There were approximately 2 million people who died at the hands of the Khmer Rouge government in the Cambodian Genocide 1975 through 1979. These were killed under the command of Pol Pot and his party of Stalinist-Marxist, Maoist Communist party followers through overwork, starvation, executions, massacres, and torture. An atrocity of this size has never happened before or since this occurrence and should be seen as a devastation that will and should never happen ever again.
Many of those that inhabit Cambodia are not actually of Cambodian descent, “Since the dawn of recorded Cambodian history some twenty centuries ago, Cambodians have inhabited, without great geographic alteration, a large area of mainland Southeast Asia, a region they have long shared with the more numerous Vietnamese, Malay, and Thai peoples, as well as Laotians.” (Pg. 122). Often the country was not ruled by Cambodians but by those who were of a different descent, “From the 1600s into the middle of the 1800s —a period sometimes called Cambodia’s ‘dark ages’—most of Cambodia was at the mercy of are powerful Buddhist Thai (or Siamese) and Confucian Buddhist Vietnamese, both of which seized territory from their weaker neighbor and installed pliable rulers on its throne.” (Pg. 122). During this time the Cambodians did attempt to rebel against their oppressors, “Cambodians occasionally carried out anti- Vietnamese massacres, setting precedents for the 1970s genocide, when the ethnic Vietnamese population remaining in the country was killed in its entirety.” (Pg. 122-23).
One of the Cambodian kings and his successor, King Duang (also known as Ang Duong) and King Norodom, were both very friendly in their relationships with France unfortunately, “This opened the door, however, for France to impose a protectorate in 1863. For the next two decades or so Cambodia remained monarchy, but in its government was run by young French naval officers.” (Pg. 123). The French exploited the Cambodian’s resources causing a rebellion by the Cambodians in 1885 to 1888 which only caused the french government to tighten their reign on the Cambodians. The French then decided to unite all of the Asian colonies under its rule into one federation, “In the 1890s, France created a federation of colonies called French Indochina, which included Cambodia, as well as Vietnam and Laos. Although the Khmer peasantry was heavily burdened by taxes, the French administration made little pretense of funding education, health care, or infrastructure development in Cambodia.” (Pg. 124). Later the Japanese attempted to take Indochina from the French but failed, “In the final months of World War II, Japan attempted with short-lived success to take control of Indochina, but after Japan’s defeat in August 1945 France reasserted its control.” (Pg. 124)
Shortly after this the formation of a communist party began and they began to rise to power, “In 1951, the Vietnamese Workers Party (i.e., Communist Party) and its anti-French Khmer allies set up the ‘People’s Revolutionary Party of Kampuchea’ (PRPK). In its first years the party was led by Khmer Buddhist monks as well as Vietnamese Communists: two groups in which membership would later be very dangerous.” (Pg. 126). Later in 1960 when it truly began to gain power the party changed its name to the Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK) but represented themselves as the Khmer Rouge. This name for the party, Khmer Rouge, was very confusing to much of the peasantry that followed it and the party because they did not know what the name of the party really was and so the leaders kept it this way by adopting names and guises because they believed that the peasantry should not be able to know its true name and character. It took several years for the party to finally reveal its true nature to the peasantry, “It was only after nearly two and a half years in power that the party proclaimedist name (the CPK) and the name (actually a pseudonym) of its secretary, or top leader, Pol Pot—and even after being ousted in 1979 he did not acknowledge his true identity.” (126).
Brother number 1 of the Khmer Rouge, “Saloth Sar—the future Pol Pot—was born in 1925 to a fair prosperous farming family of Khmer descent that had connections to Cambodia’s royal family.” (Pg. 126). Saw joined the communists when he was studying in France and later joined the party in Cambodia on his return, “Sar joined the French Communist Party in Paris before retiring in 1953 to his homeland, where he became active in PRPK, later known as the CPK.” (Pg. 127). He also gave himself his first pseudonym, “In 1952, he ave himself the first of several pseudonyms he would employ, and one that evinced his emerging fixation with race: ‘the Original Khmer’ (Khmaer Daem).” (Pg. 127). His communism was supposedly based on Marxism, Stalinism, and Maoism, but although he read “the big, thick works of marx….I didn’t really understand them at all.” (Pg. 133). He also used the term “bourgeois” to refer to his political enemies, and “One party document defined class as a “level of people with distinctive political tendencies.” (Pg. 134). Because of this it was in many was not truly communism, because Sar twisted it and changed it to suit himself and to use it in a way that fit the situation in Cambodia at the time.
In 1970 the power of Prince Sihanouk who ruled in Cambodia was seized and the Khmer Rouge took power, “He was taken by surprise when his army commander, Lon Nol, carried out a peaceful coup d’etat while the prince was vacationing in France in March 1970.” (Pg. 129). Shortly after this the Khmer Rouge rose up against Lon Nol’s government and began a civil war. The Khmer Rouge won this civil war and rose to power, “The KR launched its final offensive on the first day of 1975, and on April 17 KR forces swept into Phnom Penh—-which was overwhelmed with war refugees, its population tripling to more than 2 million.” This civil war was what can be termed as the official start of the genoide, “While the Cambodian government proved itself incapable of fighting the Khmer Rouge, it was capable of afflicting its own Vietnamese population. Through massacres, refugee flight, and expulsions, the number of ethnicc Vietnamese was reduced from approximately 450,000 to about 140,000 in the first year of Lon Nol’s regime.” (Pg. 132).
The first day in power the KR had mass evacuations of cities, which caused 2 million Cambodians to be pushed to the countryside within a week. The KR then collectivized every single household item in the country and launched an attack on the family as a unit, “The attack on the family was part of the new regime’s imposition of an extensive system of forced labor, whereby most of the population—both “base people” and “new people,” although the so-called new people suffered harsher conditions—was compelled to work in the fields for 12- to16-hour shifts.” (Pg. 136). The KR targeted mostly minority groups in their killing, including the Laotians, Thai, Kola, and Cham populations living in Cambodia. The KR used what are known as “Killing Fields” based loosely on the Concentration Camps of Hitler and Stalin. One of such “Killing Fields” was a section of Cambodia known as the Eastern Zone, “In 1978, Pol Pot declared that the entire population of the Eastern Zone had ‘Khmer bodies with Vietnamese minds.’ The KR evacuated about one-third of the region’s population, leading to mass death through killings and starvation.” (Pg. 138). Another one of these is a high school turned jailhouse, “Many purge victims met their fate in the torture center Toul Sleng (also known as S-21)…….Located in Phnom Penh, the prison housed roughly 14,000 prisoners between 1975 and 1979—fewer than a dozen of whom are believed to have survived.
Between 1.7 and 2.2 million people were killed in what is now known as the Cambodian Genocide, many of whom were not even of Cambodian descent, 200,000 being of Chinese descent and between 10,000 and 20,000 being of Vietnamese descent. Nuon Chea or “Brother Number 2” was arrested in 2007 and sentenced to life in prison in 2014 and Khieu Samphan and Ieng Sary were arrested in 2010, Sary died the following year but Sampan was sentenced to life in prison. “Comrade Duch”, the director of Tuol Sleng was convicted in 2010 and sentenced to thirty-five years in prison. This catastrophic event is one that should be seen as horrific and monstrous and should be prevented from ever happening again. This was the wrong way to handle things when the government didn’t like the minorities in the country. The fuel behind this genocide was racism and prejudice and can be prevented by riding the world of these things.