Cambodia was made a French protectorate in 1863. A nationalist movement began in the 1930s, and anti-French feeling strengthened in 1940–41 when the French submitted to Japanese demands for bases in Cambodia. Anti-French guerrillas, active from 1945, gave the impetus to a communist-led revolution. A fragile peace was established before Cambodia gained independence in 1953 but in 1967 the Khmer Rouge took up arms to support peasants against a rice tax. Their aim was to establish a communist rice-growing dynasty, a combination of Maoism and ancient xenophobic nationalism. From 1970 hostilities extended throughout most of the country involving US and North Vietnamese forces. During 1973 direct US and North Vietnamese participation came to an end, leaving a civil war which continued with large-scale fighting between the Khmer Republic, supported by US arms, and the United National Cambodian Front including ‘Khmer Rouge’ communists, supported by North Vietnam and China. After unsuccessful attempts to capture Phnom Penh in 1973 and 1974, the Khmer Rouge defeated the American backed leader Lon Nol in April 1975, when the remnants of the republican forces surrendered the city.
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