Important events leading up to, during, and perceding the genocide in Cambodia.
Created by cambogen on Oct 20, 2009
Last updated: 11/05/09 at 09:03 PM
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The Khmer Rouge used ultrantionalism to establish a pure form of communism at any cost, even if it meant killing millions of their own people. A method that was used by the Khmer Rouge in promoting ultranationalism was the indoctrinating of Cambodian children. From the time that Pol Pot gained power, to the time that he was removed, it is believed that there were over 2 million Cambodians who died during the genocide. Pol Pot's extremist idology and disregard for human life, led to this crime against humanity. The results of this genocide also include tension between Vietnam and Cambodia which led to a war, economic devestation due to poor government planning, and a divided people within Cambodia. The Cambodian genocide is significant as it is a reminder to us all that we must always be careful not to promote extreme nationalism. As well, we have come to understand that ultrantionalism eventually leads to some form of human attrocities, as evident in the genocide which occured during World War 2, the Rwandan genocide, and the Cambodian genocide, to name a few. We may say that humans have not learnt from their mistakes, as genocides continue to occur, however, as humans, we must continue to look at history so that we may not repeat it.
In 1995, mass graves were discovered in parts of Cambodia, revealing the true horrors of the genocide that took place there. Skeletons were found in huge areas, mainly around sites that were declared as being execution buildings, and photos were found at the torture centre in the capital city. These photos were taken of Cambodian civilians right before they were killed. Today, this torture centre in Phnom Penh is officially a memorial to pay respect to the millions of people who were ruthlessly murdered in the genocide.
By 1991, the two opposing groups (the Vietnamese and the Cambodians) finally came together to form a peace agreement. The country of Cambodia was under the control of a coaltion government and the people of Cambodia were slowly recovering from the horrors that they had survived. As well, the state religion, Buddhism, was restored and it was once again acceptable to own land. In 1993, Prince Sihanouk, the former leader of Cambodia was elected to lead the new government.
Throughout the 1980's, Khmer Rouge were recieving support from the Americans and the Uk (recieving supplies and being trained how to use landmines). The reason being is that these two countries were anti-communist and did not want the Vietnamese to gain power within Cambodia. Therefore, the USA and the UK were willing to help the Khmer Rouge remain in power as long as communism was not adoptedwithin the country. As a result, the Khmer Rouge were able to fight the Vietnamese for a longer period of time. This lead the Vietnamese to leave Cambodia in 1989 due to international pressure and the resistance of the Cambodian people.
The Vietnamese, not happy with Pol Pot`s decisions to reject their idea regarding the border disupute, invade Kampuchea on December 5, 1978. By January 5, 1979,the Vietnamese are able to defeat Pol Pot's army and gain control of Phnom Penh. As a result, Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge fled to the border between Cambodia and Thailand. Under Vietnamese control, the People's Republic of Kampuchea was established, encorporating elements that were seen in the previous government in Cambodia before the Khmer Rouge took control. The Vietnamese decided to set up a puppet government in the area made up of defectors from the Khmer Rouge. However, this government proved to be ineffective as the country was in ruins due to the poor economic planning of Pol Pot and his government.
In 1977, Vietnam approaches Cambodia with a solution to solve the border dispute. However, Pol Pot refuses to acknowledge this idea as he believes "negotiations would be premature." Cambodia eventually accuses Vietnam of agression and demands that Vietnamese troops return to thier country. However, by 1978, Vietnam launches a full scale invasion of Cambodia and this is looked upon by the international community as an act of aggression and support is given to Cambodia.
On May 13, 1976, Prince Sihanouk forcibly resigns and Pol Pot becomes prime minister of the newly re-named Democratic Kampuchea. Under Pol Pot's rule, people living within cities were deported to the countryside where they were forced to do labour and were killed if they objected. As well, most of the population was facing starvation as many were limited to merely two bowls of rice or soup per day.
On April 17, 1975, Khmer Rouge occupied the capital of Cambodia, Phnom Penh and renamed the country, Kampuchea. Pol Pot, with the help of Prince Sihanouk, successfully removed General Lon Nol. The Prince is named "head of state". As the leader of the Khmer Rouge, Pol Pot formed a new type of government, that which greatly followed a communist model. This new government placed greater importance on the land, having everyone work for the common good. Anyone who was a threat to this new government (educated people, those who could speak a foreign language, people who practiced religion,etc.) were immediately killed. Everyone was instructed to be obedient to the state. Children were taught that there only family was the Khmer Rouge. As well, concentration camps were set up where children, men, and women were sent to be interrogatted, tortured, and executed. Between 1975 and 1978, over 2.0 million people died, either from execution, disease, exhaustion, or starvation. During this same time period, the Vietnamese were involved in a border dispute with Cambodia.
After being sent to China, Sihanouk fled to Beijing. It is here that the prince formed the National United Front of Kampuchea, joining hands with the Khhmer Rouge in their struggle to overthrow Lon Knol's government in the capital city of Cambodia, Phnom Penh. By joining the Khmer Rouge and showing support, this communist party slowly grew in numbers.
Prince Sihanouk, who was the original head of Cambodia, was removed from power during a military coup led by General Lon Nol on March 18, 1970. This occured because General Lon Nol wanted power over the country. As a result, Sihanouk was exhiled to China. This incident led to a civil war occurring within Cambodia as there were those who were supporters of the exhiled Prince, and others who supported the new general.
To the east of Cambodia lies Vietnam, a country that became divided after the French were defeated in 1954. As a result, those who were communist, in North Vietnam, and those who were pro-Western in Southern Vietnam found themselves embraced in a civil war. At the time, Prince Sihanouk, the leader of Cambodia, practiced an act of neutrality,as he did not want to get involved in the dispute in Vietnam. However, once Sihanouk was removed from power, General Lan Nol decided to back-up the USA, who had come to help the Southern Vietnamese in 1964. The country of Cambodia found themselves involved in two conflicts; that with the communists in Vietnam, and those within Cambodia (the Khmer Rouge). The civil war ended in 1975.