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Khmer Rouge

Pol Pot, leader of the Khmer Rouge and Prime Minister of Democratic Kampuchea, in 1978.

Khmers rouges (French for "Red Khmers"; French pronunciation: ​; Khmer: ខ្មែរក្រហម Khmer Kraham), or Khmer Rouge (), was the name given to the followers of the Communist Party of Kampuchea in Cambodia. It was formed in 1968 as an offshoot of the Vietnam People's Army from North Vietnam. It was the ruling party in Cambodia from 1975 to 1979, led by Pol Pot, Nuon Chea, Ieng Sary, Son Sen, and Khieu Samphan. Democratic Kampuchea was the name of the state as controlled by the government of the Khmer Rouge from 1975 to 1979. It allied with North Vietnam, the Viet Cong, and Pathet Lao during the Vietnam War against the anti-Communist forces.

The organization is remembered especially for orchestrating the Cambodian genocide, which resulted from the enforcement of its social engineering policies.[1] Its attempts at agricultural reform led to widespread famine, while its insistence on absolute self-sufficiency, even in the supply of medicine, led to the death of thousands from treatable diseases such as malaria. Arbitrary executions and torture carried out by its cadres against perceived subversive elements, or during purges of its own ranks between 1975 and 1978, are considered to have constituted genocide.[2]

By 1979, the Khmer Rouge had fled the country, while the [34]

Yet the experience did not prevent Khieu from advocating cooperation with Sihanouk in order to promote a united front against United States activities in South Vietnam. As mentioned, Khieu Samphan, Hou Yuon, and Hu Nim were forced to "work through the system" by joining the Sangkum and by accepting posts in the prince's government.[20]

In late September 1960, twenty-one leaders of the KPRP held a secret congress in a vacant room of the Phnom Penh railroad station. This pivotal event remains shrouded in mystery because its outcome has become an object of contention (and considerable historical rewriting) between pro-Vietnamese and anti-Vietnamese Khmer communist factions.[20]

The question of cooperation with, or resistance to, Sihanouk was thoroughly discussed. Tou Samouth, who advocated a policy of cooperation, was elected general secretary of the KPRP that was renamed the Workers' Party of Kampuchea (WPK). His ally, Nuon Chea (also known as Long Reth), became deputy general secretary; however, Pol Pot and Ieng Sary were named to the Political Bureau to occupy the third and the fifth highest positions in the renamed party's hierarchy. The name change is significant. By calling itself a workers' party, the Cambodian movement claimed equal status with the Vietnam Workers' Party. The pro-Vietnamese regime of the People's Republic of Kampuchea (PRK) implied in the 1980s that the September 1960 meeting was nothing more than the second congress of the KPRP.[20]

On July 20, 1962, Tou Samouth was murdered by the Cambodian government. In February 1963, at the WPK's second congress, Pol Pot was chosen to succeed Tou Samouth as the party's general secretary. Tou's allies, Nuon Chea and Keo Meas, were removed from the Central Committee and replaced by Son Sen and Vorn Vet. From then on, Pol Pot and loyal comrades from his Paris student days controlled the party centre, edging out older veterans whom they considered excessively pro-Vietnamese.[35]

In July 1963, Pol Pot and most of the central committee left Phnom Penh to establish an insurgent base in Ratanakiri Province in the northeast. Pol Pot had shortly before been put on a list of 34 leftists who were summoned by Sihanouk to join the government and sign statements saying Sihanouk was the only possible leader for the country. Pol Pot and Chou Chet were the only people on the list who escaped. All the others agreed to cooperate with the government and were afterward under 24-hour watch by the police.[30]

Sihanouk and the GRUNK

The region where Pol Pot and the others moved to was inhabited by tribal minorities, the Khmer Loeu, whose rough treatment (including resettlement and forced assimilation) at the hands of the central government made them willing recruits for a guerrilla struggle. In 1965, Pol Pot made a visit of several months to North Vietnam and China.[30]

Pol Pot received some training in China, which had enhanced his prestige when he returned to the WPK's "liberated areas". Despite friendly relations between Norodom Sihanouk and the Chinese, the latter kept Pol Pot's visit a secret from Sihanouk. In September 1966, the party changed its name to the Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK).

The change in the name of the party was a closely guarded secret. Lower ranking members of the party and even the Vietnamese were not told of it and neither was the membership until many years later. The party leadership endorsed armed struggle against the government, then led by Sihanouk. In 1967, several small-scale attempts at insurgency were made by the CPK but they had little success.

In 1968, the Khmer Rouge was officially formed and its forces launched a national insurgency across Cambodia (see also Cambodian Civil War). Though North Vietnam had not been informed of the decision, its forces provided shelter and weapons to the Khmer Rouge after the insurgency started. Vietnamese support for the insurgency made it impossible for the Cambodian military to effectively counter it. For the next two years the insurgency grew as Sihanouk did very little to stop it. As the insurgency grew stronger, the party finally openly declared itself to be the Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK).[30]

The political appeal of the Khmer Rouge was increased as a result of the situation created by the removal of Sihanouk as head of state in 1970. Premier Lon Nol, with the support of the National Assembly, deposed Sihanouk. Sihanouk, in exile in Beijing, made an alliance with the Khmer Rouge and became the nominal head of a Khmer Rouge-dominated government-in-exile (known by its French acronym, GRUNK) backed by the People's Republic of China. The Nixon administration, although thoroughly aware of the weakness of Lon Nol's forces and loath to commit American military force to the new conflict in any form other than air power, announced its support of the newly proclaimed Khmer Republic.[36]

On 29 March 1970, the North Vietnamese launched an offensive against the Cambodian army with documents uncovered from the Soviet archives revealing that the invasion was launched at the explicit request of the Khmer Rouge following negotiations with Nuon Chea.[37] A force of North Vietnamese quickly overran large parts of eastern Cambodia reaching to within 15 miles (24 km) of Phnom Penh before being pushed back. By June, three months after the removal of Sihanouk, they had swept government forces from the entire northeastern third of the country. After defeating those forces, the North Vietnamese turned the newly won territories over to the local insurgents. The Khmer Rouge also established "liberated" areas in the south and the southwestern parts of the country, where they operated independently of the North Vietnamese.[38]

After Sihanouk showed his support for the Khmer Rouge by visiting them in the field, their ranks swelled from 6,000 to 50,000 fighters. Many of the new recruits for the Khmer Rouge were apolitical peasants who fought in support of the King, not for communism, of which they had little understanding.[39] Sihanouk's popular support in rural Cambodia allowed the Khmer Rouge to extend its power and influence to the point that by 1973 it exercised de facto control over the majority of Cambodian territory, although only a minority of its population. Many people in Cambodia who helped the Khmer Rouge against the Lon Nol government thought they were fighting for the restoration of Sihanouk.

By 1975, with the Lon Nol government running out of ammunition, it was clear that it was only a matter of time before the government would collapse. On April 17, 1975 the Khmer Rouge captured Phnom Penh. During the war, the Khmer Rouge caused several times more civilian casualties than the entire U.S. bombing of Cambodia.[40]

Foreign involvement

The relationship between the massive carpet bombing of Cambodia by the United States and the growth of the Khmer Rouge, in terms of recruitment and popular support, has been a matter of interest to historians. Some historians have cited the U.S. intervention and bombing campaign (spanning 1965–1973) as a significant factor leading to increased support of the Khmer Rouge among the Cambodian peasantry.[41] However, Pol Pot biographer David P. Chandler argues that the bombing "had the effect the Americans wanted – it broke the Communist encirclement of Phnom Penh".[42][43] Peter Rodman and Michael Lind claimed that the US intervention saved Cambodia from collapse in 1970 and 1973.[44][45] Craig Etcheson agreed that it was "untenable" to assert that US intervention caused the Khmer Rouge victory while acknowledging that it may have played a small role in boosting recruitment for the insurgents.[46] William Shawcross, however, wrote that the US bombing and ground incursion plunged Cambodia into the chaos that Sihanouk had worked for years to avoid.[47]

The North Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia, launched at the request of the Khmer Rouge,[48] has also been cited as a major factor in their eventual victory, including by Shawcross.[49] Communist Vietnam later admitted that it played "a decisive role" in their seizure of power.[50] China "armed and trained" the Khmer Rouge during the civil war and continued to aid them for years afterward.[51]

The UN sided with the CGDK, which included the Khmer Rouge, against the Vietnamese-backed People's Republic of Kampuchea.

The regime


The leadership of the Khmer Rouge remained largely unchanged from the 1960s to the mid-1990s. The leaders were mostly from middle-class families and had been educated at French universities.

The Standing Committee of the Khmer Rouge's Central Committee during its period of power consisted of:

  • Pol Pot (Saloth Sar) (died 1998), "Brother number 1", General Secretary from 1963 until his death, effectively the leader of the movement
  • Nuon Chea (Long Bunruot), "Brother number 2", Prime Minister, arrested in 2007, high status made him Pol Pot's "righthand man", sentenced to life in prison on 7 Aug 2014
  • Ieng Sary (Pol Pot's brother-in-law) (died in custody awaiting trial for genocide, March 14, 2013), "Brother number 3", Deputy Prime Minister, arrested in 2007
  • Khieu Samphan, "Brother number 4", President of Democratic Kampuchea, arrested in 2007, sentenced to life in prison on 7 Aug 2014
  • Ta Mok (Chhit Chhoeun) (died July 21, 2006), "Brother number 5", Southwest Regional Secretary, final Khmer Rouge leader, died in custody awaiting trial for genocide
  • Son Sen (died 1997), Defense Minister, Superior of Kang Kek Iew. Assassinated on Pol Pot's orders for treason.
  • Yun Yat (died 1997)
  • Ke Pauk (died 2002), "Brother number 13", former secretary of the Northern zone
  • Ieng Thirith, arrested in 2007, sister-in-law of Pol Pot, former Social Affairs Minister, deemed unfit to stand trial due to dementia in 2012.[52]

Life under the Khmer Rouge

In power, the Khmer Rouge carried out a radical program that included isolating the country from all foreign influences, closing schools, hospitals, and factories, abolishing banking, finance, and currency, outlawing all religions, confiscating all private property and relocating people from urban areas to collective farms where forced labour was widespread. The purpose of this policy was to turn Cambodians into "Old People" through agricultural labour.[30]

In Phnom Penh and other cities, the Khmer Rouge told residents that they would be moved only about "two or three kilometers" outside the city and would return in "two or three days". Some witnesses say they were told that the evacuation was because of the "threat of American bombing" and that they did not have to lock their houses since the Khmer Rouge would "take care of everything" until they returned. People who refused to evacuate would have their homes burned to the ground and would be killed immediately. The evacuees were sent on long marches to the countryside, which killed thousands of children, elderly people, and sick people.[53] These were not the first evacuations of civilian populations by the Khmer Rouge; similar evacuations of populations without possessions had been occurring on a smaller scale since the early 1970s.[53]

The Khmer Rouge attempted to turn Cambodia into a classless society by depopulating cities and forcing the urban population ("New People") into agricultural communes. The entire population was forced to become farmers in labour camps. Cambodians were expected to produce three tons of rice per hectare; before the Khmer Rouge era, the average was only one ton per hectare. The total lack of agricultural knowledge by the former city dwellers made famine inevitable. Rural dwellers were often unsympathetic or too frightened to assist them. Such acts as picking wild fruit or berries was seen as "private enterprise" and punished by death. The Khmer Rouge forced people to work for 12 hours non-stop, without adequate rest or food. These actions resulted in massive deaths through executions, work exhaustion, illness, and starvation. They did not believe in western medicine but turned to traditional medicine instead; because of the famine, forced labour, and the lack of access to appropriate services there was a high number of human losses.[53]

Money was abolished, books were burned, teachers, merchants, and almost the entire intellectual elite of the country were murdered to make the agricultural communism, as Pol Pot envisioned it, a reality. The planned relocation to the countryside resulted in the complete halting of almost all economic activity: even schools and hospitals were closed, as well as banks, and even industrial and service companies. Banks were raided and all currency and records were destroyed by fire thus eliminating any claim to funds.[54]

Rooms of the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum contain thousands of photos taken by the Khmer Rouge of their victims.

During their four years in power, the Khmer Rouge overworked and starved the population, at the same time executing selected groups who they believed were enemies of the state or spies or had the potential to undermine the new state. People who they perceived as intellectuals or even those who had stereotypical signs of learning, such as glasses, would also be killed. People would also be executed for attempting to escape from the communes or for breaching minor rules. If caught, offenders were taken quietly off to a distant forest or field after sunset and killed.[55]

All religion was banned by the Khmer Rouge. Any people seen taking part in religious rituals or services would be executed. Several Buddhists, Muslims, and Christians were killed for exercising their beliefs.[56] Family relationships not sanctioned by the state were also banned, and family members could be put to death for communicating with each other. Married couples were only allowed to visit each other on a limited basis. If people were seen being engaged in sexual activity, they would be killed immediately. Almost all freedom to travel was abolished. Almost all privacy was eliminated during the Khmer Rouge era. People were not allowed to eat in privacy; instead, they were required to eat with everyone in the commune. All personal utensils were banned, and people were given only one spoon to eat with. In any case, family members were often relocated to different parts of the country with all postal and telephone services abolished.[53][56]

Language reforms

The Khmer language has a complex system of usages to define speakers' rank and social status. During the rule of the Khmer Rouge, these usages were abolished. People were encouraged to call each other "friend" or "comrade" (មិត្ត; mitt), and to avoid traditional signs of deference such as bowing or folding the hands in salutation, known as samphea.[30]

Language was also transformed in other ways. The Khmer Rouge invented new terms. People were told to "forge" (lot dam) a new revolutionary character, that they were the "instruments" (ឧបករណ៍; opokar) of the ruling body known as "chheu satek arom, or "memory sickness") could result in execution. Also, rural terms like Mae (ម៉ែ; mother) replaced urban terms like Mak (ម៉ាក់; mother).

Many Cambodians crossed the border into Thailand to seek asylum. From there, they were transported to refugee camps such as Sa Kaeo or Khao-I-Dang, the only camp allowing resettlement in countries such as the United States, France, Canada, and Australia. In some refugee camps, such as Site 8, Phnom Chat, or Ta Prik, the Khmer Rouge cadres controlled food distribution and restricted the activities of international aid agencies.[57]

Crimes against humanity

Skulls of Khmer Rouge victims.
Remains of victims of the Khmer Rouge in the Kampong Trach Cave, Kiry Seila Hills, Rung Tik (Water Cave), or Rung Khmao (Dead Cave).

The Khmer Rouge government arrested, tortured, and eventually executed anyone suspected of belonging to several categories of supposed "enemies",[30] including:

  • Anyone with connections to the former Cambodian government or with foreign governments.
  • Professionals and intellectuals – in practice this included almost everyone with an education, people who understood a foreign language and even people who required glasses (which, according to the regime, meant that they spent too much time reading books instead of working). Ironically, Pol Pot himself was an educated man with a taste for French literature and spoke fluent French. Many artists, including musicians, writers, and filmmakers were executed. Some like Ros Serey Sothea, Pan Ron, and Sinn Sisamouth gained posthumous fame for their talents and are still popular with Khmers today.
  • Ethnic Vietnamese, ethnic Chinese, ethnic Thai, and other minorities in the Eastern Highlands, Cambodian Christians (most of whom were Catholic, and the Catholic Church in general), Muslims, and the Buddhist monks. The Roman Catholic cathedral of Phnom Penh was razed. The Khmer Rouge forced Muslims to eat pork, which they regard as forbidden (ḥarām). Many of those who refused were killed. Christian clergy and Muslim imams were executed.
  • "Economic saboteurs" – many former urban dwellers were deemed guilty of sabotage due to their lack of agricultural ability.

Those who were convicted of treason were taken to a top-secret prison called S-21. The prisoners were rarely given food, and as a result, many people died of starvation. Others died from the severe physical mutilation that was caused by torture.[58]

Examples of the Khmer Rouge torture methods can be seen at the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. The museum occupies the former grounds of a high school turned prison camp that was operated by Khang Khek Ieu, more commonly known as "Comrade Duch", together with his subordinates Mam Nai and Tang Sin Hean. Some 17,000 people passed through this centre before they were taken to sites (also known as The Killing Fields), outside Phnom Penh such as Choeung Ek where most were executed (mainly with pickaxes to save bullets) and buried in mass graves. Of the thousands who entered the Tuol Sleng Centre (also known as S-21), only twelve are known to have survived. These survivors are thought to have been kept alive due to their skills, judged by their captors to be useful.[59]

The buildings of Tuol Sleng have been preserved as they were left when the Khmer Rouge were driven out in 1979. Several of the rooms are now lined with thousands of black-and-white photographs of prisoners that were taken by the Khmer Rouge.[59]

On 7 August 2014, when announcing convictions and handing down life sentences for two former Khmer Rouge leaders, Cambodian judge Nil Nonn said there were evidences of "a widespread and systematic attack against the civilian population of Cambodia." He said the leaders, Nuon Chea, the regime's chief ideologue and former deputy to late leader Pol Pot, and Khieu Samphan, the former head of state, together in a "joint criminal enterprise" were involved in murder, extermination, political persecution and other inhumane acts related to the mass eviction of city-dwellers, and executions of enemy soldiers.[60]

Number of deaths

Modern research has located 20,000 mass graves from the Khmer Rouge era all over Cambodia. Various studies have estimated the death toll at between 740,000 and 3,000,000, most commonly between 1.4 million and 2.2 million, with perhaps half of those deaths being due to executions, and the rest from starvation and disease.[61]

The U.S. State Department-funded Cambodian Genocide Program at Yale University estimates the number of deaths at approximately 1.7 million (21% of the population of the country).[62] R. J. Rummel, an analyst of historical political killings, gives a figure of 2 million.[63] A UN investigation reported 2–3 million dead, while UNICEF estimates that 3 million had been killed.[64] Demographic analysis by Patrick Heuveline suggests that between 1.17 and 3.42 million Cambodians were killed,[65] while Marek Sliwinski estimates that 1.8 million is a conservative figure.[40] Researcher Craig Etcheson of the Documentation Center of Cambodia suggests that the death toll was between 2 and 2.5 million, with a "most likely" figure of 2.2 million. After five years of researching grave sites, he concluded that "these mass graves contain the remains of 1,386,734 victims of execution".[61]

An additional 650,000 Cambodians starved to death between 1979 and 1980, largely as a result of the after-effects of Khmer Rouge policy.[66]


Photo images of the Ba Chúc massacre at a Vietnamese museum. The massacre was one of the events that prompted the 1978 Vietnamese invasion of Kampuchea.

On April 18, 1978, Pol Pot, fearing a Vietnamese attack, ordered a pre-emptive invasion of Vietnam. His Cambodian forces crossed the border and looted nearby villages, mostly in the border town of Ba Chúc. Of the 3,157 civilians who had lived in Ba Chúc,[67] only two survived the massacre. These Cambodian forces were repelled by the Vietnamese.[68]

By December 1978, due to several years of border conflict and the flood of

  • Documentation Center of Cambodia Accessed February 6, 2005
  • Chigas, George (2000). "Building a Case Against the Khmer Rouge: Evidence from the Tuol Sleng and Santebal Archives". Harvard Asia Quarterly 4 (1): 44–49. 


  • Khmer Rouge and the Cambodian Genocide from the Dean Peter Krogh Foreign Affairs Digital Archives
  • Yale University: Cambodian Genocide Program
  • Digital Archive of Cambodian Holocaust Survivors
  • PBS Frontline/World: Pol Pot's Shadow
  • Survivor of the killing fields describes her experience, from the Deacon of death
  • Cambodia Tales: Khmer Rouge torture and killing paintings
  • Khmer Rouge Tribunal Updates from Genocide Watch
  • Genocide of Cham Muslims
  • A Search For Justice by the Women Forced to Marry Strangers
  • State Violence in Democratic Kampuchea (1975-1979) and Retribution (1979-2004)


  • Cambodia Tribunal Monitor, a consortium of academic, philanthropic, and non-profit organizations, provides free access to videos of the proceedings, relevant news and statements, as well as an overview of each case.
  • Cambodian Genocide Program (CGP) at Yale University offers a comprehensive set of resources on the Khmer Rouge and the tribunal including news updates, photographs, databases, literature, maps, overview of US involvement in the Cambodian war and genocide, and links to other organizations.
  • Cambodian Genocide Project by Genocide Watch updates the development of the tribunal on the website.

Other online sources

  • The Khmer Rouge Trial Task Force
  • Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC)
  • The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Cambodia
  • Selected Documents of the Khmer Rouge
  • Cambodia Tribunal Monitor
  • Khmer Rouge S21 art exhibition at Tuol Sleng Jan 26, 2011 – Apr 26, 2011 by Peter Klashorst

External links

  • Affonço, Denise. To the End of Hell: One Woman's Struggle to Survive Cambodia's Khmer Rouge. London: Reportage Press, 2007.
  • Becker, Elizabeth. When the War Was Over: Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge Revolution. New York: PublicAffairs, 1998.
  • Bizot, Francois. The Gate. New York: Knopf, 2003.
  • Bultmann, Daniel. "Irrigating a Socialist Utopia: Disciplinary Space and Population Control under the Khmer Rouge, 1975–1979," Transcience, vol. 3, no. 1 (2012), pp. 40–52.
  • Chanda, Nayan, Brother Enemy: The War After the War. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1986.
  • Chandler, David P.: A History of Cambodia. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1983. ISBN 0-8133-3511-6.
  • Chandler, David P. Brother Number One: A Political Biography of Pol Pot. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1992. ISBN 0-8133-3510-8
  • Criddle, JoAn D. To Destroy You Is No Loss: The Odyssey of a Cambodian Family. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1987. ISBN 978-0-9632205-1-6
  • Him, Chanrithy. When Broken Glass Floats: Growing up under the Khmer Rouge, A Memoir. New York: W.W. Norton, 2000.
  • Kiernan, Ben. The Pol Pot Regime: Race, Power, and Genocide in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge, 1975–79. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1996. ISBN 0-300-09649-6.
  • Kiernan, Ben. How Pol Pot Came to Power: Colonialism, Nationalism, and Communism in Cambodia, 1930–1975. 2nd ed. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004. ISBN 0-300-10262-3.
  • Ngor, Haing. A Cambodian Odyssey. New York: Macmillan, 1987.
  • Nhem, Boraden. Khmer Rouge: Ideology, Militarism, and the Revolution that Consumed a Generation Praeger, 2013. ISBN 978-0-313-39337-2.
  • Pran, Dith (Comp.). Children of Cambodia's Killing Fields: Memoirs by Survivors. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1997.
  • Panh, Rithy with Bataille, Christopher. The Elimination: a Survivor of the Khmer Rouge Confronts his Past. Clerkenwell, 2013. A dispassionate interview and analysis of "Duch", who was head of security for the Khmer regime. Written by a surviving victim.
  • Shawcross, William. Sideshow: Kissinger, Nixon, and the Destruction of Cambodia. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1979.
  • Swain, Jon. River of Time. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1997. ISBN 0-425-16805-0.
  • Ung, Loung. First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers. New York: HarperCollins, 2000. ISBN 0-06-093138-8
  • Olivier Weber, Les Impunis, Un voyage dans la banalité du mal (Robert Laffont, 2013)

Further reading

  1. ^ a b McLellan, Janet (April 1, 1999). "5". Many Petals of the Lotus: Five Asian Buddhist Communities in Toronto (1st ed.). University of Toronto Press. p. 137.  
  2. ^ Ratner, Steven R.; Abrams, Jason S. (April 5, 2001). Accountability for Human Rights Atrocities in International Law: Beyond the Nuremberg Legacy (2nd ed.). OUP Oxford. p. 272.  
  3. ^ "Introduction ::Cambodia". 
  4. ^ "Cambodia profile". BBC News. January 17, 2012. 
  5. ^ "No Redemption - The Failing Khmer Rouge Trial By Allan Yang". Harvard International Review. 2008. 
  6. ^ Ewald, Uwe (December 7, 2006). K. Turkovic, ed. Large-scale Victimisation as a Potential Source of Terrorist Activities (Illustrated ed.). IOS Press. p. 208.  
  7. ^ a b c Scheffer, David; Chhang, Youk. "Historical Overview of the Khmer Rouge". Cambodia Tribunal Monitor. Retrieved 2011-12-20. 
  8. ^ Seng Kok Ung and Thomas McElroy (2011). I survived the killing fields a true life story of a Cambodian refugee Activities. S&T Publishing Seattle. p. 23.  
  9. ^ Jackson, Karl D. (1992). Cambodia, 1975–1978: Rendezvous with Death.  
  10. ^ Crochet, Soizick (1997). Le Cambodge. Paris: Karthala.  
  11. ^ BBC News (September 27, 2011). "Timeline: Cambodia". BBC. Retrieved 2011-12-20. 
  12. ^ Kiernan, Ben (2002). Conflict in Cambodia, 1945-2002 (Critical Asian Studies ed.). Yale Taylor & Francis Group. pp. 484–485. 
  13. ^ "'"Pol Pot 'killed himself with drugs. The Guardian. 21 January 1999. Retrieved 5 August 2014. 
  14. ^ How the mighty are falling.The Economist
  15. ^ Johnman, Albert J. (1996). "The Case of Cambodia". Contemporary Genocides: Causes, Cases, Consequences. Programma Interdisciplinair Onderzoek naar Oorzaken van Mensenrechtenschendingen. p. 61. 
  16. ^ a b c Weitz, Eric D. (2005). "Racial Communism: Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge". A Century of Genocide: Utopias of Race and Nation. Princeton University Press. pp. 156–157, 162–164, 171–172. Someth May was a young Cambodian... [who] recalls... when a party cadre addressed a crowd [amidst deportation]: "As you all know, during the Lon Nol regime the Chinese were parasites on our nation. They cheated the government. They made money out of Cambodian farmers.... Now the High Revolutionary Committee wants to separate Chinese infiltrators from Cambodians, to watch the kind of tricks they get up to. The population of each village will be divided into a Chinese, a Vietnamese and a Cambodian section. So, if you are not Cambodian, stand up and leave the group. Remember that Chinese and Vietnamese look completely different from Cambodians.".... Under the new regime, the Khmer Rouge declared, "there are to be no Chams or Chinese or Vietnamese. Everybody is to join the same, single, Khmer nationality.... [There is] only one religion - Khmer religion. Similarly, a survivor recalls a cadre saying: "Now we are making revolution. Everyone becomes a Khmer." 
  17. ^ Fletcher, Dan (February 17, 2009). "The Khmer Rouge". Time. 
  18. ^ DeRouen, Karl R. (2007). "Cambodia (1970-1975 and 1979-1991". Civil Wars of the World: Major Conflicts Since World War II, Volume 1. ABC-CLIO. p. 231. 
  19. ^ a b Morris, Stephen J. (April 20, 2007). "Vietnam and Cambodian Communism". Cambodian Information Center, Source: The Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association. 
  20. ^ a b c d e f Tyner, James A. (2008). The Killing of Cambodia: Geography, Genocide and the Unmaking of Space. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. pp. 44, 51, 54–55, 60–62, 68.  
  21. ^ Chandler, 180–181
  22. ^ Young, Luke (November 22, 2013). "Cambodian Political History: Former PM Pen Sovann’s Left Perspective – Hostile to the Khmer Rouge and the Present Rulers". Centre for Research on Globalization, MONTREAL, Qc. 
  23. ^ "Politics in Cambodia". Keeping the Peace: Multidimensional UN Operations in Cambodia and El Salvador. Cambridge University Press. Aug 7, 1997. p. 31. 
  24. ^ "Norodom Sihanouk Obituary". Telegraph Media Group Limited, Telegraph UK. 15 Oct 2012. 
  25. ^ Yimsut, Ronnie (Nov 8, 2011). "Forward". Facing the Khmer Rouge: A Cambodian Journey. Rutgers University Press. p. forward XI. 
  26. ^ "Khmer Rouge History". 2013 CAMBODIA TRIBUNAL MONITOR). 2013. 
  27. ^ Bartrop, Paul R. (Jul 30, 2012). A Biographical Encyclopedia of Contemporary Genocide: Portraits of Evil and Good. ABC-CLIO. pp. Chapter on Pol Pot.  
  28. ^ "Confession of Hu Nim". The Confession of Hu Nim, aka Phoas (Arrested: April 10, 1977; Executed: July 6, 1977). April 18, 1975. 
  29. ^ "Khieu Ponnary, 83, First Wife Of Pol Pot, Cambodian Despot". New York Times. July 3, 2003. 
  30. ^ a b c d e f g h Frey, Rebecca Joyce (2009). Genocide and International Justice. Infobase Publishing. pp. 266, 267.  
  31. ^ Becker, Elizabeth (Nov 10, 1998). "The Birth of Modern Cambodia". When the War Was Over: Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge Revolution. PublicAffairs. p. 63. 
  32. ^ Becker, p. 63
  33. ^ Short, Philip (Apr 1, 2007). "Initiation to the Maquis". Pol Pot: Anatomy of a Nightmare. Macmillan. p. 95. 
  34. ^ Shawcross, William, Sideshow, Isaacs, Hardy, & Brown, pgs. 92–100, 106–112.
  35. ^ Kiernan, Ben (2004). "The Changing of the Vanguard". How Pol Pot Came to Power: Colonialism, Nationalism, and Communism in Cambodia, 1930-1975. Yale University Press. p. 241. 
  36. ^ Shawcross, pgs. 181–182 & 194. See also Isaacs, Hardy, & Brown, p. 98.
  37. ^ Dmitry Mosyakov, “The Khmer Rouge and the Vietnamese Communists: A History of Their Relations as Told in the Soviet Archives,” in Susan E. Cook, ed., Genocide in Cambodia and Rwanda (Yale Genocide Studies Program Monograph Series No. 1, 2004), p54ff. Available online at: "In April–May 1970, many North Vietnamese forces entered Cambodia in response to the call for help addressed to Vietnam not by Pol Pot, but by his deputy Nuon Chea. Nguyen Co Thach recalls: "Nuon Chea has asked for help and we have "liberated" five provinces of Cambodia in ten days."
  38. ^ Sutsakhan, Lt. Gen. Sak, The Khmer Republic at War and the Final Collapse. Washington DC: United States Army Center of Military History, 1987. p. 32
  39. ^ Dining with the Dear Leader. By Bertil Lintner – Asian Times, 2007. Retrieved August 15, 2009.
  40. ^ a b Marek Sliwinski, Le Génocide Khmer Rouge: Une Analyse Démographique (L'Harmattan, 1995).
  41. ^ Kiernan, Ben, (1989) The American Bombardment of Kampuchea 1969-1973, Vietnam Generation, 1: 1, Winter 1989, pp. 4-41
  42. ^ Chandler, David 2000, Brother Number One: A Political Biography of Pol Pot, Revised Edition, Chiang Mai, Thailand: Silkworm Books, pp. 96-7.
  43. ^ Chandler, David, (2005) Cambodia 1884-1975, in The Emergence of Modern Southeast Asia, edited by Norman Owen. University of Hawaii Press, p.369
  44. ^ Rodman, Peter, Returning to Cambodia, Brookings Institute, August 23, 2007.
  45. ^ Lind, Michael, Vietnam: The Necessary War: A Reinterpretation of America's Most Disastrous Military Conflict, Free Press, 1999.
  46. ^ Etcheson, Craig, The Rise and Demise of Democratic Kampuchea, Westview Press, 1984, p. 97
  47. ^ Shawcross, pgs. 92–100, 106–112.
  48. ^ Dmitry Mosyakov, "The Khmer Rouge and the Vietnamese Communists: A History of Their Relations as Told in the Soviet Archives," in Susan E. Cook, ed., Genocide in Cambodia and Rwanda (Yale Genocide Studies Program Monograph Series No. 1, 2004), p54ff. Available online at: "In April–May 1970, many North Vietnamese forces entered Cambodia in response to the call for help addressed to Vietnam not by Pol Pot, but by his deputy Nuon Chea. Nguyen Co Thach recalls: "Nuon Chea has asked for help and we have liberated five provinces of Cambodia in ten days.""
  49. ^ Shawcross, William and Peter Rodman,Defeat's Killing Fields, Brookings Institute, June 7, 2007.
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  53. ^ a b c d Kiernan, Ben (1997). The Pol Pot Regime: Race, Power, and Genocide in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge, 1975-79. London: Yale University Press. pp. 31–158, 251–310.  
  54. ^ Cambodiatribunal, Life in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge Regime
  55. ^ Seng Kok Ung, I survived the killing fields, pp. 22-26
  56. ^ a b Raszelenberg, P. (1999). "The Khmers Rouges and the Final Solution", History & Memory, 11(2), 62.
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  58. ^ Chandler, D. (2011). The killing fields. Retrieved from
  59. ^ a b c A History of Democratic Kampuchea (1975–1979). Documentation Center of Cambodia. p. 74.  
  60. ^ "Cambodian court sentences two former Khmer Rouge leaders to life term". The Cambodia News.Net. Retrieved 8 August 2014. 
  61. ^ a b Sharp, Bruce (April 1, 2005). "Counting Hell: The Death Toll of the Khmer Rouge Regime in Cambodia". Retrieved 2006-07-05. 
  62. ^ "Cambodian Genocide Program". Yale University. July 18, 2007. Retrieved 2010-07-27. 
  63. ^ Rummel, R. J. "Statistics of Cambodian Democide: Estimates, Calculations, And Sources". Retrieved 2010-07-27. 
  64. ^ William Shawcross, The Quality of Mercy: Cambodia, Holocaust, and Modern Conscience (Touchstone, 1985), p115-6.
  65. ^ Heuveline, Patrick (2001). "The Demographic Analysis of Mortality in Cambodia." In Forced Migration and Mortality, eds. Holly E. Reed and Charles B. Keely. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.
  66. ^ Brinkley, Joel (2011). Cambodia's Curse: The Modern History of a Troubled Land. PublicAffairs. p. 53. Human-rights groups estimated that about 650,000 more people died during the year following the fall of the Khmer Rouge. 
  67. ^ MEANWHILE : When the Khmer Rouge came to kill in Vietnam - International Herald Tribune
  68. ^ a b Morris, Stephen J. (Jan 1, 1999). Why Vietnam Invaded Cambodia: Political Culture and the Causes of War. Stanford University Press. pp. 25, 32, 93, 94, 95, 96, 97, 102, 103, 104, 107, 111, 159.  
  69. ^ Vickery, Michael (1984). Cambodia : 1975–1982. Boston:  
  70. ^ a b c "Kelvin Rowley, ''Second Life, Second Death: The Khmer Rouge After 1978''" (PDF). Retrieved 2010-07-27. 
  71. ^ Tom Fawthrop & Helen Jarvis, Getting away with genocide?, ISBN 0-86840-904-9
  72. ^ "Margaret Thatcher – Transcript for the interview with Blue Peter in 1988". June 28, 2007. Retrieved 2010-01-25. 
  73. ^ a b c d e Pilger, John. 2004. In Tell me no lies", Jonathan Cape Ltd
  74. ^ Nate Thayer, "Cambodia: Misperceptions and Peace," Washington Quarterly, Spring 1991.
  75. ^ a b CONTINUING UNREST. PBS. June 18, 1997 TRANSCRIPT
  76. ^ Dombrowski, Katja. "Dealing with the past". D+C Development and Cooperation. Retrieved 2013-08-07. 
  77. ^ Kinetz, Erika.In Cambodia, a Clash Over History of the Khmer Rouge", Washington Post, May 8, 2007.
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  79. ^ De Launey, Guy (November 10, 2009). "Textbook sheds light on Khmer Rouge era". BBC News. Retrieved 2010-05-07. 
  80. ^ Blanchard, Ben (February 17, 2009). "China defends its Khmer Rouge ties as trial opens". Reuters. 
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  82. ^ "An Introduction to The Khmer Rouge Trial". 
  83. ^ Sopheng Cheang and Luke Hunt (November 28, 2009). "Surprise plea in Khmer Rouge trial". Associated Press, via The Raleigh  
  84. ^ Richard Shears (July 27, 2010). "Daily Mail Report on Comrade Duch's sentencing". Daily Mail (UK). Retrieved 2010-07-27. 
  85. ^ Maly Leng and Samean Yun (February 3, 2012). "Duch Appeal Rejected, Gets Life". Radio Free Asia (USA). Retrieved 2012-04-26. 
  86. ^ a b Who can attend the trials?," Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia""". Retrieved 2012-04-21. 
  87. ^ Di Certo, Bridget. "KRT visits top 100,000 mark", Phnom Penh Post,Phnom Penh, 05 January 2012. Retrieved on 2012-04-21.
  88. ^ Video Archive," Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia""". Retrieved 2012-04-21. 
  89. ^ a b c d S-21 and Choeng Ek Killing Fields: Facing death," The Killing Fields Museum - Learn from Cambodia""". Retrieved 21 April 2012. 
  90. ^ Tuol Sleng Museum of Genocidal Crimes," International Center for Transitional Justice""". Retrieved 2012-04-21. 
  91. ^ a b c d e Choeung Ek, Center of Genocide Crimes," International Center for Transitional Justice""". Retrieved 22 April 2012. 
  92. ^ A History of Democratic Kampuchea 1975 - 1979
  93. ^ a b Providing Genocide Education," Documentation Center of Cambodia""". Retrieved 2012-04-22. 
  94. ^ a b Khateya. "Trials, tribulations and textbooks: Govt, DC-Cam review KR teaching", Khmer Media, 21 January 2009. Retrieved on 2012-04-23.
  95. ^ a b Youth for Peace
  96. ^ Khet, Long (2011). "Preface". In Youth for Peace. Behind the Darkness:Taking Responsibility or Acting Under Orders?. Youth for Peace. p. i. 
  97. ^ The International Center for Conciliation (ICfC)
  98. ^ a b "ICfC Fosters Open Dialogue between Victims and Cadres" (PDF), The Court Report. February 2011. Retrieved on 2012-04-23.
  99. ^ Desai, Anuradha. "Through Dialogue, Healing Pain in Eastern Cambodia", International Center for Conciliation, Field Report, March 2010. Retrieved on 2012-04-23.
  100. ^ Radio National Kampuchea (RNK)
  101. ^ a b c d e An Introduction to the Khmer Rouge Trials, p. 25. Secretariat of the Royal Government Task Force, Office of the Council of Ministers. Revised by Public Affairs Section of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, Phnom Penh. 4th edition.
  102. ^ ECCC's Weekly Radio Programme," Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia""". Retrieved 2012-04-21. 
  103. ^ a b 10 Years of Peace Activism, p. 18. Youth for Peace, Phnom Penh, April 2011
  104. ^ Facebook (updates, text, news, photographs), YouTube (videos). Flickr (photographs), and Twitter (updates and news).


See also

ECCC also uses various social media to update the development of the tribunal.[104]

International television stations such as the BBC, Al Jazeera, CNN, NHK, and Channel News Asia also cover the development of trials.[101]

  • Cambodian Television Network (CTN) (English/Khmer) maintains a special van at the court for live transmission of the proceedings.[101]
  • National Television Kampuchea (TVK) (Khmer)
  • Apsara TV (English/French/Khmer) targets viewers in Europe, Australia, and North America.[101]

All Cambodian television stations include regular coverage of the progress of the trials.[101] The following stations feature special programming:

Youth for Peace,[95] a Cambodian NGO that offers education in peace, leadership, conflict resolution, and reconciliation to Cambodian's youth, has broadcast the weekly radio program "You also have a chance" since 2009.[103] Aiming at preventing the passing on of hatred and violence to future generations, the program allows former Khmer Rouge to talk anonymously about their past experience.[103]

Radio National Kampuchea (RNK),[100] as well as private and NGO radio stations, broadcast programmes on the Khmer Rouge and trials.[101] ECCC has its own weekly radio program on RNK, which provides an opportunity for the public to interact with court officials and deepen their understanding of Cases.[102]

Media coverage

While the tribunal contributes to the memorialization process at national level, some civil society groups promote memorialization at community level. The International Center for Conciliation (ICfC)[97] began working in Cambodia in 2004 as a branch of the ICfC in Boston. ICfC launched the Justice and History Outreach (JHO) project in 2007 and has worked in villages in rural Cambodia with the goal of creating mutual understanding and empathy between victims and former members of the Khmer Rouge.[98] Following the dialogues, villagers identify their own ways of memorialization such as collecting stories to be transmitted to the younger generations or building a memorial.[99] Through the process, some villagers are beginning to accept the possibility of an alternative viewpoint to the traditional notions of evil associated with anyone who worked for the Khmer Rouge regime.[98]


Youth for Peace,[95] a Cambodian NGO that offers education in peace, leadership, conflict resolution, and reconciliation to Cambodian's youth, published a book titled "Behind the Darkness:Taking Responsibility or Acting Under Orders?" in 2011. The book is unique in that, instead of focusing on the victims as most books do, it collects the stories of former Khmer Rouge, giving insights into the functioning of the regime and approaching the question of how such a regime could take place.[96]

The Documentation Center of Cambodia (DC-Cam), an independent research institute,[59] published A History of Democratic Kampuchea 1975 - 1979,[92] the national first textbook on the Khmer Rouge history.[93] The 74-page textbook was approved by the government as a supplementary text in 2007.[94] The textbook is aiming at standardising and improving the information students receive about the Khmer Rouge years because the government-issued social studies textbook devotes eight or nine pages to the period.[94] The publication was a part of their genocide education project that includes leading the design of a national genocide studies curriculum with the Ministry of Education, training thousands of teachers and 1700 high schools on how to teach about genocide, and working with universities across Cambodia.[93]


The Choeng Ek killing fields are located about 15 kilometers outside of Phnom Penh.[91] Most of the prisoners who were held captive at S-21 were taken to the fields to be executed and deposited in one of the approximately 129 mass graves.[91] It is estimated that the graves contain the remains of over 20,000 victims.[91] After the discovery of the site in 1979, the Vietnamese transformed the site into a memorial and stored skulls and bones in an open-walled wooden memorial pavilion.[91] Eventually, these remains were showcased in the memorial's centerpiece stupa, or Buddhist shrine.[91]

The Tuol Sleng Museum of Genocide is a former high school building, which was transformed into a torture, interrogation and execution center between 1976 and 1979.[89] The Khmer Rouge called the center "S-21".[89] Of the estimated 15,000 to 30,000 prisoners,[90] only seven prisoners survived.[89] The Khmer Rouge photographed the vast majority of the inmates and left a photographic archive, which enables visitors to see almost 6,000 S-21 portraits on the walls.[89] Visitors can also learn how the inmates were tortured from the equipment and facilities exhibited in the buildings. In addition, one of the seven survivors shares his story with visitors at the museum.

Skulls displayed in the memorial tower.

The Tuol Sleng Museum of Genocide and Choeng Ek Killing Fields are two major museums to learn the history of the Khmer Rouge.


Public trial hearings in Phnom Penh are open to the people of Cambodia over the age of 18 including foreigners.[86] In order to assist people's will to participate in the public hearings, the court provides free bus transportation for groups of Cambodians who want to visit the court.[86] Since the commencement of Case 001 trial in 2009 through the end of 2011, 53,287 people have participated in the public hearings.[81] ECCC also has hosted Study Tour Program to help villagers in rural areas understand the history of the Khmer Rouge regime. The court provides free transport for them to come to visit the court and meet with court officials to learn about its work, in addition to visits to the genocide museum and the killing fields.[87] ECCC also has visited village to village to provide video screenings and school lectures to promote their understanding of the trial proceedings.[81] Furthermore, trials and transcripts are partially available with English translation on the ECCC's website.[88]

Duch appealed against his sentence, but the tactic backfired. In February 2012, Judge Kong Srim dismissed the appeal, saying that Duch's crimes were "undoubtedly among the worst in recorded human history" and deserved "the highest penalty available". He increased Duch's sentence to life imprisonment.[85]

responded indignantly: Theary Seng [84] On July 26, 2010, he was convicted and sentenced to thirty years. Many condemned the sentence as too lenient.[83] denied seeking such a verdict.French lawyer, stunned the tribunal further by issuing the trial's first call for an acquittal of his client, even after his Kar Savuth (alias Duch), head of a torture centre from which 16,000 men, women and children were sent to their deaths, surprised the court in his genocide trial on November 27, 2009 with a plea for his freedom. His Cambodian lawyer, Kaing Guek Eav After claiming to feel great remorse for his part in Khmer Rouge atrocities, [82].crimes against humanity and genocideAt present, the Khmer Rouge Case trials are taking place, with the charges accusing the Khmer Rouge regime of

The ECCC was established as a Cambodian court with international participation and assistance to bring to trial senior leaders and those most responsible for crimes committed during the Khmer Rouge regime.[81] It has been handling four cases since 2007.[81] ECCC's efforts for outreach toward both national and international audience include public trial hearings, study tours, video screenings, school lectures, and video archives on the web site.

Kang Kek Iew before the Cambodian Genocide Tribunal on July 20, 2009.

Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC)

Members of this younger generation may know of the Khmer Rouge only through word of mouth from parents and elders. In part, this is because the government does not require that educators teach children about Khmer Rouge atrocities in the schools.[77] However, Cambodia's Education Ministry started to teach Khmer Rouge history in high schools beginning in 2009.[78][79] China has defended its ties with the Khmer Rouge. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said, "[T]he government of Democratic Kampuchea had a legal seat at the United Nations, and had established broad foreign relations with more than 70 countries".[80]

Since 1990 Cambodia has gradually recovered, demographically and economically, from the Khmer Rouge regime, although the psychological scars affect many Cambodian families and émigré communities. It is noteworthy that Cambodia has a very young population and by 2003 three-quarters of Cambodians were too young to remember the Khmer Rouge era. Nonetheless, their generation is affected by the traumas of the past.[76]


On December 29, 1998, the remaining leaders of the Khmer Rouge apologized for the 1970s genocide. By 1999, most members had surrendered or been captured. In December 1999, Ta Mok and the remaining leaders surrendered, and the Khmer Rouge effectively ceased to exist. Most of the surviving Khmer Rouge leaders live in the Pailin area or are hiding in Phnom Penh.

There was a mass defection from the Khmer Rouge in 1996, when around half of its remaining soldiers (about 4,000) left. In 1997, a conflict between the two main participants in the ruling coalition caused Prince Rannaridh to seek support from some of the Khmer Rouge leaders, while refusing to have any dealings with Pol Pot.[73][75] This resulted in bloody factional fighting among the Khmer Rouge leaders, ultimately leading to Pol Pot's trial and imprisonment by the Khmer Rouge. Pol Pot died in April 1998. Khieu Samphan surrendered in December.

After a decade of inconclusive conflict, the pro-Vietnamese Cambodian government and the rebel coalition signed a treaty in 1991 calling for elections and disarmament. In 1992, however, the Khmer Rouge resumed fighting, boycotted the election and, in the following year, rejected its results. It now fought the new Cambodian coalition government which included the former Vietnamese-backed Communists (headed by Hun Sen) as well as the Khmer Rouge's former non-Communist and monarchist allies (notably Prince Rannaridh). In July 1994 a "Provisional Government of National Union and National Salvation of Cambodia" was established by Khmer Rouge authorities.

While Vietnam proposed to withdraw from Cambodia in return for a political settlement that would exclude the Khmer Rouge from power, the rebel coalition government, as well as ASEAN, China, and the US, insisted that such a condition was unacceptable.[70] Nevertheless, in 1985 Vietnam declared that it would complete the withdrawal of its forces from Cambodia by 1990 and it did so in 1989, having allowed the government that it had installed there to consolidate its rule and gain sufficient military strength.[73]

Although Pol Pot relinquished the Khmer Rouge leadership to Khieu Samphan in 1985, he continued to be the driving force behind the Khmer Rouge insurgency, giving speeches to his followers. Journalists such as Nate Thayer who spent some time with the Khmer Rouge during that period commented that, despite the international community's near-universal condemnation of the Khmer Rouge's brutal rule, a considerable number of Cambodians in Khmer Rouge-controlled areas seemed genuinely to support Pol Pot.[75]

In an attempt to broaden its support base, the Khmer Rouge formed the Patriotic and Democratic Front of the Great National Union of Kampuchea in 1979. In 1981, the Khmer Rouge went as far as to officially renounce Communism[70] and somewhat moved their ideological emphasis to nationalism and anti-Vietnamese rhetoric instead. However, some analysts argue that this change meant little in practice, because, as historian Kelvin Rowley puts it: "CPK propaganda had always relied on nationalist rather than revolutionary appeals."[73]

Photos of the victims of the Khmer Rouge.

Eastern and central Cambodia were firmly under the control of Vietnam and its Cambodian allies by 1980, while the western part of the country continued to be a battlefield throughout the 1980s and millions of landmines were sown across the countryside. The Khmer Rouge, still led by Pol Pot, was the strongest of the three rebel groups in the Coalition Government of Democratic Kampuchea which received extensive military aid from China, Britain, and the United States and intelligence from the Thai military. Britain and the United States in particular gave aid to the two non-Khmer Rouge members of the coalition.[74]

Vietnam's victory, supported by the Soviet Union, had significant ramifications for the region; the People's Republic of China launched a punitive invasion of northern Vietnam and retreated (with both sides claiming victory). China, the U.S. and the ASEAN countries sponsored the creation and the military operations of a Cambodian government-in-exile known as the Coalition Government of Democratic Kampuchea which included, besides the Khmer Rouge, republican KPNLF and royalist ANS.[73]

Ramifications of Vietnamese victory

Despite its deposal, the Khmer Rouge retained its UN seat, which was occupied by Thiounn Prasith, an old compatriot of Pol Pot and Ieng Sary from their student days in Paris, and one of the 21 attendees at the 1960 KPRP Second Congress. The seat was retained under the name "Democratic Kampuchea" until 1982, and then under the name "Coalition Government of Democratic Kampuchea". Western governments voted in favor of the Coalition Government of Democratic Kampuchea retaining Cambodia's seat in the organization over the newly installed Vietnamese-backed PRK, even though it included the Khmer Rouge. Margaret Thatcher stated: "So, you'll find that the more reasonable ones of the Khmer Rouge will have to play some part in the future government, but only a minority part. I share your utter horror that these terrible things went on in Kampuchea."[72] Sweden on the contrary changed its vote in the U.N. and withdrew its support for the Khmer Rouge after a large number of Swedish citizens wrote letters to their elected representatives demanding a policy change towards Pol Pot's regime.[73]

Its place in the UN

These Khmer Rouge bases were not self-sufficient and were funded by diamond and timber smuggling, by military assistance from China channeled by means of the Thai military, and by food smuggled from markets across the border in Thailand.[71]

At the same time, the Khmer Rouge retreated west, and it continued to control certain areas near the Thai border for the next decade. These included Phnom Malai, the mountainous areas near Pailin in the Cardamom Mountains, and Anlong Veng in the Dângrêk Mountains.[70]

[68]".puppet government, quickly dismissed by the Khmer Rouge and China as a "People's Republic of Kampuchea on January 7, 1979. Despite a traditional Cambodian fear of Vietnamese domination, defecting Khmer Rouge activists assisted the Vietnamese, and, with Vietnam's approval, became the core of the new Phnom Penh then invaded Cambodia, capturing [69] His comrades, Ieng Sary and Hou Yuon, became teachers at a new private high school, the Lycée Kambuboth, which Hou Yuon helped to establish. Khieu Samphan returned from Paris in 1959, taught as a member of the law faculty of the University of Phnom Penh, and started a left-wing, French-language publication,

After returning to Cambodia in 1953, Pol Pot threw himself into party work. At first he went to join with forces allied to the Viet Minh operating in the rural areas of Kampong Cham Province (Kompong Cham). After the end of the war, he moved to Phnom Penh under Tou Samouth's "urban committee" where he became an important point of contact between above-ground parties of the left and the underground secret communist movement.[33]

KPRP Second Congress

Path to power and reign

The major argument in Khieu Samphan's 1959 thesis, Cambodia's Economy and Industrial Development, was that the country had to become self-reliant and end its economic dependency on the developed world. In its general contours, Khieu's work reflected the influence of a branch of the "dependency theory" school, which blamed lack of development in the Third World on the economic domination of the industrialized nations.[32]

The doctoral dissertations written by Hou Yuon and Khieu Samphan express basic themes that were later to become the cornerstones of the policy adopted by Democratic Kampuchea. The central role of the peasants in national development was espoused by Hou Yuon in his 1955 thesis, The Cambodian Peasants and Their Prospects for Modernization, which challenged the conventional view that urbanization and industrialization are necessary precursors of development.[31]

Inside the KSA and its successor organizations, there was a secret organization known as the Cercle Marxiste (Marxist circle). The organization was composed of cells of three to six members with most members knowing nothing about the overall structure of the organization. In 1952 Pol Pot, Hou Yuon, Ieng Sary, and other leftists gained notoriety by sending an open letter to Sihanouk calling him the "strangler of infant democracy." A year later, the French authorities closed down the KSA. In 1956, however, Hou Yuon and Khieu Samphan helped to establish a new group, the Khmer Students Union. Inside, the group was still run by the Cercle Marxiste.[30]

[30] In 1951, the two men went to

A number turned to orthodox Marxism-Leninism. At some time between 1949 and 1951, Pol Pot and Ieng Sary joined the French Communist Party.

Two of them, Khieu Samphan and Hou Yuon, earned doctorates from the University of Paris; Hu Nim obtained his degree from the University of Phnom Penh in 1965. Most came from landowner or civil servant families. Pol Pot and Hou Yuon may have been related to the royal family. An older sister of Pol Pot had been a concubine at the court of King Monivong. Pol Pot and Ieng Sary married Khieu Ponnary and Khieu Thirith (also known as Ieng Thirith), purportedly relatives of Khieu Samphan. These two well-educated women also played a central role in the regime of Democratic Kampuchea.[29]

Jesuit priest, Father François Ponchaud, he acquired a taste for the classics of French literature as well as a taste for the writings of Karl Marx.[27] Another member of the Paris student group was Ieng Sary, a Chinese-Khmer born in 1925 in South Vietnam. He attended the elite Lycée Sisowath in Phnom Penh before beginning courses in commerce and politics at the Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Paris (more widely known as Sciences Po) in France. Khieu Samphan, considered "one of the most brilliant intellects of his generation", was born in 1931 and specialized in economics and politics during his time in Paris. In talent he was rivalled by Hou Yuon, born in 1930, who was described as being "of truly astounding physical and intellectual strength", and who studied economics and law. Son Sen, born in 1930, studied education and literature; Hu Nim, born in 1932, studied law.[28]

During the 1950s, Khmer students in Paris organized their own communist movement, which had little, if any, connection to the hard-pressed party in their homeland. From their ranks came the men and women who returned home and took command of the party apparatus during the 1960s, led an effective insurgency against Lon Nol from 1968 until 1975, and established the regime of Democratic Kampuchea.[26]

Paris student group

In 1959, Sieu Heng defected to the government and provided the security forces with information that enabled them to destroy as much as 90% of the party's rural apparatus. Although communist networks in Phnom Penh and in other towns under Tou Samouth's jurisdiction fared better, only a few hundred communists remained active in the country by 1960.[20]

Advocates of this line hoped that the prince could be persuaded to distance himself from the right wing and to adopt leftist policies. The other line, supported for the most part by rural cadres who were familiar with the harsh realities of the countryside, advocated an immediate struggle to overthrow the "feudalist" Sihanouk.[25]

During the mid-1950s, KPRP factions, the "urban committee" (headed by Tou Samouth), and the "rural committee" (headed by Sieu Heng), emerged. In very general terms, these groups espoused divergent revolutionary lines. The prevalent "urban" line, endorsed by North Vietnam, recognized that Sihanouk, by virtue of his success in winning independence from the French, was a genuine national leader whose neutralism and deep distrust of the United States made him a valuable asset in Hanoi's struggle to "liberate" South Vietnam.[24]

Members of the Pracheachon were subject to constant harassment and to arrests because the party remained outside Sihanouk's political organization, Sangkum. Government attacks prevented it from participating in the 1962 election and drove it underground. Sihanouk habitually labelled local leftists the Khmer Rouge, a term that later came to signify the party and the state headed by Pol Pot, Ieng Sary, Khieu Samphan, and their associates.[19]

In late 1954, those who stayed in Cambodia founded a legal political party, the Pracheachon Party, which participated in the 1955 and the 1958 National Assembly elections. In the September 1955 election, it won about four percent of the vote but did not secure a seat in the legislature.[23]

According to Democratic Kampuchea's version of party history, the Viet Minh's failure to negotiate a political role for the KPRP at the 1954 Geneva Conference represented a betrayal of the Cambodian movement, which still controlled large areas of the countryside and which commanded at least 5,000 armed men. Following the conference, about 1,000 members of the KPRP, including Son Ngoc Minh, made a "Long March" into North Vietnam, where they remained in exile.[20]

In 1951, the ICP was reorganized into three national units — the Khmer Krom, or ethnic Vietnamese living in Cambodia. The party's appeal to indigenous Khmers appears to have been minimal.[22]

Viet Minh units occasionally made forays into Cambodian bases during their war against the French, and, in conjunction with the leftist government that ruled Thailand until 1947, the Viet Minh encouraged the formation of armed, left-wing Khmer Issarak bands. On April 17, 1950 (25 years to the day before the Khmer Rouge captured Phnom Penh), the first nationwide congress of the Khmer Issarak groups convened, and the United Issarak Front was established. Its leader was Son Ngoc Minh, and a third of its leadership consisted of members of the ICP. According to the historian David P. Chandler, the leftist Issarak groups, aided by the Viet Minh, occupied a sixth of Cambodia's territory by 1952; and, on the eve of the Geneva Conference, they controlled as much as one half of the country.[21]

In 1930, Ho Chi Minh founded the Communist Party of Vietnam by unifying three smaller communist movements that had emerged in northern, central, and southern Vietnam during the late 1920s. The name was changed almost immediately to the Indochinese Communist Party (ICP), ostensibly to include revolutionaries from Cambodia and Laos. Almost without exception, all the earliest party members were Vietnamese. By the end of World War II, a handful of Cambodians had joined its ranks, but their influence on the Indochinese communist movement and on developments within Cambodia was negligible.[20]

The history of the communist movement in Cambodia can be divided into six phases: the emergence of the Indochinese Communist Party (ICP), whose members were almost exclusively Vietnamese, before World War II; the 10-year struggle for independence from the French, when a separate Cambodian communist party, the Kampuchean (or Khmer) People's Revolutionary Party (KPRP), was established under Vietnamese auspices; the period following the Second Party Congress of the KPRP in 1960, when Saloth Sar (Pol Pot after 1976) and other future Khmer Rouge leaders gained control of its apparatus; the revolutionary struggle from the initiation of the Khmer Rouge insurgency in 1967–68 to the fall of the Lon Nol government in April 1975; the Democratic Kampuchea regime, from April 1975 to January 1979; and the period following the Third Party Congress of the KPRP in January 1979, when Hanoi effectively assumed control over Cambodia's government and communist party.[19]

Early history


The term "Khmer Rouge", French for "Red National Army of Democratic Kampuchea.[18]

Name history

The Khmer Rouge's social policy focused on working towards a purely agrarian society. Pol Pot strongly influenced the propagation of this policy. He was reportedly impressed with how the mountain tribes of Cambodia lived, which the party interpreted as a form of primitive communism; as a result, those minorities received more lenient and sometimes even more favorable treatment than the urbanized "bourgeois" Chinese and Vietnamese.[16] Pol Pot wanted to remove social institutions and to transform the society into an agrarian one. This was his way of "[creating] a complete Communist society without wasting time on the intermediate steps" as the Khmer Rouge said to China in 1975.[17] The evacuation of the cities disproportionately affected Chinese and Vietnamese, who were not accustomed to agricultural work, segregated from Khmers in labor camps, and forbidden to speak their own language.[16]

The Khmer Rouge's ideology combined elements of Marxism with an extreme version of Khmer nationalism and xenophobia. It combined an idealization of the Angkor Empire (802–1431), with an existential fear for the existence of the Cambodian state, which had historically been liquidated under Vietnamese and Siamese intervention.[15] The spillover of Vietnamese fighters from the Vietnam War further aggravated anti-Vietnamese feeling. The Khmer Rouge explicitly targeted the Chinese, Vietnamese, and even their partially Khmer offspring for extinction; although the Cham Muslims were treated unfavorably, they were encouraged to "mix flesh and blood", to intermarry and assimilate. Some people with partial Chinese or Vietnamese ancestry were present in the Khmer Rouge leadership; they either were purged or participated in the ethnic cleansing campaigns.[16]


[14] having never been put on trial.[13] After four years of rule, the Khmer Rouge regime was removed from power in 1979 as a result of an

The movement gained strength and support in the northeastern jungles and established firm footing when Cambodia's leader Prince Sihanouk was removed from office during a military coup in 1970. The former prince then looked to the Khmer Rouge for backing, and with the threat of civil war looming, the Khmer Rouge were able to supplant the Lon Nol led Khmer Republic in most of the Cambodian countryside.[12]

Pol Pot was a key leader in the movement after he returned to Cambodia from France. He had become a member of the French Communist Party (PCF), which gave guidance to the ideas of the Khmer Rouge.[7]

One of their mottos, in reference to the New People (usually urban civilians), was: "To keep you is no benefit. To destroy you is no loss."[10] The philosophy of the Khmer Rouge had developed over time. It started as a communist party[7] that was working together and searching for direction from the Vietnamese guerrillas who were fighting their own civil war.[11]

The Khmer Rouge believed that parents were tainted with capitalism, so they separated children from their parents, indoctrinated them in communism, and taught them torture methods with animals. Children were a "dictatorial instrument of the party"[9] and were given leadership in torture and executions.[1]

The Khmer Rouge wanted to eliminate anyone suspected of "involvement in free-market activities". Suspected capitalists encompassed professionals and almost everyone with an education, many urban dwellers, and people with connections to foreign governments.[8]

After taking power, the Khmer Rouge leadership renamed the country Democratic Kampuchea. The Khmer Rouge subjected Cambodia to a radical social reform process that was aimed at creating a purely agrarian-based Communist society.[6] The Khmer Rouge forced around two million people from the cities to the countryside to take up work in agriculture. They forced many people out of their homes and ignored many basic human freedoms; they controlled how Cambodians acted, what they wore, to whom they could talk, and many other aspects of their lives. Over the next three years, the Khmer Rouge killed many intellectuals, city-dwellers, minority people, and many of their own party members and soldiers who were suspected of being traitors.[7]

The flag of Democratic Kampuchea, used by Khmer guerrillas since the 1950s with the building design varying.
Flag used by Khmer Rouge during their 1975 campaign. This design was replaced soon after their victory.

Historic legacy


  • Historic legacy 1
  • Ideology 2
  • Name history 3
  • Origins 4
    • Early history 4.1
    • Paris student group 4.2
  • Path to power and reign 5
    • KPRP Second Congress 5.1
    • Sihanouk and the GRUNK 5.2
    • Foreign involvement 5.3
  • The regime 6
    • Rulers 6.1
    • Life under the Khmer Rouge 6.2
    • Language reforms 6.3
    • Crimes against humanity 6.4
      • Number of deaths 6.4.1
  • Fall 7
    • Its place in the UN 7.1
    • Ramifications of Vietnamese victory 7.2
  • Memorialization 8
    • Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) 8.1
    • Museums 8.2
    • Publications 8.3
    • Dialogues 8.4
    • Media coverage 8.5
  • See also 9
  • References 10
  • Further reading 11
  • External links 12
    • Other online sources 12.1
    • Genocide 12.2
    • Uncategorized 12.3

In 2014 two Khmer Rouge leaders Nuon Chea and Kheiu Samphan were jailed by a UN backed court for life, which found them guilty of crimes against humanity and responsible for the deaths of up to 2,000,000 Cambodians, nearly a quarter of the country's then population, during the "killing field" era between 1975-1979. [5]

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