International Commission for Supervision and Control - Cambodia (ICSC - Cambodia)

International Operation Name:  International Commission for Supervision and Control

International Operation Dates:  1954/08/11 – 1969/12/31

Mandating Organization: Agreement on the Cessation of Hostilities in Cambodia, 21 July 1954

Region Name:  Asia

Location:  Cambodia

Canadian Operation Name: International Commission for Supervision and Control - Cambodia (ICSC - Cambodia)

Canadian Operation Dates: 1954/08/10 – 1969/12/31

Mission Mandate:

To implement the terms of the Geneva Agreement

Mission Notes:  

The two main antagonists in Cambodia were the Royal Government of Cambodia and the Khmer Issarak (Khmer Resistance Forces - KRF). After the Second World War, the Viet Minh supported the development of the KRF and its fight for Cambodian independence from France; however, these efforts were never as strong as those in southern Vietnam or those in Laos. In early 1954, the Viet Minh invaded Cambodia.

The Geneva Agreement for Cambodia required the ICSC to monitor the demobilization and reintegration of the KRF into Cambodian society before the planned elections. The Royal Cambodian Government had undertaken to allow all citizens the right to participate, without discrimination - this included the KRF. The ICSC also had to monitor the withdrawal of all foreign forces, and the release of all prisoners of war and civilian detainees. They had to ensure that no new military bases or forces are developed, and finally to monitor violations of Cambodian territory.

The reintegration process went very well in Cambodia, as did the withdrawal of all foreign forces. In fact, the Viet Minh began withdrawing from Cambodia even before the ICSC-Cambodia had begun to function, while the KRF had begun to leave their strongholds to be included in the proposed elections, either as voters or as candidates for election. South Vietnam withdrew its 2,500 troops, while French troops were gone by the end of October 1954, with the exception of a training mission and cadre that were permitted under the Geneva Agreement. There were even a small number of North Vietnamese troops who withdrew, although the Canadian members of the ICSC-Cambodia thought the numbers suspiciously small.

The inspection teams were very well received by all parties, not being subject to the harassment and problems associated with the other two ICSC organizations. After the withdrawals, most of the ICSC operations were routine, but there still remained work to be done. The demobilized KRF feared reprisals from the Cambodian authorities; however, the ICSC was able to dissipate these fears. The ICSC noted violations of Cambodian territory by North and South Vietnamese forces, as well as some from Thailand. The number of these violations gradually reduced in the first two years.

Although not part of their original mandate, ICSC-Cambodia monitored the election. The general election, held 11 September 1955, was deemed to be fair by the ICSC, although there was intimidation and some violence by the Cambodian military and police. Some KRF personnel were arrested prior to the election, the arrests being for crimes during the resistance period, for criticism of the agreement signed with the United States for Mutual Aid, and for insulting the Cambodian royal family. The ICSC recommended these KRF detainees be either released or granted leniency.

The operations of ICSC-Cambodia were not, however, without problems, as Prince Sihanouk used it as a foil to advance his own political ambitions.

The ICSC in Cambodia originally operated with five fixed teams and four mobile ones. With the success of the agreement and the election, these were reduced to four fixed and one mobile. This was further reduced in 1956 when the only remaining team was that in Phnom Penh. The main function of this team was to check for the entry of war materiel, but it was also used to investigate territorial violations and the build up of forces along the Cambodian border.

With the outbreak of open war in Vietnam, the Viet Cong began to use Cambodia as a refuge from which to launch guerrilla attacks into South Vietnam. Prince Sihanouk, the leader of Cambodia, decided not to move against these communist forces, as he sensed that they would ultimately be victorious and, given his own precarious position of power, he did not want to incur their enmity. The ICSC therefore did not conduct any inspections or investigate reports of foreign troops on Cambodian soil.

In March 1969, the United States began a secret bombing campaign against Viet Cong sanctuaries in Cambodia. As the communist infiltration increased and as Cambodia’s own communists increased in strength, Prince Sihanouk re-established diplomatic ties with the United States, broken in 1965. The US military presence in Cambodia began to build up. On 31 December 1969, ICSC Cambodia was disbanded at the request of Prince Sihanouk.

The maximum number of Canadian Forces personnel in Cambodia was 32, in 1954; this was reduced to 23 in 1955, after the elections, and gradually to six by 1960. This reflected the reduced tensions in the country. Canada had suggested in April 1956 that the ICSC could be dissolved; however, the Cambodian government requested that the ICSC maintain a presence in the country, mainly because of Cambodian fears of South Vietnamese and Thai border problems.


Page details

Date modified: