Cambodia is a state located in Southeast Asia that has a population of more than fifteen million, with most of the people living in the Southern regions. Ninety percent of the population is ethnic Khmer, and the rest are mainly ethnic Vietnamese and Chinese. The religion that is most practiced in Cambodia is Buddhism, with ninety-five of the population as Theravada Buddhists. Khmer, the main and official language spoken in Cambodia, is spoken by thirteen million people, and it is the second most widely spoken Austro-Asiatic language.
Khmer Rouge, also known as the Communist Party of Kampuchea, took control of Cambodia and made it into the state of Democratic Kampuchea from 1975 until 1979. The Khmer Rouge was formed as a communist movement because of the struggle against French colonization in the 1940s and was also influenced by the Vietnamese. Pol Pot, the leader of the Khmer Rouge, was born in Cambodia as Solath Sar. While he was in France, he became a member of the French Communist Party. In 1953, he returned to Cambodia to join a secret communist movement and became an infamous dictator.
It all started when Cambodia gained independence from France in 1953. Prince Norodom Sihanouk became a monarchy ruler of Cambodia for sixteen years. He ended a U.S run aid program in 1963 and broke off the relations between Cambodia and the U.S. in 1965. In 1970, Prince Sihanouk was deposed by a military coup, and Lieutenant-General Lon Nol became the president of the Khmer Republic. Prince Sihanouk and his followers then joined forces with the Khmer Rouge and attacked Lon Nol’s army. With the assistance of the Vietnamese, the Khmer Rouge began defeating Lon Nol’s forces, but the Vietnamese withdrew by the end of 1972 and left the rest of the war responsibilities up to the Khmer Rouge.
In 1973, the Khmer Republic obtained help from the United States and dropped about five hundred thousand tons of bombs on Cambodia. By early 1973, about eighty-five percent of the Cambodian population had sided with the Khmer Rouge, so the Lon Nol army had to get assistance from the United States to continue fighting the Khmer Rouge. April 17, 1975, marked the end of the civil war and the start of the Communist state of Cambodia.
The Cambodian Genocide was a conflict that took place from 1975 until 1979 between The Khmer Rouge and the citizens of Cambodia. The Khmer Rouge played the role of the perpetrators, with the Cambodian Citizens as the victims. The United States also took part in the Genocide, supporting the Khmer Rouge, while the Vietnamese’s presence assisted the United States in playing a role in this Genocide.
The Khmer Rouge took control and reconstructed Cambodia to follow the Maoist Communist model. They wanted to transform Cambodia into a classless society in which normal education, private property, foreign clothing styles, religious practices, and traditional Khmer culture were taken away, and money was abolished. Places such as shops, schools, and churches were shut down or turned into prisons and re-education camps. People had to wear black costumes as their traditional revolutionary clothes. They were also restricted from conversing with others and could be arrested or executed for being accused of being enemies. Showing any sign of affection was a forbidden act because the Khmer Rouge wanted all Cambodians to obey and respect Angkar Padevat, the leaders of the Khmer Rouge, and no one else.
The citizens of Cambodia were forced to work as laborers in a huge federation of collective farms, and if anyone were to refuse, they would be eliminated. The town and city people were threatened to leave regardless of age or physical condition and were killed if they did not leave fast enough or at all. The Children were forced to separate from their parents and were placed in labor camps.
The Khmer Rouge claimed that people needed to be pure in order to take part in the revolution, so they arrested and killed thousands of innocent beings. They eliminated all lawyers, doctors, teachers, and other professionals, including their extended families or anyone that could potentially reorganize Cambodia. They also eliminated minorities such as the Chinese and the Vietnamese. Their own soldiers and party members were also removed if they were accused of being traitors. Only twelve out of fourteen thousand prisoners survived in the most important prison in Cambodia.
January 7, 1979, was the start of the downfall of the Khmer Rouge, in which Phnom Penh fell and Pol Pot was overthrown. The Vietnamese installed a puppet government in Cambodia consisting of Khmer Rouge defectors. Pol Pot did not surrender yet. Instead, he retreated to Thailand with the remaining of his Khmer Rouge army and started a guerrilla war against a succession of Cambodian governments lasting over the next seventeen years. Pol Pot lost control of the Khmer Rouge in the 1990s when all of its leaders were arrested, died, or left.
From most victims’ perspectives, the Khmer Rouge is a group that they resent very much because they murdered and hurt their family members. However, this one journalist named Thet Sambath lost most of his family during the Cambodian Genocide, but he has no intention of revenge. However, he did want to find out the truth behind all of this, and so he met Nuon Chea, number two within the Khmer Rouge regime. Ever since he was young, he was curious about why his parents and other people died during those years. One day he was introduced to Nuon Chea and became friends with him for four years before Nuon Chea gave Sambath his trust and told him the truth behind everything. Sambath finally understood how and why his regime turned to kill and what happened to his country when he was a child. Sambath hopes that it will enable other victims of the regime to face the future as he did. On the other hand, Nuon Chea told Sambath that he would not dare to kill if they were not drunk on wine. Now that he looks back to those days, he is sincerely sorry to all those who were killed. Nuon Chea is also very secretive when he is around Sambath at the beginning because he does not know if he can trust him.
Socially, the perpetrators would remove people who would contest their power, and people were killed for being educated. The Khmer Rouge caused many families to separate or lose members, making the citizens of Cambodia very unhappy. They were also forced to do many things and obey the leaders unless they wanted to be executed. Perpetrators would also take away people’s properties, such as homes and territories. Economically, the perpetrators can benefit from the victims’ labor, and so they put the victims to work for prior ideological and expressive reasons. Basically, they only gain and not lose from treating the Cambodian citizens poorly. Politically, the perpetrators used their power to harm and kill people who would contest their power. They often destroy and expel people because they bear despised cultural ideas.
Personally, I believe the Khmer Rouge should’ve been removed at the start before anyone got murdered. It seemed very unfair to those who had lost their parents, friends, and family because of the Genocide. If anyone had helped the Cambodian citizens, this Genocide would not have existed.
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