Flag of the National United Front of Kampuchea (NUFK)

01 May 2018 - 15:42

When Peter Schumacher was still correspondent in Asia he visited Cambodia in 1973 and 1974 from Hong Kong where he was based. These visits resulted in stories on the war for the Dutch progressive weekly Vrij Nederland.

On one of these trips he found this flag on the street (you can still see the mud stains) and picked it up as a souvenir. Late 70s the flag was donated to Roel Burgler when he started to get more interested in Cambodian politics (finally resulting in his thesis on the Khmer Rouge) As part of the gradual transfer of his archives (Roel Burgler Papers) to IISH this same flag came to our institute as part of the last handover of materials (so far only the first batch of Roel Burgler's archive has been processed)

When Sihanouk was voted out by the National Assembly which allowed Lon Nol to take over power on April 18, 1970 Sihanouk himself was outside the country (in Moscow). He travelled on to Beijing and was convinced by the Chinese (Zhou Enlai) and Vietnamese (Pham Van Dong) to take up arms against Lon Nol (instead of trying to convince the Vietnamese - with backing from Moscow and Beijing - to pull out their troops of Cambodia, and to get the domestic situation back under control) On March 23 already the Front Uni National du Kampuchéa (FUNK) was formed, followed by the Gouvernement Royal d'Union Nationale du Kampuchéa (GRUNC) after a conference in Beijing on May 3. The NUFK/GRUNC was composed of groups loyal to Sihanouk and the Khmer Rouge, and made international recognition of the Khmer Rouge, which had been fighting against Sihanouk up to that point, possible. Also, the fact that Khieu Samphan – Deputy-Premier and Minister of Defence (and thus head of the GRUNC army, the Cambodian People's National Liberation Armed Forces) in the coalition goverment -  stayed in the so-called ‘liberated areas’ inside Cambodia, made GRUNC de facto more then just a government in exile. Once GRUNC was in power (they officially remained in power until 1976) most, if not all, of the pro-Sihanouk members were killed by the Khmer Rouge.

The flag they choose is actually the same as the flag of the Kingdom of Cambodia from 1953-1970, with Sihanouk as Head of State. The 3-tower Angkor Wat cut-out is rather crude and the detailing in the same towers much less then in the former KoC flag (for fear of loosing more detail we decided not to wash the flag) Where the flag is made, I have no idea. Somewhere in the ‘liberated areas’, in Vietnam, in China … ?

Next to individual entries for NUFK published brochures there's also the National United Front of Kampuchea (NUFK) / Royal Government of National Union of Cambodia (RGNUC) brochure collection.

IISH Collection | Flag Front Uni National du Kampuchea | Photo by IISH