greet Sihanouk. He said he warned all of them of a long struggle ahead, unless there was some unexpected change of heart in Washington.
Sihanouk visit was not purely political. It also had religious significance, for in Cambodia politics and religion are often the same thing. And on this journey, Sihanouk took advantage of both. The former rules is still revered, especially among the presents, as an ancient god. It is these peasants who are the backbone of the resistance forces.
His tour of the ruins of Angkor Wat, chief temple of the almost-forgotten Khmer Empire, was the last and most symbolic stage of his pilgrimage.
The historic carvings showed Sihanouk's sacred ancestors. The fact that he was able to walk up the main entrance to the temple in broad daylight -- with an enemy garrison reportedly half a mile away and a US jet fighter overhead -- proved, according to Sihanouk, not only that he had been to Cambodia, but that he was apparently able to move about the countryside with little interference from government troops and the United States Air Force.
After his visit to Angkor, Sihanouk began the long journey back through Cambodia to North Vietnam and from there to Peking. He says he plans no further visits to Cambodia within this year unless the situation changes dramatically.