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Eisenhower and CambodiaDiplomacy, Covert Action, and the Origins of the Second Indochina War$
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William J. Rust

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780813167428

Published to Kentucky Scholarship Online: January 2017

DOI: 10.5810/kentucky/9780813167428.001.0001

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“A Shady Matter” (1958–1959)

“A Shady Matter” (1958–1959)

(p.169) 8 “A Shady Matter” (1958–1959)
Eisenhower and Cambodia

William J. Rust

University Press of Kentucky

This chapter discusses the anti-Sihanouk plots by Dap Chhuon, Sam Sary, and Son Ngoc Thanh as well as the supporting roles played by Thailand, South Vietnam, and the United States in those plots. More than any other incident in US–Cambodian relations, the failed Dap Chhuon coup convinced Sihanouk that the United States was implacably hostile to Cambodian neutrality and to him personally. The catalyst for the failed coup was Cambodia’s diplomatic break with Thailand in 1958, which made Thai leaders more receptive to long-standing proposals from Diem for a joint effort to overthrow Sihanouk. Planning moved toward action when Sam Sary defected to South Vietnam, bringing news of Dap Chhuon’s intentions. Sihanouk learned about aspects of the plotting from the Chinese, Soviet, and French embassies in Phnom Penh. The conspicuous absence of an American warning, however, raised the disturbing possibility that the United States was behind the conspiracy. Dap Chhuon’s coup collapsed without a shot being fired, and CIA operative Victor Matsui’s contact with the rebels was particularly damaging to US relations with Sihanouk.

Keywords:   Dap Chhuon, Sam Sary, Son Ngoc Thanh, CIA, Victor Matsui, failed coup

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