The old French Embassy, Phnom Penh

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French Embassy

Phnom Penh

Located at the northern end of Monivong Blvd, the French embassy played a significant role in the dramas that unfolded after the fall of Phnom Penh on 17 April 1975. About 800 foreigners and 600 Cambodians took refuge in the embassy. Within 48 hours, the Khmer Rouge informed the French vice-consul that they did not recognise diplomatic privileges – and if the Cambodians in the compound were not handed over, the lives of the foreigners inside would also be forfeited.

Cambodian women married to foreigners could stay; Cambodian men married to foreign women could not. Foreigners wept as servants, colleagues, friends, lovers and husbands were escorted out of the embassy gates. At the end of the month, the foreigners were expelled from Cambodia by truck. Many of the Cambodians were never seen again. Today a high, whitewashed wall surrounds the massive complex, and the French have returned to Cambodia in a big way, promoting French language and culture in their former colony.

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