The reign of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge said to be
the most barbaric regime that had ever happened which occurred in Cambodia from
1975 to 1979. A time when Cambodia loss 25% of its population due to
malnutrition, overworked, disease, and mass executions. A time where everything
came back to year zero. It all started when the region of Cambodia was
revolting against the French colonial rule. The French’s hold on Cambodia all
began when a treaty was signed by King Norodom who was seeking protection
against the Thai and Vietnamese with the help of the French. The French rule
lasted for so long that many of the people of Cambodia seek for autonomy. Thus,
Khmer Rouge was formed. It is a proto-communist revolutionary group, formed in
1951 under the support of North Vietnamese, which aims to free Cambodia from
the hands of the French rule and adopt a communist type of government. Khmer
Rouge had been revolting for a few years, but everything changed and escalated
when a person named Pol Pot took charge of the communist group.

    Saloth Sar,
or well known as Pol Pot, was born in Cambodia in 1925 in a small village of
Prek Sbauv. In 1934, he moved to Phnom Penh and spent a year as a Buddhist. He
then attends a French Catholic school and joined and become an active member of
a communist circle. Pol pot neglected his studies because he became so absorbed
in Marxism and Leninism that he even lost his scholarship as a radio
technologist. Because of losing his scholarship, he went back to Cambodia in
1953 and witnessed the revolution that was happening. Later that year, Cambodia
had gained its independence from the French rule. But still, Khmer Rouge did
not stop pursuing the ideals they wanted for Cambodia. Pol Pot, who was fond of
the same idea as well, decided to join the said group. He helped reorganize the
group into a party which advocated mainly Marxism-Leninism. Their group was
then suppressed that is why Pol Pot and the other party leaders decided to move
into the countryside in the north and in there, they waited quietly for the
perfect time to seize control.

   

At the same time, Prince Norodom Sihanouk, the
hereditary leader of Cambodia, was facing threats of a civil uprising. While he
was out of the country, a General named Lon Nol initiated a military coup that
led to a civil war. Prince Norodom seeks help from Khmer Rouge and the North
Vietnamese while General Lon Nol was supported by the United States and South
Vietnamese. The United States conducted a secret bombing campaign in Cambodia
killing a lot of civilians over the span of four years. By the time the
campaign had ended and the Americans had withdrawn their forces, Khmer Rouge
has gained more supporters which had strengthened their forces a lot more. And
with that, they were able to control a big portion of Cambodia’s territory. And
finally, on April 17, 1975, the Khmer Rouge entered the city of Phnom Penh
winning the civil war and seizing the control.

     Pol Pot gained power over Cambodia which
he renamed into the Democratic Kampuchea, and thus, started his reign. He
wanted to adopt Mao Zedong’s “Great Leap Forward” economic strategy. He wanted
a communist regime that is different from the Soviet Union and other communist
countries. He wanted an agrarian utopia and to purify the people of Cambodia by
starting from zero. He evacuated the 2.5 million residents to the countryside
on foot killing a lot of them, and those who remained were forced to toil the
fields. Teachers, doctors, engineers, and other professionals were forced into
slave labor making everyone equal. Everyone was stripped of their possessions
including religion, businesses, work, education, and healthcare. Things such as
capitalism and parental authority were revoked as well.  All foreigners were expelled or killed,
Embassies were closed, and contact from other countries was refused to seal off
Cambodia from the outside world. There was also mass executions of those he
calls rotten people. The educated, those who had religions, former politicians
and soldiers, and other ethnic groups including Vietnamese, Chinese, and Cham
Muslims were all killed. Other nations were silent about what was happening
then, but Vietnam wanted to stop Pol Pot’s rule and wanted to stop the border
attacks as well that is why they launched a full-scale invasion of Cambodia. On
the 7th of January, 1979, Pol Pot loss his reign over Phnom Penh and the whole
of Cambodia. He was then deposed and retreated to Thailand and began a
guerrilla war for the next 17 years. It was in the 1990s when he lost control
of Khmer Rouge and died at the age of 73 in 1993 due to a heart attack
following his arrest.

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