The relationship between the Cambodian Peoples Party (CPP) and the Khmer Rouge is an extremely complex one, which tends to depend massively on where you sit on the political spectrum in Cambodia.
Are the Cambodian People’s Party the same as the Khmer Rouge?
Whilst the CPP and their forerunner the Kampuchean Peoples Revolutionary Party consisted of former Khmer Rouge members, they were (largely) Khmer Rouge members who dissented about the excesses of the regime and indeed defected from the Communist Party of Kampuchea.
In this respects they can be seen as moderate members (from a socialist setting) of the Khmer Rouge who in partnership with the Vietnamese helped overthrow the tyrannical regime of the Khmer Rouge.
These former members thus set up the Peoples Republic of Kampuchea, which led to the State of Cambodia and finally the current Kingdom of Cambodia.
What is the Cambodian Peoples Parties take on their relationship with the Khmer Rouge?
The Cambodian Peoples Party are currently celebrating 69 years of their existence, tracing their roots to the original Kampuchean Peoples Revolutionary Party in 1951. As opposed to the 160 formation of the Maoist/Polpotist Communist Party of Kampuchea. It cannot be denied though that all senior leaders of the CPP, including current Prime-Minister Hun Sen were members of the Khmer Rouge AKA the Communist Party of Kampuchea. You can read about the divide in the part here.
How do the CPP reason with this past?
Whilst with hindsight it is easy to look back and realize just ow crazy the Khmer Rouge were. Yet at the time nobody but the inner-circle of the Pol Pot clique knew what the KR had planned for the country. It can therefore be reasonably seen that many Khmer Rouge members, such as those of the CPP thought they were fighting more on a socialist platform similar to that of Vietnam, or Laos.
Nowadays the party positions itself more through its nationalist pedigree in helping to free the country from foreign rule, rather than its socialist roots.
What did the Khmer Rouge think of the CPP?
The Khmer Rouge fought on an ultra-wationist platform and therefore saw the liberators of Cambodia as traitors. This meant traiotors not just to the Khmer Rouge, but to Cambodia as a whole. In their mind the Peoples Republic of Kampuchea and by definition the Cambodian Peoples Party were seen as Vietnamese puppets.
What do the people think of the CPP and its relationship with the Khmer Rouge?
Again this depends largely on who you talk to. Largely people see the CPP is seen as liberators from one of the worst periods of the countries history. Although with that being said anti-Vietnamese sentiment cannot be underestimated. It was partly thi sentiment that led to the Khmer Rouge lasting so long. It should also be noted that opposition parties often use the “Vietnam” card against the CPP.
In conclusion? History is never black and white, but whatever the origins of the CPP, without them who knows how much worse things could have got?