Imagine a regime that tries to kill all the educators in the countries so that the people become dumb and obedient. It is not a joke made by a pesky kid who hates school, but a part of modern history in Cambodia that still plagues the country today. On April 17, 1975, the Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK, also known by the public as the Khmer Rouge), a former guerrilla made its way out of the jungle and started a four-year bloody ruling that turned Cambodia into something worse than hell. The Capital city of Cambodia, Phnom Penh, once known as the “Pearl of Asia”, had a population of 3 million before was made into the Cambodian version of Silent Hill overnight—thousands of teachers, doctors and scholars were executed, the rest were evacuated to labour camps in rural Cambodia and died of starvation or overwork.
Where are they from
The Khmer Rouge was once an insignificant guerrilla force simmering in the north eastern jungle of the country. In 1970, Marshal Lon Nol successfully led a military coup while the then head of state, Prince Norodom Sihanouk was out of the country. The lost Prince turned Khmer Rouge for help to reclaim this golden throne. Ironically, for Sihanouk, being detained under house-arrest had been his major role in the new regime. Nevertheless, the imprimatur of the Prince gave Khmer Rouge a legitimate course to march forward and plunge the country into an all-out civil war. Backed by the US, Marshal Lon Nol’s government tried to shell the entire country while the army of Khmer Rouge advocated for peace. It quickly gained popularity. In 1975, Khmer Rouge army captured the capital and created the state of Democratic Kampuchea.
Why did they do this?
Because the leaders of the Khmer were maniac communists who believed in the ideology of complete agrarian society in which agricultural is the primary activity, and in its case, other means of livelihood were despised. Social institutions such as schools, banks and hospitals were either shut down or turned into jails, stables or re-education camps; public transportation were totally crippled , entertainment of any kind prohibited, private property confiscated, not to mention that fashion was banned and the freedom for speech was long forgotten. What is more, according to the leaders of the movement, people needed to be purified in order to serve the new regime, and the best way to purify them was by labour. Millions of people were sent to countryside and forced to work something like 12 hours a day to meet the goal envisaged by the leader: producing three tons of rice per hectare
What was people’s live like under Khmer Rouge
As hospitals and modern medicines were regarded as social enemy, many Cambodian people under Khmer Rouge died of treatable disease such as malaria. Many more died of malnutrition, a scene similar to China during the Great Leap Forward: private ownership of food was banned; to meet the impossible national target local authorities had to turn the majority of harvest to the government, resulting in widespread starvation.
In order to maintain its control over its people, militaries were allowed to arrest anyone they found suspicious. Those people were tormented, interrogated with extreme brutality. Under most circumstances, they would die of pain, shame or execution. In the Prison S-21 located in Phnom Penh, about 14,000 prisoners were being held and only 12 of them have survived to the last.
When did this come to an end?
Fear and hunger dominated the life of the ordinary Cambodian for four years. At the meantime, Cambodian had been having border skirmishes with Vietnam for years and in 1979, the later invaded the country and took the capital. The Vietnamese created a new government and drove the Khmer Rouge back to jungle. Teamed up with the previously deposed Prince Sihanouk, the battered but resilient force struggled until 1999, when all leaders of Khmer Rouge were arrested or died.
I heard the story of Khmer Rouge from my boyfriend, on my Tuk-Tuk ride to northern Cambodia. Since then I looked for traces of the past tragedies. It didn’t take me much effort to see that the modern Cambodia is still hunted by its bloody nightmare: the regime laid millions of landmines in the country side that disabled a huge numbers of innocent farmers; Social elites and intellectuals were terminated and the education system was totally destroyed. all these deprived many people of their ability to make a decent living. Travelling in Cambodia I have always encountered with such scenes: people with severe deformity or disability were begging instead of being looked after, young children were selling CDs and souvenirs instead of attending school, and women were whoring instead of working and having a family.
- Cambodia: Khmer Rouge scholar not needed (icrindia.wordpress.com)
- Khmer Rouge’s Killing Fields (iconicphotos.wordpress.com)