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DAP CHHUON (CHUAN KEM PIKET, CHUON KEMPHETCHR, CHHUON MCHHULPICH, 1912–1959)

Prominent Cambodian warlord-patriot who ruled a fiefdom in Siemreap province before crossing over to the Associated State of Cambodia in 1949. He began his career in the Indochinese colonial army. In 1943, he held the rank of sergeant in the Garde indigène in Cambodia, serving as the accountant for his unit. In 1944, according to French sources, he deserted and made off with some 20,000 piastres for Thailand. There, he joined the Thai-backed Khmer Issarak movement located along the Thai-Cambodian border and opposed French rule in Cambodia. He took part in an attack against French forces in Siem Reap in August 1946. From this point, he also began collaborating with the forces of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV) active along the Thai-Cambodian border and became president of the DRV-backed Committee for the Liberation of the Cambodian People in 1948. Following the signing of the Franco-Cambodian accords of 1949, the French and Norodom Sihanouk intensified their efforts to win over Dap Chhuon to the Associated State of Cambodia and succeeded to some extent. In a spectacular event staged at Angkor Wat on 10 October 1949, Dap Chhuon formally pledged his allegiance to King Sihanouk. In exchange, Dap Chhuon received the command of the “autonomous military sector of Siemreap”, his longtime stomping ground. He became battalion leader and his militia was integrated with the Franco-Khmer troops. While he was tempted to join the anti-royalist activities of Son Ngoc Thanh and the Democrat Party in 1952, Dap Chhuon remained loyal to Sihanouk. In 1953, he supported Sihanouk’s royal crusade for independence and was named colonel in exchange for his fidelity. Though ambitious, Dap Chhuon was also prudent and careful. He ruled his fiefdom in the west, imposing taxes and raising troops, until the end of the Indochina War. He was one of Sihanouk’s most reliable military and political supporters. In 1954, he participated in the Geneva Conference. See also COLLABORATION; CRIME; DESERTION.