1 April 2012

1983 SE Asia Peace Forum, Phnom Penh

On 25th February 1984 Cambodia put into circulation a set of three stamps to commemorate the International Forum on Peace in Southeast Asia.

The forum was held a year ago on 25th and 26th February 1983. Information about it is rare and so the stamp issue does not catch much attention from collectors. The only English language publication on the forum is by the Information Centre of the World Peace Council in Finland, titled "For Peace in Southeast Asia".

According to the publication, the two day event in Phnom Penh was convened by the World Peace Council (WPC) in cooperation with the Kampuchean Committee of Peace and Defence. The Soviet backed council had mindset of a world divided into the non-aggressive Soviet group and the war-minded imperialistic group, headed by USA.

Emblem of the forum. The one shown on stamp is not official.

Romesh Chandra, president of WPC chaired the forum with around 40, mostly socialist groups worldwide participated. Chea Sim, then the Cambodian national assembly president, and Hun Sen, then vice president of Council of Ministers and foreign minister of Cambodia were among the presenters.

A shot at the forum held at Bassac Theatre.

The authority mobilized 140,000 people for a mass rally at the Phnom Penh Olympic Stadium on last day of the forum as a sign of support from "peace loving people". Basically the events were an instrument for the Soviet backed Vietnam to "confirm" achievement in national construction and defence in Cambodia, to embrace the idea that peace of Southeast Asia could only be realized by unity and unanimity of Indochina, and to condemn the "war-mongering forces" which refer to the Americans, her allies including ASEAN, China, as well as the Prince Sihanouk led Coalition Government of Democratic Kampuchea (Information Centre of the World Peace Council, 1983, p22-23). At the time Vietnam was in hostile relationship with China.

Peace forum stamp used on international mail in 1984.

It was all a part of the Cold War. In 1970s Sino-Soviet split got worse, the Soviet therefore formed a military alliance with Vietnam to hinder China's influence in Indochina. In response China and USA allied themselves after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. China and USA supported the resistance against the new Phnom Penh regime while Vietnam and the Soviet patronized it.

Just two days before the forum, a similar show was put on in Vientiane of Laos, the Summit of the Indochinese Countries. The main agenda was to promote an alliance with Vietnam in fighting against USA and China. It also strengthened the dominance of Vietnam over Laos, both in economy and politics.

Stamps issued by Vietnam in 1983 to mark the summit conference of Laos,
Cambodia and Vietnam. To justify Vietnam's influence, shamrock is used
to refer to the relationship of the three countries.

Reference: Information Centre of the World Peace Council (1983), For Peace in Southeast Asia, Helsinki: Information Centre of the World Peace Council.

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