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Cambodian Massacre | World History | Free PDF Download



  • The Communist Party of Kampuchea, informally known as the Khmer Rouge, referencing the majority ethnicity of the country and red as the color of communism, was originally born out of the struggle against French colonization and was influenced by the Vietnamese.
  • The movement was fueled by the first Indochina War in the 1950s, years.In the years leading up to the Khmer Rouge’s regime, the neighboring Vietnam War spilled over into Cambodia.
  • In March 1970, Marshal Lon Nol, backed by pro-American associates, staged a successful coup to depose Prince Sihanouk as the head of state. The Khmer Rouge headed by Pol Pot, allied itself with Sihanouk, setting the stage to become a major player in the civil war that followed.


  • On April 17, 1975, the Khmer Rouge seized control of the country’s capital city, Phnom Penh, effectively ousting the Lon Nol government.

They immediately began emptying the city’s population into labor camps in the countryside, where physical abuse, disease, exhaustion, and starvation were extremely prevalent.

  • The country’s name was changed to Democratic Kampuchea in 1976 and Pol Pot declared it “Year Zero” as he began building his new republic.
  • Pol Pot was Born as Saloth Sar in 1925, he came from a small village roughly 100 miles north of Phnom Penh. His family was relatively affluent and owned 50 acres of rice paddy, roughly 10 times the national average. He attended a French Catholic primary school in Phnom Penh until 1949, when he moved to Paris for post-secondary education and became active in communist group


  • The Khmer Rouge regime was extremely brutal. The regime generally singled out doctors, teachers, monks, journalists, the rich, artists, anyone with an education, and ethnic or religious minorities.
  • But they also executed people who could no longer work or make the journey to the camps, those perceived to be in opposition to the party (whether or not this was true), as well as the families of those were deemed undesirable so that they could not be chased down for revenge.
  • Many Khmer Rouge members were also killed during purges.Children and babies were not exempt from their cruelty.


  • No evidence was needed in order to send one to prison and people often fabricated their confessions of various crimes, with the belief that this would end their torment. In reality, they were more often than not executed once they gave up a list of names of new people to arrest.
  • In the beginning, executions were not necessary – starvation served as an effective tool to dispose of undesirable populations, but as more and more people were sent to prison, the Khmer Rouge moved over to a system of “killing fields,” establishing hundreds all over Cambodia.
  • As the genocide progressed, survival was determined by one’s ability to do work on the collective farms. This meant many of Cambodia’s elderly, handicapped, ill, and children became targets due to their inability to undertake harsh manual labor.


  • Money, free markets, schools, private property, foreign styles of clothing, religious practices, and other aspects of traditional Khmer culture were abolished, and buildings such as schools, pagodas, and government properties were turned into prisons, stables, camps, and granaries.
  • Family relationships were heavily criticized, and the Khmer Rouge insisted that everyone consider “Angka” as their mother and father. Child soldiers were a huge tool of the Khmer Rouge, as they were easy to control and would follow orders without hesitation, to the point where many were forced to shoot their own parents.


  • The international community was largely silent during the course of the genocide. Neither the U.S. nor Europe called attention to the genocides as they were happening, although scholars and others in the West tried to bring attention to the atrocities being committed.
  • At this time the U.S. had just lost the war in Vietnam, resulting in the government’s reluctance to involve itself in the region again. While their public stance against the killing gradually strengthened, it did not amount to action.
  • It wasn’t until the regime was overthrown that the atrocities that had been committed gained the focus of the international media. However, this still did not lead to an international investigation.


  • The killing fields were sites set up all over the country where the Khmer Rouge took people to be killed once they could no longer work, had “confessed” to their alleged crimes, or simply just were not seen as being useful anymore. It is estimated that over one million people were killed at these sites and were buried in mass graves.
  • One of the more famous ones is Choeung Ek located on the outskirts of Phnom Penh. Here people were taken for execution after enduring torture and interrogation at the S-21 prison, a former high school. It has been turned into a memorial site for visitors to learn about the genocide and pay their respects to the victims.


  • Clashes with Vietnam broke out in 1977 and on January 7, 1979 Vietnam invaded Cambodia, overthrowing the Khmer Rouge and installing a socialist regime comprised of Khmer Rouge defectors. The rest of the party fled west into the jungles along the Thai border, carrying out guerilla attacks against the Vietnamese.
  • Many of the Khmer Rouge’s members escaped to Thailand, where they received aid from Western countries. Soviet-bloc countries also sought to keep Cambodia’s seat at the UN, and the U.S. voted in favor of this too. .
  • For another decade, the Khmer Rouge fought the Vietnam-backed government with support from China and the Soviet Union.


  • The violence and instability of this period result in the deaths of thousands of Cambodians, as well as a large influx of hundreds of thousands refugees into Thailand, still traumatized by their experiences under the Khmer Rouge and in search of food, medical care, and security.
  • In 1989, Vietnam withdrew their troops due to economic sanctions the U.S. had placed on Cambodia and a lack of aid from the Soviet Union (their main supporter).
  • A temporary coalition government was formed and in 1991 a peace agreement was signed between opposing parties. Elections were set for 1993, and the former monarch, Prince Sihanouk, was elected.
  • Pol Pot led the Khmer Rouge as an insurgency until 1997 when he was arrested and placed under house arrest. The organization continued to exist until 1999, by which point most members had defected, been arrested, or died. STUDY IQ

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