Origin of the Khmer Rouge

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What are the origins of the Khmer Rouge? The Khmer Rouge, also known as the Communist Party of Kampuchea, was a political group that ruled Cambodia during 1975 – 1979. During this period, they renamed the country, “Democratic Kampuchea”. This regime was famous for its mishandling and dictatorship of Cambodia which lead to the deaths of at least 2 million people, as well as its soldiers, which can be considered now as genocide.

The aim of the Khmer Rouge was to create a total agrarian society and other major social reforms, based on the ideals of communism.

In order to create a more ‘balanced’ society, those from the city such as Phnom Penh who were more educated, were forced to go to the rural areas and subjected to forced manual labor. In this particular social reform, approximately 1.5 million Cambodians died due to torture, starvation, or murder.

Indeed, no one was safe from this drastic change. Even the leader of the Khmer Rouge, Pol Pot, ordered that his brother who worked as a Journalist be executed in Phnom Penh. An interesting thing worth noting is that Pol Pot himself was educated in Paris, France. What are the origins of the Khmer Rouge name? Khmer Rouge is actually a French word for “Red Khmers”.

The Khmer Rouge wanted a total elimination of capitalism in its society. Anyone who was a professional lived in the city, had a connection to foreign Governments, or had an education was considered a Capitalist. In essence, this also included parents as they educate their children. As a result, children were taken from their parents and brainwashed by torture to believe in socialism and communism and were given leadership in carrying out torture and executions.

Despite the fact that the Constitution of Democratic Kampuchea formalized in 1976 was formed by the Khmer Rouge, it defied what they had enforced in writing. This Constitution guaranteed religious freedom, but then also hypocritically declared that it was strictly forbidden as it was detrimental to the country. All Buddhist monks were humiliatingly defrocked and forced into hard labor. Many monks were executed, temples were destroyed, and statues of Buddha were defaced or dumped.

The Christian and Islamic minorities were also targeted as they were deemed pro-West. Similarly to the Buddhist majority, churches and cathedrals were destroyed, and Muslims were forced to eat pork even. All those who refused were executed.

Minority races in the then-Democratic Kampuchea were treated differently. The Vietnamese suffered the worst damage, as they suffered rape, mutilation, or massacres.

The Muslim Chinese were forced to adopt the Khmer language and customs, and Thais were persecuted as well. Interestingly enough, the Chinese and Sino-Khmers who should have been deemed as both a minority race and capitalists were not considered as either minorities or capitalists. This may have been due to a contract that China and Democratic Kampuchea had signed.

The fall of Pol Pot’s rule came with the victory of Cambodian rebels and the Vietnamese army. The Cambodians were cynical that the Vietnamese were going to dominate, so with the help of other ASEAN nations, the Soviet Union, and the USA, they fought to free Democratic Kampuchea.