Essay on Cambodia Genocide

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Middlebury College
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Cambodia, a Southeast Asia country, gained independence from the French colony in 1953 which was during the cold war as well as the Vietnam War. Though Prince Norodom Sihanouk became the ruler, the future of Cambodia remained at stake! Given that he was an authoritarian, his rivals established the Communist Party of Kampuchea and branded themselves as the Khmer Rouge and chose Pol Pot as their leader (Kiernan & Ben, 14). The inception of Genocide in Cambodia took place after Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge regime took over. Cambodia genocide was one of the gruesome and grisliest genocides that occurred between the period 1975 and 1979.

According to the United Nations (UN), genocide is one which involves the killing or physical destruction performed with the intention of destroying either whole in part of a particular nation, ethical group, ethnic as well as religious affiliation (Meierhenrich & Jens, 4 ). Cambodia genocide did not specifically target a particular religion or ethnic group but targeted everyone and was thus classified as an auto-genocide. The Khmer Rouge government of Cambodia conducted mass killing to the people through starvation, execution and overworking.

Throughout the 1980s, Khmer Rouge obtained war aids and ammunitions from China. They additionally enjoyed massive support from the United States who were against the decade-long Vietnamese occupation. The regime renamed Cambodia and named it as Democratic Kampuchea (Le Billon, Philippe & Bakker, 89). Religious groups including Christians, Buddhist, and Muslims, became easy target bearing in mind that Pol Pot was an ardent atheist and his communist Khmer Rouge movement banned all religions. By the end of the regime, approximately 25,000 Buddhist monks had been massacred. Khmer Rouge drove out people out of cities into the fields and countryside during the first day in Phnom Penh.

During this mass exodus, many people perished on the way. Khmer Rouges belief of the need for progress right from ground zero with absolutely no external influence led to the extermination of all political enemies as well as the old and the middle working class city dwellers. The old people were the uneducated rural peasants while the fresh blood were the inner city class residents including lawyers, doctors, accountants, journalists etcetera. The young generation was easily targeted since they were seen to be easily influenced by external values and failed to live agrarian lives. Khmer Rouge regime declared 1975 as year zero marking the beginning its reign (Ponchaud, Francois, 28).

Khmer Rouge used standard yet horrible and crude methods in torturing victims. The guards used the dry submarine in suffocating victims with a plastic bag almost to the point of insensibility before reviving them and repeating the process. Others were drowned while some were burned with boiling water. Leeches were applied to victims, and the causalities watched the leeches as they grew while on the other hand, they sucked their blood. Another common method was to hit the head of casualties with a club on the head or with a hoe, which was an action meant to save bullets. In addition to overworking and malnutrition, people taken to the killing fields were left to rot after they fell (Tyner & James, 34).

The 4-year plan adopted by the regime was sought to transform rice farming and collectivize poverty was poorly designed, and it resulted in great famine (Beachler & Donald, 145). The youths were used as sources of cheap labor and were used in creating ineffective water systems and farm. However, many were overworked to death! Many, however, were starved to death in the man-made famine. The enormous collective death of people in the countryside birthed the name Killing Fields. Hundreds if not thousands of mass graves were filled with human remains were found in Cambodias killing fields. In a period of 3 years, eight months and 20 days, Khmer Rouge had succeeded in murdering about 1.7 million people representing about 21percent of Cambodias population. However, the regime was ousted from power in 1979 after Vietnam attacked Cambodia.

Many survivors fled to refugee camps in Thailand, and many went on to immigrate to the United States. 1979 January is remembered as the period when the Khmer Rouge rule was over. As of 2009, approximately 23,745 mass graves were discovered. On 2 January 2001, Cambodian government passed legislation to try a limited number of KR leadership. However, Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan were convicted on 7 August 2014 sentenced to life imprisonment for crimes against humanity during the genocide. Leng Sary was arrested on 17 November 2007 and also charged with crimes against humanity. Leng Thirith, the wife to Leng Sary, was arrested on 12 November 2007 but was later found to be unfit for trial by medical experts following her mental condition (Paust & Jordan L., et al, 273).The extraordinary chambers in the courts of Cambodia ECCC) held Kaing Guek Eav guilty of crimes against humanity after which he was sentenced to an imprisonment of thirty-five years.


Work Cited

Barron, John, and Anthony Paul. Peace with Horror: The Untold Story of Communist Genocide in Cambodia. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1977. Print.

Beachler, Donald W. "Arguing about Cambodia: genocide and political interest." Holocaust and Genocide Studies 23.2 (2009): 214-238.

Hinton, Alexander L. Annihilating Difference: The Anthropology of Genocide. Berkeley, Cal: University of California Press, 2002. Internet resource.

Hinton, Alexander Laban. Why did they kill?: Cambodia in the shadow of genocide. Vol. 11. Univ of California Press, 2004.

Kiernan, Ben. The Pol Pot Regime: Race, Power, and Genocide in Cambodia Under the Khmer Rouge, 1975-79. New Haven, CT [etc.: Yale University Press, 2008. Print

Le Billon, Philippe, and Karen Bakker. "Cambodia: genocide, autocracy, and the overpoliticized state." Weak States and Vulnerable Economies: Humanitarian Emergencies in Developing Countries 2 (2000).

Meierhenrich, Jens. Genocide: a reader. Oxford University Press USA, 2014.

Paust, Jordan L., et al. International criminal law. Durham NC: Carolina Academic Press, 2000.

Ponchaud, Francois. Cambodia: Year Zero. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1978. Print.

Tyner, James A. The killing of Cambodia: Geography, genocide and the unmaking of space. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2008.


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