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Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge Genocide Of The Cambodian People

Updated: Nov 16, 2021

Pol Pot created in Cambodia one of the 20th century's most brutal and murderous regimes in history, the Khmer Rouge. He and his inner circle of revolutionaries adopted a revolutionary creed based on the two worst forms of totalitarian ideologies the world has ever seen, Maoism and Stalinism, and elements of racial superiority which echoed Nazism. The Khmer Rouge movement tore apart Cambodia in an attempt to ''purify'' the country's agrarian society, destroy the its urban populations, and turn people into revolutionary worker-peasants.

Pol Pot

Pol Pol's army captured Cambodia's capital on April 17, 1975, after a devastating five-year civil war. During it, the United States dropped more bombs on Cambodia in its campaign against Pol Pot than it had unleashed on Japan during World War II. Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge forces toke over all of Cambodia by 1975. He then proceeded to empty and depopulate all of Cambodia's cities through terrorism and violence. He tore families apart, abolished religion and closed all places of worships, schools and education centers. Everyone was ordered to work, even children. The Khmer Rouge outlawed money and closed all markets. Doctors were killed, as were most people with skills and education that threatened the regime. In fact to be considered “educated” in any way in those years in Cambodia was like carrying a death sentence over your head. The Khmer Rouge especially persecuted members of minority ethnic groups -- the Chinese, Muslim Chams, Vietnamese and Thais who had lived for generations in the country, and any other foreigners -- in an attempt to make one ''pure'' Cambodia. Non-Cambodians were forbidden to speak their native languages or to exhibit any ''foreign'' traits. The pogrom against the Cham minority was the most devastating, killing more than half of that community.

Skulls and bones belonging to the vicitms of the Cambodian Genocide.

Many deaths resulted from the regime's social engineering policies and the "Maha Lout Ploh", an imitation of China's Great Leap Forward, which caused the Great Chinese Famine. The Khmer Rouge regime murdered hundreds of thousands of their perceived political opponents, and its racist emphasis on national purity resulted in the genocide of Cambodian minorities. Those the Khmer Rouge even suspected as being enemies of the revolution were killed. These mass killings, coupled with malnutrition and poor medical care, killed between 1.5 and 2 million people. Approximately a quarter of Cambodia's population was wiped out under Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge regime, a period later termed the Cambodian genocide.


The genocide of the Cambodian people was only stopped in 1979, when Vietnam invaded Cambodia, toppled the murderous regime and drove Pol Pot from power and the Khmer Rouge away from the cities and back into the jungles. Pol Pot used the geopolitics of the cold war to his advantage, convincing most of Asia and the non-Communist world that his Khmer Rouge Government was unlawfully thrown out by Vietnam. His exiled government retained the political recognition of the United States and much of the world throughout the 1980's while Vietnam and Vietnamese liberated Cambodia were placed under severe international sanctions for kicking out Pol Pot's regime and stopping the Khmer Rouge genocide. Until the approach of internationally supervised elections in 1992, the Khmer Rouge occupied Cambodia's seat at the United Nations and took the leading role in agencies like Unesco. Though Pol Pot was responsible for an untold number of deaths, he never faced charges until July 1997, when some of his former Khmer Rouge followers turned on him, denounced him for crimes against humanity in a carefully scripted show trial and put him under house arrest for life. He died one year later.

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