The Cambodian Killing Fields: On April 17th, 1975, Khmer Rouge, a communist guerrilla group led by Pol Pot, took power in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, beginning the period known as "the Killing Fields."
The Khmer Rouge forced city dwellers into the countryside and to labor camps. During their rule, the estimates of dead due to starvation, torture or execution have ranged from 100,000 to 3 million. A figure of 2 million is generally commonly supported. 2 million Cambodians represented approximately 30% of the Cambodian population during that time.
The Khmer Rouge banned all institutions, including stores, banks, hospitals, schools and religion. Many were forced to work 12 - 14 hours a day, every day. Family life was adversely affected with children being separated from their parents, and reduced availability of food. There were indiscriminate killings by the Khmer Rouge.
Few people outside Cambodia realize that so many people died,
and that none of the perpetrators have been brought to justice and
that the United States helped bring about the crisis that lead to
the Khmer Rouge takeover.
The Khmer Rouge attempted to completely transform Cambodia by organizing the country into farming cooperatives, demanding total devotion to the state and wiping out any remnants of the old regime. That meant shutting off all contact to the outside world, eliminating loyalty to friends or family, emptying the cities, eliminating the Buddhist religion, and creating a fearsome central authority, the "Angka" or "organzation," that punished any deviation with torture and death. If a person knew a foreign language, had worked for the French or Americans, or dared to express feelings of love to your husband or wife, he or she was a target.
While the genocide targeted minority ethnic and religious groups
like the Vietnamese, Chinese and the Chams, a Muslim people, the Killing
Fields was also unique in that it was largely an act of auto-genocide.
Cambodians did the killing and the dying.
King Norodom Sihanouk declares independence from France.
breaks diplomatic ties with U.S.
1969-1973 U.S bombs suspected communist Vietnamese supply routes in Cambodia.
1975-78 Under the rule of KR leader Pol Pot,
between one and three million die by summary execution, starvation or
1978 Vietnam invades Cambodia. KR flees to
1982-1989 A coalition army of KR troops and forces
loyal to King Sihanouk fight with Vietnamese for control of Cambodia.
1989 Vietnamese withdraw.
1990 UN peace plan accepted by four fighting
1993 First elections held. KR continues to
fight for control of northern territory.
1997 Second Prime Minister Hun Sen seizes
power in what critics call a coup.
1998 Pol Pot dies. Hun Sens party wins
national electons. Major defections by KR members.
1999 Intl community and Cambodian government
discuss launching a tribunal into KR atrocities.