Most people are familiar with the crimes committed by Hitler and the Nazis, but a study of the history of the Khmer Rouge will reveal that its actions were almost as lethal. Under the Communist rule of Pol Pot, millions of people died in their hands.
The party’s beginnings can be traced back to the works of Saloth Sar, or Pol Pot. In the early 1950s he became part of the Second Congress of the KPRP. He became very influential, owing to his position as middleman between the leftist groups and Communist movement that was gaining ground.
During the mid 1960s he went to North Vietnam to secure aid for an attempt to overthrow the government. Under the Communist Party of Kampuchea (the official name of the party), Pol Pot launched insurgency campaigns against the government. By the early 1970s the history of the Khmer Rouge would change forever as it assumed total control of Cambodia.
In Power: 1975 – 79
As soon as Pol Pot assumed power, radical reforms were undertaken. It has come to be known as agrarian Communism, which had never been seen or adapted before even in Marxist countries.
Pol Pot issued a directive to close down all financial institutions and schools. Industries and offices were destroyed. Money and religious practices were banned. He had the capital of Phnom Penh devoid of life and business.
This would be repeated in various parts of the country. A study of the history of the Khmer Rouge will show that its goal was to turn the country into an isolated, agricultural state.
After confiscating all property, the people were forcibly taken from their homes and sent to farmlands. There they were forced to work as farmers.
Crimes against Humanity
According to the new laws, everyone from age 7 up had to work in the farm. No exceptions were made for the elderly or the ill. People worked six days a week, 12 hours a day. Their daily sustenance consisted of a bowl of gruel and one fish.
Anyone who tried to eat fruits or seafood was subject to the death penalty. The history of the Khmer Rouge will show they considered intellectuals an enemy. All books were burned. Every form of education was outlawed. The only thing that people were allowed to learn was the doctrine of the party.
Fall of the Party
Although it began as a Communist party, its stands and behavior became more and more radical. Their actions led to disputes with Vietnam. In 1979, Vietnam invaded and took over the leadership. It was only after the overthrow was the full extent of Pol Pot’s crimes uncovered.
Over 3 million people died. Most died from starvation, torture and disease. Mass graves were found throughout the country. In spite of the report made to the war crimes tribunal, the history of the Khmer Rouge will show that Pol Pot never went to trial. He passed away in 1998.
Although the party is no longer in power, its atrocities have left a mark on Cambodia and its people that will never be forgotten.