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Pol Pot's Democratic Kampuchea: the real story


The first follow-up to the thread I started in this forum about the Soviet Union. I apologize for any errors here, I know a lot less about Cambodia than the Soviet Union, I've only perused (meaning "studied carefully") one book about it, but it was a detailed book (Ben Kiernan's The Pol Pot Regime) by a UN-recognized expert on Cambodian war crimes, and I'm trying to get this done in a timely way. But I thought I'd look at DK next because it is of such general interest and the story is not well known.

Latest political news and current events: Cambodia remains a highly educated, highly Buddhist society with little cultural diversity, traditional gender roles, and an economy based on subsistence fishing and rice farming. Politically, as a puppet of Stalinist Vietnam it is nominally a socialist state, but in actuality a capitalist military-police dictatorship with a pro-Vietnam orientation. It has a low standard of living, particularly in the regular threat of famine, but at present has a high economic growth rate largely as a result of mechanization of agriculture through World Bank-founded state investment.
Best of: Slim pickings but I'll give it a shot. Let's see ... the Khmer Rouge's victory ended U.S. bombing of Cambodia, they initially boosted rations, they opposed the U.S. in international politics and supported Yugoslavia, Romania, and China in their efforts to assert political independence from Moscow. They captured an American warship in a propaganda blow for the semicolonial nations.
Trash heap (of history): Pol Pot's regime represents the ultimate triumph of the fascist dream ... a totalitarian state in which the private property of the petit bourgeoisie remains untouched, while the persoral property of the proletariat is expropriated to make them the slaves of that state. It also represents the bankruptcy of the Stalinists who, counterrevolutionary betrayal by counterrevolutionary betrayal, allowed this to be the culmination of a popular fight for communism. And it stands in reproach to the "Communist" factions that have gone part or all of the way down the same Pol Potist line ... Colombia's FARC, the Zapatistas, the Coard faction in Grenada, the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), the Communist Party of India (Maoist), the Communist Party of Peru (Shining Path), or the Revolutionary Communist Party (USA).
Op ed: Within the party leadership factions with very different ideological perspectives contended for power ... the battle to dominate the Politburo's discussions was carried out on the ground by proxy armies of warlords (indeed, Chinese Communist Party factions fought their own battles with each other and with their Vietnamese Communist Party rivals by the same means). As a cat's paw for Chinese power, the ideology was vaguely Maoist, but people took critical stances of Mao, those around them, and political leaders of the past in their coded arguments over the practical decisions to be made by the government in the context of Cambodia' nightmare. Ideology was also broadly nationalist, racist, and stressed the theme of heroic self-sacrifice. Pol Pot, speaking for the party center, publicly praised Robespierre and Zhou Enlai, while denouncing the Gang of Four and Lenin. Speaking for an unprincipled rival clique that started on the center-left and ended on the center-right, Nuon Chea praised the Red Guards and denounced the Gang of Four and Ho Chi Minh. Giving him left cover, Khieu Ponnary defended Marx from the attacks of Ieng Sary and others. On the far left, Khieu Samphan praised the Great Leap Forward, Kim Il-Sung, and Enver Hoxha, while denouncing Zhou Enlai. Speaking for the right wing of the party, Ta Mok championed the politics of Deng Xiaoping. And Ieng Sary, leading a right-leaning clique, praised Tito, Leopold Senghor, and Deng Xiaoping before turning further to the right, praising Hitler, and explicitly denouncing communism. Koy Thoun, leading the pro-Vietnamese faction of the party, and his successors So Phim and Heng Samrin, praised Ho Chi Minh and Tito and denounced Kim Il-Sung. Meanwhile leaders of various political combinations and palace intrigues tailored their repetition of the regime's propaganda line to send messages of support or opposition to these factions.
Civil and human rights: None to speak of. On Pol Pot's initiative military commanders were given unquestioned authority to execute people, an authority only suspended for a few months in 1975 on the initiative of Hou Yuon. In all the regime killed perhaps 1 million dissidents, minorities, and people who for one reason or another were singled out ... the leading proponents of high rates of political killing were Pol Pot, Nuon Chea, Ke Pauk, Duch, Ieng Sary, and Ieng Thirith, while Hou Yuon, So Phim, and Ney Sarann resisted killing in principle and used it relatively seldom in practice. The Constitution guaranteed women's equality, which occurred in practice only through the general degradation of the entire populace and the occasional entree of women to the corridors of power. The Constitution also guaranteed personal property, which was not respected in practice, and freedom of religion, which was widely violated.
On Pol Pot's and Ta Mok's initiative, and over So Phim's objections, using a model pioneered by Kim Il-Sung in N. Korea, political rights as well as rations were distributed unequally according to a caste system to which people were assigned by local military officials. In 1975, people were either "base people"--rural, ethnic Khmer, Khmer Leou, or Cham people, judged loyal to the regime, and local to the area--or "new people"--urban people, evacuees, ethnic Vietnamese, or those judged disloyal. Only "base people" were allowed to vote on ration levels. By late 1975 in Ta Mok's Southwestern Zone and 1977 nationwide, "base" people were further divided into those with family in the military (later in 1977, those with family in the pre-1975 military), those in active sympathy, and those in need of correction, while "new" people were divided into loyal evacuees, typically disloyal new people, the families of Lon Nol soldiers, and Lon Nol soldiers themselves.
Controversial topics: In the Eastern Zone under So Phim's leadership, open debates were held, at least among "base people" and sometimes among "new people" as well, prior to 1976. In much of the country, excluding Khek Penn's Northwestern Zone, base people at least were permitted to express dissenting opinions without fear of more serious consequences than getting rations cut or being forced to attend re-education classes. However, the military and party losers of factional fights were killed outright or sent to a prison such as the notorious Tuol Sheng where tens of thousands were tortured to death. After 1977, largely on Ieng Thirith's initiative and over opposition led by So Phim and Heng Samrin, the utterance of a breath of dissent was an instant death sentence.


Economics, business, and taxes: Upon taking power, the Khmer Rouge abolished the use of money, a policy associated mostly with Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea, and modeled on "War Communism" in the early days of Lenin's USSR. So Phim's Eastern Zone resisted this policy but eventually acquiesced. Again, mostly on Khieu Samphan's initiative and over the objections of So Phim and Hou Yuon, the houses of the peasants were knocked down and replaced with hastily built barracks in which people lived communally and were assigned rations by the military. All the major cities were evacuated and the people sent into the countryside to work. Cambodia was on the verge of starvation when the Khmer Rouge took power as a result of American bombings and the collapse of the government. In 1975, rations actually increased after the Khmer Rouge captured Phnom Penh as the American bombing ended and Cambodia had a good rice harvest.

Under Khieu Samphan's economic policy, modeled on China's Great Leap Forward, which called for rapid industrialization without outside aid, individual peasants were assigned rice production quotas, and once those quotas had been filled they were free to supplement their meager rations with foraging. For the peasants, this was easy ... not only could they produce more than their quota of rice, but Cambodia had the best fisheries in the world. But urban evacuees who didn't know how to farm or fish found themselves at the mercy of the peasants and often were forced to part with their hoarded gold, jewelry, and other valuables to avoid beatings or starvation.

Food production was also hampered on Khieu 's watch by attempts to replicate an ambitious irrigation program thought by French archeologists to have been practiced in the medieval Khmer Empire; it is now known that the archeologists misinterpreted the data.

As Hou Yuon and Koy Thoun's faction gained influence in late 1975, money was legalized, peasants were given permission to raise private crops, and individual huts for private meals were built by the military. Select groups of workers chosen for loyalty were reassigned to the cities. This resulted in more food for the public and tax revenue the government used to import Chinese military equipment. As Khieu regained the initiative, rice rations were cut, hours of work were greatly lengthened, and rice was exported in great quantity in exchange for salt, intended to be used to preserve a large fish harvest caught by communal fishing operations; a small amount of fish was traded for Vietnamese rubber before Khieu' government decided it wanted less commerce with Vietnam and closed down the fishing program.

In 1976, largely on Ta Mok's initiative, the rice allotment for the Northwestern Zone--the highest-producing agricultural region of the country--was set at zero. All rice was legally to be exported in exchange for Chinese weapons. Mok also insisted, to the detriment of production, on the universal application of methods of farming adapted to conditions of the dry, flat southwest to regions where it was manifestly inappropriate.

Meanwhile, Cambodia's only oil refinery was destroyed by American bombing in the wake of the Mayaguez capture in 1975. Khieu Samphan and Hu Nim promoted a scheme to, with Chinese help, build a hydroelectric dam using super-exploited labor. Hundreds of workers died on the never-completed dam project.

In 1976-1977 Ta Mok advanced his control of the country. Starting in the Eastern Zone where his ally Son Sen operated, and over opposition led by So Phim, he made a bid for the support of the urban evacuees by pushing for communal, rather than individual, harvest requirements, restoration of communal meals, and higher rations. But the government also took advantage of this to outlaw foraging. With foraging outlawed and privacy done away with by communal living, the government had leverage to withhold food as a means of exercising political control.

After Ke Pauk invaded the Northwestern Zone in 1979, he first increased, and then sharply cut, rations there. Rations reached a low point of a spoonful of rice per day; but a lively black-market trade with Thailand ... largely in exchange for exotic animals ... kept most people from starving at that point.

All told, about 1 million people starved to death under the Khmer Rouge, about 75% of them in 1976-1977 and 40% of them in Khek Penn's Northwestern Zone. Dozens of cases of cannibalism occurred, if not hundreds.

There was next to no urban labor. Almost all weapons and clothes were imported from China, rice processing was done in local centers (although distribution largely went through Phnom Penh or Battambang). There was a metals factory in Phnom Penh with a few hundred well-fed, mostly ethnic Chinese teenaged employees, organized into a union the politics of which were dominated by Vorn Vet.
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Environment: Air and water quality improved with the end of the war, and deforestation was slowed by the general collapse of economic production. However, the heavy harvest of endangered species for export to Thailand and China for food and clothing, a policy promoted largely by Khek Penn and Ieng Sary, although Cambodia was getting pennies on the dollar compared with world market value, devastated many animal species.
Foreign affairs and foreign policy: Cambodia relied on China for both aid and military protection, but its leaders were split over which of the rival factions in Chinese leadership--they left-wing faction led by the "Gang of Four," or the right-wing faction led by Deng Xiaoping, to support; and even those supporting the Gang of Four in that struggle disliked the direction in which they had taken the Cultural Revolution, so attitudes to China were contradictory. Mao was widely praised. Khieu Samphan publicly denounced an offer of Chinese food aid--badly needed at the time (1976)--as insulting, while pushing to import Chinese technical advisors associated with the Gang of Four. Nuon Chea and Ieng Sary were leading advocates of more trade with China, largely in hopes of getting Chinese weapons, and Heng Samrin a leading opponent, preferring trade with Vietnam. Pol Pot merely boasted about having a purer Cultural Revolution than the Chinese had.

The Khmer Rouge grew out of the Vietnamese-led Indochina Communist Party and at the time of the capture of Phnom Penh Pol Pot's pro-Chinese faction was in the midst of a still uncompleted purge of Koy Thoun's pro-Vietnamese faction. Khieu Samphan, official head of the Vietnamese Friendship Organization, tried to occupy a middle ground between the two. Trade with Vietnam was high in 1975 and fell quickly soon thereafter, but publicly the regime remained pro-Vietnamese. In 1977, the women's rights bureau of Cambodia led by Khieu Ponnary hosted a Vietnamese delegation, who were mysteriously not allowed to meet Khieu Ponnary and we're shown around instead by Ieng Thirith; the Vietnamese were appalled by what they saw argued for hours with their hosts, and sounded the alarm about a possible genocide in Cambodia. Pressure from China and pro-Chinese factions, and exploitation of anti-Vietnamese prejudice for political purposes, helped push the regime, with the encouragement of Ieng Sary and Nuon Chea, in an anti-Vietnam direction very rapidly in 1978-1979, despite the resistance of Heng Samrin and his allies. In early 1979, citing Vietnamese mistreatment of ethnic Khmer and ancient historical claims, Cambodia invaded Vietnam with the aim of seizing much of its territory. The Vietnamese, technically superior and aided by the mass defection of Khmer Rouge units to their side, won the war quickly and handily and drove the Khmer Rouge from Phnom Penh.

Thailand was an occasional trading partner, but also the target of cross-border plunder raids authorized by Khek Penn. Raiding parties also went into Thailand and Laos to capture dissident Khmer Rouge commanders operating in those countries, largely on the initiative of Khek Penn and Ta Mok, and to the consternation of Ieng Sary, who feared a war with Thailand or Laos had the potential to disrupt his plans to advance his career by engineering a war with Vietnam.

N. Korea provided large amounts of medicine in 1975 at low cost (although they insisted on cash); political opinions on N. Korea were also divided, with a pro-N. Korea faction led by Khieu Samphan and an anti-N. Korea faction led by Ieng Sary.

Under foreign minister Ieng Sary, Democratic Kampuchea maintained friendly relations with Yugoslavia, Romania, and Senegal. Khieu Samphan pushed for friendly relations with Albania but was stymied by Ieng Sary's opposition. The USSR, Cuba (especially) and the capitalist countries (other than Senegal, but including the Soviet ally Ethiopia, under its own brutal leftist dictatorship) were broadly denounced.


Government offices and programs: The government was divided for administrative purposes into 7 military zones of control, a policy modeled on Hitler's Germany. The zone commanders were appointed by the Communist Party Congress. In 1975, the commanders were Ney Sarann in the Northeast, Koy Thoun in the North, Vorn Vet in the Special Zone (Phnom Penh area), Ke Pauk in the West, Ta Mok in the Southwest, So Phim in the East, and Khek Penn in the Northwest. Hu Nim, backed by Khieu Samphan, Khek Penn, and So Phim, ousted Koy Thoun, backed by Hun Sen and Hou Yuon, later that year. In 1977, the state was reorganized, largely on Ieng Sary's initiative, to abolish the Special Zone and incorporate it into Ta Mok's Western Zone, and to hand over control of sectors of So Phim's eastern zone to Chhouk's Southwestern Zone. In 1979, as the war with Vietnam was beginnino, Ta Mok, backed by Pol Pot and Ieng Sary, invaded Khek Penn's Northwestern Zone, deported him to Tuol Sheng, and took control of it for himself.
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Health care: The only hospital in Phnom Penh was destroyed on Khieu Samphan's orders in 1975 as the Khmer Rouge captured the city, to help promote his push for evacuation against rival factions. Under minister of health Thiounn Thioeunn, a pharmacy was built in Phnom Penh with a 17-year-old girl with no technical training as director and a workforce of illiterate 15-year-olds. They produced no medicine of value, of course, but provided a safe job with a good meal ration for dozens of relatives of party officials. Long (14 hours of work plus 3 hours of political indoctrination) work days, cramped conditions, and starvation rations caused a massive health crisis, the standard solution to which was to shoot people who became sick. Although abortion was legal, when women became pregnant (almost always as a result of rape by military commanders) they were typically shot as well. N. Korea provided antibiotics, pain relievers, bandages, and other first aid items in 1975, which provided some minimal medical care for the military, which monopolized them.

In Tuol Sleng prison, meanwhile, commanded by Duch, a man with a high school educational and barely out of his teens with a fascination with Nazi Germany, hundreds of prisoners were used for gruesome "medical" experiments of no scientific value.
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History: Cambodia, the site of an alluvial river delta, is one of the most recent parts of Asia to emerge from the ocean. The Khmer, the dominant ethnic group, settled there in prehistoric times and developed a civilized polity, influenced by Indian Hindu culture, and tributary to the Han Empire of China, by the 1st century. They became the masters of the Mekong River Delta in present-day S. Vietnam, a key to trade with present-day Indonesia. Beginning in the 2nd century, though, the Cham people originally from present-day Malaysia and armed with bronze began invading and conquering Khmer cities in the region, setting off a dynastic struggle leading to a 6th-centiry Khmer civil war. Weakened by war and conquered by the Javanese kingdom of Mataram in the 8th century, the Khmer regained their independence with the Khmer empire in the 9th century. In the 11th century the Khmer Empire allied with their fellow Hindu Chola Empire of S. India to defeat the powerful Buddhist Sri Vijaya Empire of Sumatra. The Khmer Empire prospered, and by the 12th century the capital Angkor was the biggest city in the world and the famous temple at Angkor Wat was built. But power struggles among rival feudal lords (complicated by a religious struggle between the urban Hindu establishment and Buddhism which had gained popularity in the rural mountains) helped lead to the S. Vietnam-based Cham Confederation's sack of Angkor in the late 12th century. The prince who reconquered Angkor introduced Buddhism which became the new dominant religion, and went on to conquer much of present-day S. Vietnam. In the 13th century the alliance of the Cham and the increasingly powerful Vietnamese Empire drove the Khmer out of the Meting Delta, and by the 15th century the Khmer rulers, their empire meanwhile riven by plague and ecological collapse, had become puppets in the struggle between the rival Thai and Vietnamese empires on their borders. Cambodia entered a dark age of poverty and illiteracy, it paid large sums in tribute to its neighbors, including slaves who were exported by the tens of thousands, and it was subject to frequent raids by Cham and Dutch pirates and Lao raiders. In 1863, Cambodia was conquered by Napoleon III's France and incorporated into the overseas department of French Indochina along with Laos and the 3 provinces making up present-day Vietnam.

The comprador bourgeoisie that dominated Indo-China's cities welcomed French rule, but nationalist resistance to French rule sharpened as the Japanese-French WWII conflict opened up possibilities to take advantage of the opportunist split of a pro-Japanese bourgeois faction from the pro-French government. And the Communist Party of Indochina played a major role in the struggle for independence. But Stalinist machinations designed to sabotage the struggle (in order to advance the French Communist Party's Electoral fortunes at its expense) and buoyed by Vietnamese prejudice against provincial, underdeveloped Cambodia and Laos, led the party to be broken up into 3 parties, including the Khmer People's Revolutionary Party (KPRP) in 1951. This party was largely ethnically Vietnamese although based in Cambodia. It helped organize the fight against the French and was promised a seat at the negotiating table after the victory at Dienbienphu, but betrayed by Ho Chi Minh. A pro-French puppet regime with a guarantee of neutrality in the so-called Vietnamese Civil War was put into place under Prince Sihanouk, who modeled his regime on Sukarno's in Indonesia, mixing nationalism, traditionalism, religion, socialist rhetoric, and alliances with both imperialist and Stalinist powers.

A bloody war for control of the KPRP, pitting a conservative, pro-Sihanouk Vietnam-backed urban workers' faction backed by Tou Samouth, Nuon Chea, and Khieu Samphan against an ultraleftist insurrectionary rural peasants' faction led by Pol Pot (who began, however, as a Tou Samouth protégé), Vorn Vet, and Ieng Sary. By collaborating with the prince's government to kill most of their rivals, and engaging in bloody purges of the largely ethnic Vietnamese and Thai military forces loyal to their enemies, the latter faction had taken control of most of the party leadership and had their opponents on the run by the time Phnom Penh fell.

Meanwhile, as the U.S. ignored Cambodia, while China grew in strength, Sihanouk drifted more and more into China's orbit. By 1966, he felt compelled to let the N. Vietnamese (supported by China) take control of bases in E. Cambodia. The U.S. immediately began bombing Cambodia's peasant regions in an effort to provoke an uprising against Sihanouk. In 1968, the N. Vietnamese, aided by the Workers' Party of Kampuchea (successor to the KPRP) launched a major offensive taking control of a great deal of Cambodian territory by violence, giving them control of the famous Ho Chi Minh Trail and a base to escape U.S. bombing of N. Vietnam. U.S. bombing of Cambodia intensified, eventually making Cambodia the most heavily bombed country, per capita, in the world, other than neighboring Laos, and killing some 800,000 people.

Meanwhile, the bombing and funds from Thailand facilitated a right-wing coup by military general Lon Nol in 1970. Lon Nol's nationalist regime promoted extermination of the ethnic Vietnamese and vigorous war against both North and South Vietnam. Sihanouk allied himself with the Chinese and a pro-Vietnamese faction of the Workers' Party led by Koy Thoun to form an umbrella front in opposition to Lon Nol, and took control of much of the country's northeast.

The American bombing intensified, and the U.S. toyed with the idea of replacing Lon Nol, considered to right-wing to get more than 10% of the vote in an election, with someone even more to his right. Workers' Party cadres blamed the bombing on Phnom Penh in an effort to mobilize peasants to capture the capital, as the struggle for control of the party continued. Meanwhile, the Stalinists in Beijing had gotten into a power struggle with those in Moscow for control of the workers' movement, and they cynically allied themselves with the Pol Pot faction against the Soviet-allied N. Vietnamese. The Communist Party of Kampuchea was organized to give secret orders to the Pol Pot faction in the Workers' Party; it's existence was not made public, even to Workers' Party members, until 1975.

At each point along the way, as the party turned against workers' solidarity in the service of the temporary interest of this or that Stalinist clique in Paris, Hanoi, or Beijing, the thuggish methods, demagogic appeals (to racism, nationalism, and peasants resentment), ideological twists and turns, and reactionary policies involved took the party further and further from its working-class roots, until by 1975 the leadership was firmly in the hands of a sharply anti-working-class faction.

In 1973 the U.S. withdrew ground troops from Vietnam and increased the bombing of Cambodia in an effort to put pressure on the Vietnamese government. In 1975, as Saigon was liberated, Cambodia was near starvation despite the American aid that was about to be cut off, and Lon Nol's government reached the point of collapse. Khmer Rouge forces, including those associated with Sihanouk and those tied to China, launched their final assault on Phnom Penh. Backed by peasants, and by this point strongly opposed by urban workers, this party filled the vacuum led by the disappearance of the local bourgeoisie with a radical petit-bourgeois regime backed by counterrevolutionary Chinese support.

There ensued a famous orgy of barbarism, brutality, and stupidity, in which perhaps 2.5 million people died, about half from starvation and disease and half from executions.

After being driven from power in 1979, the Khmer Rouge continued to be recognized as the legitimate government of Cambodia by the U.S., which under Carter and Brzezinski viewed it as a useful counterweight to Vietnam and the USSR, and through U.S. offices to hold Cambodia's seat in the UN, for a decade. Allied with Thailand, the Khmer Rouge again allied itself with Sihanoukist forces against the Vietnamese puppet government set up in Cambodia. Meanwhile, its leadership fought an internecine factional struggle leading to the murder of Son Sen loyalists by Pol Pot forces, the defection of Ieng Sary (who allied with the new Cambodian government and was pardoned by the King before being tried for war crimes) and Khieu Samphan, and Ta Mok's arrest and trial of Pol Pot. The party and its guerrilla army were finally defeated by Cambodian forces in 1999.
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Immigration and homeland security: Thousands of immigrants from border regions, most of them ethnic Khmer, immigrated to Cambodia in 1975 ... more than 85% of them would be killed by the Khmer Rouge, mostly in the 1976 famines or the 1979 racial purges. Dozens of sympathetic westerners, largely ethnic Khmer but also including several ethnic Chinese, also moved to Cambodia in 1975-1978; all but one would be killed by the regime, in the 1976 famines or the political purges of 1977-1979.

Tens of thousands fled Cambodia; most of them were ethnic Vietnamese, and most of the rest were other ethnic minorities. Most crossed the Vietnamese border; Vietnam initially sent them back to Cambodia, but reversed this policy in 1976 when they realized they those sent back faced certain execution, at which point they settled them in resettlement camps with extensive social services. Thailand and war-ravaged Laos never officially accepted refugees, but hundreds of refugees fought their way into the Thai borderlands, where they organized militia to fight both the Thai and Khmer Rouge forces, and a few crossed the border into Laos. By 1978 a UN refugee camp had been set up in Thailand with the Thai government's permission. China cooperated with the Khmer Rouge in killing anyone caught crossing the treacherous border. Thousands of dissident Khmer Rouge soldiers also crossed the Vietnamese border beginning in 1977, and in the largest numbers in 1979.

What might cynically be termed "homeland security" for the Khmer Rouge - - that is, keeping the Party center in power - - consisted of the evacuation of the cities, bloody military power struggles among competing factions, and the killings of dissidents.

The only 2 large cities in the country, Phnom Penh and Battambang, were forcibly evacuated in 1975 after being captured by the Khmer Rouge, partly to deprive the Americans, Vietnamese, and other potential enemies of bombing targets, partly because the food crisis made it difficult to supply cities that had recently been swelled with refugees from the American bombings, partly in emulation of the Cultural Revolution's PLA phase "back to the land" program of re-educating students, and partly to ease the administration of a military dictatorship. Battambang was evacuated through the agency of Khek Penn and with the firm support of Pol Pot and So Phim, and most of its residents relocated in an orderly fashion, with personal goods they were allowed to take, to rural villages nearby. However, a faction of the party seeking the support of the urban plebeian classes opposed the evacuation of Phnom Penh.

As the regime collapsed, forces from Ta Mok's Southwestern Zone, So Phim's Eastern Zone, and Koy Thoun's Northern Zone all entered Phnom Penh at the same time, with Eastern Zone forces--clad in black pajamas of Vietnamese origin - - ordering residents not to evacuate, and Northern and Southwestern Zone forces - - wearing green military fatigued of Chinese origin - - ordering refugees to evacuate, telling them to leave the city without telling them where to go. Mok, supported by Pol Pot and Nuon Chea, decreed that evacuation would be permanent and ordered all refugees to bring with them all personal household items, while Koy, supported by Khieu Samphan, decreed that evacuation would be temporary and ordered them to leave personal items behind.

Hundreds were killed in clashes between Eastern Zone and Southwestern Zone troops during the capture of Phnom Penh, hundreds were executed, mostly by Koy Thoun's forces, for "stealing from the people" by bringing along jewelry, china plates, and other valuables instead of turning them over to the army, and hundreds in both Battambang and Phnom Penh were killed for being officers of Lon Nol's military. Ordinary rank and file Lon Nol soldiers were not killed for the most part, although hundreds who fled to Ney Sarann's Northeastern Zone were killed before Pol Pot ordered an end to those killings. Hundreds more were killed in the confusion of evacuation, lack of planning for feeding refugees, and military chaos. Finally, Pol Pot issued secret orders that evacuees who fled to the Eastern Zone (where the evacuation was opposed) or the Western Zone (with the worst food problem and the lowest loyalty) were all to be killed, and tens of thousands were killed by So Phim and Ke Pauk before Pol Pot, shifting to the left in response to the new military situation, ordered an end to the killings.

1975 saw a bloody power struggle between Koy Thoun (backed largely by Sihanoukists, So Phim, ethnic minorities, and "new people") and Hu Nim (backed by Khieu Samphan, Khek Penn, and "base people") for control of the north, in which tens of thousands, including thousands of ethnic Thai and Vietnamese, were killed. Hu Nim replaced Koy Thoun as zone commander.

Later in 1975, a power struggle broke out over control of the Eastern Zone. Initially prompted by Ta Mok's efforts to invade Eastern Zone territory, supported by Pol Pot, in an effort to reduce the power of Khieu Samphan's ally So Phim and the left during the struggle over private property and rapid collectivization, it also pitted So Phim's pro-Sihanouk "rightist" forces, associated with the popular front (accommodating of liberalism) politics of Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam against the more hard-line Stalinist forces of Hun Sen, associated with the "leftist line" of Soviet-backed Le Duan, who was eclipsing Ho Chi Minh's power in Vietnam at the time. Hun and So, while fighting to resist Mok's forces, thus also fought a low-grade war against each other. So Phim (backed by Khieu Samphan and Hu Nim) remained in nominal control of the zone until his murder in 1979 by forces loyal to Pol Pot, but Ta Mok (backed by Son Sen) gained effective control over a great deal of Eastern territory. His reforms, detailed above in the section on the economy, gained him the support of most of the "new people," causing dissension within So Phim's own forces. When deputy zone commander Heng Samrin declared for Pol Pot and Mok in 1977, So Phim united his forces with Mok's against those of Hun Sen, who fled to Vietnam and organized a guerrilla front with Vietnamese help. The power struggle in the east resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands, mostly So Phim loyalists executed on Mok's orders, by 1977.


Cont'd.: Meanwhile the struggle of the party Center led by Pol Pot to gain firm control over the party by stoking conflict among the leftists allied with Khieu Samphan, the Sihanoukist/pro-Vietnamese forces allied with So Phim and Heng Samrin, and the rightists grouped around Ieng Sary, encouraged top-down replacement of district commanders by the party center, sometimes resulting in execution eventually numbering in the thousands) of those groups ' loyalists. To facilitate the process, in 1971 as the Khmer Rouge guerrillas gained control of parts of the countryside, and largely on Vorn Vet's initiative, the Santebal (Special Branch), a secret police modeled largely on the Thai secret police force (which in turn took its inspiration from the British), was set up to fight dissent within the party, under Vorn's close ally Son Sen. The Santebal killed many tens of thousands in the 1970s for opposing the Khmer Rouge, and was responsible for the Tuol Sleng prison, originally a re-education camp for political prisoners but transformed into a death camp by 1979, where 20,000 were killed, and Cheoung Ek, created as an open-air death camp (the famous "Killing fields") in 1978, where another 9,000 were killed. As opposed to most of the military executions, usually by gunshot or (if bullets were scarce) running people over with vehicles, the Santebal's killers--often illiterate teenagers or even preteens from the Khmer Leou tribes - - executed people by beating with sticks, blows from pickaxes, or burning alive in pits. The Santebal's base in the northern zone constituted a power unto itself, and its conflicts with Koy Thoun's and Hu Nim's forces resulted in the deaths of hundreds.

In 1977, Ieng Thirith, backed by Pol Pot and Khek Penn and with the aid of Chinese special forces sent on Deng Xiaoping's initiative, launched a large-scale purge and reorganization of the party. Hu Nim was demoted and replaced by Ke Pauk as northern zone commander, Mok replaced Ke as western zone commander, and Mok's close ally Chhouk took control of the Southwestern zone. Santebal-controlled regions of the northern zone were transferred to the eastern zone where they bolstered Mok's and Chhouk's on going fight against So Phim. Tens of thousands who resisted the changes, mostly in the northern zone, were executed and hundreds of demoted leaders stripped of their rank and deported to Tuol Sleng.

With the left largely defeated, a right-wing alliance led by Ieng Sary and Mok made its bid for power with a reorganization plan aimed at reducing Pol Pot's power in the center of the country and Phnom Penh. Pol Pot, backed by Son Sen and Khek Penn, fought back with Santebal terror while district commanders loyal to both sides ordered the mass killings of their opponents. Hundreds of thousands were killed, largely by Khek Penn loyalists, and often by bare handed mass beatings, in the worst episode of political violence of the period. In many districts all "new people" were marked for execution. Tens of thousands more were killed as Son Sen, backed by Pol Pot, ordered the death of all surviving Lon Nol soldiers.

Preparing a reconciliation with the right and a war with Vietnam, Son Sen launched the Santebal's famous anti-intellectual campaign. Thousands were killed (often buried alive in mass graves), mostly in the Phnom Penh area, for showing any signs of education, including wearing glasses. However, the popular mythology has greatly exaggerated the extent of killings of intellectuals as opposed to killings based on race, politics, and economics.

In 1978, a purge of Eastern Zone forces was ordered by So Phim under heavy pressure from Pol Pot and Ieng Sary. Hundreds of commanders were sent to Tuol Sleng, while hundreds of thousands of Eastern soldiers and peasants were transferred to the northwestern zone to aid in the rice harvest. Before being transferred without food or water in crowded jeeps, they were outfitted with new blue pajamas imported at great expense (paid for with cash) from China. The blue pajamas were a secret signal to execute said workers after the harvest was brought in, and nearly all of the tens of thousands who survived were murdered on Ros Nhim's orders (and on Pol Pot's initiative).

Meanwhile, as the war with Vietnam began in 1979, a leftist conspiracy organized by Ke Pauk, Khek Penn, Vorn Vet, Hu Nim, and Duch against Pol Pot's leadership seems to have taken shape. Dozens were killed in an abortive rebellion starting in the northwest, and dozens of Khmer Rouge commanders were deported to Tuol Sleng in reprisal, including Hu, Khek, and Koy Thoun (who seems to have had nothing to do with the rebellion). The western zone under Mok invaded the northwest and killed tens of thousands in an orgy of violence, and Khek was replaced by Mok ally Ros Nhim, while Ke Pauk remained in place. Meanwhile, So Phim and Heng Samrin defected to the side of the Vietnamese and So Phim was killed by forces loyal to Pol Pot.

Ieng Sary organized the retreat from Phnom Penh in which thousands of surviving peasants were killed for plunder or to prevent reprisals.
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Jurisprudence and the Constitution: When the Khmer Rouge seized Phnom Penh in 1975, government orders were issued in the name of "Angkar" (the Organization). The connections between "Angkar" and the secret Communist Party of Kampuchea were not acknowledged. Military commanders were appointed by the Politburo of the Workers' Party (a majority of which secretly took orders from the Politburo of the Communist Party), which was outlawed by "Angkar," which proclaimed itself the only legal authority, on the initiative of Pol Pot and Nuon Chea.

The official president of "Angkar" was Prince Sihanouk, who although he stayed loyal to the Khmer Rouge had no power to influence its decisions. The primary spokesperson for "Angkar" in its orders to Khmer Rouge commanders was Saloth Sar, who was secretly Pol Pot, although this was denied and Pol Pot's whereabouts shrouded in official secrecy at the time.

In 1976, largely on Nuon Chea's initiative, the Communist Party revealed itself as the secret power behind "Angkar" and the Constitution of Democratic Kampuchea was proclaimed by the Communist Party's Central Committee. At the same time, Pol Pot revealed his identity as Saloth Sar.

Under the Constitution as passed, a Congress was to be made up of 150 peasants' deputies, 50 workers' deputies, and 50 soldiers' deputies. However, in the 1976 elections held only days afterward, all 250 deputies were "elected" by Cambodia's tiny number of workers, in single-candidate show-of-hands elections in which anyone foolish enough to vote against the regime's candidate was immediately shot.

The Congress, strictly controlled by the Communist Party Politburo, which remained the real political power, elected Pol Pot prime minister and chose a cabinet, all of whose members were legally given absolute authority to make "any decision whatsoever." The cabinet selected Khieu Samphan to replace Sihanouk as president.

The Constitution of Democratic Kampuchea remains the only Constitution in history to include a phrase disparaging "so-called human rights."

Under the Constitution, judicial power was vested in people's courts elected by the "base people" of each district. In fact, no such courts were ever elected, and judgments were made on the spot by military or Santebal commanders.

Membership in the party and membership in the military were synonymous. The Santebal was officially a party organ with no power over civilians; in practice, it was consistently supported over military leaders by powerful leaders including Vorn Vet, Son Sen, Nuon Chea, and (before 1979) Pol Pot, and the only check on its power, based on pure violence, was countervailing violence.


Military and war: The Khmer Rouge, though hardened in battle, supported (prior to 1976 nationwide and until 1979 in the Northeastern Zone and, at least as concerns the So Phim faction, in the Eastern Zone) by a majority of peasants, and well-supplied (through 1977) by China, was chaotic, poorly organized, poorly supplied (after 1977), and widely hated. Capable of terrorizing millions into unquestioning submission and (protected by the threat of Chinese retaliation) launching border raids into neighboring countries, it collapsed quickly in the face of Vietnam's superior force.

In 1975 the Khmer Rouge captured an American warship, the Mayaguez. The U.S., which had ended the bombing of Cambodia when Saigon was liberated, responded with a bombing campaign that killed dozens and, more significantly, destroyed Cambodia's only oil refinery.

Hundreds of thousands were killed in factional fighting and reprisals among various Khmer Rouge warlords in the 1970s, both before and after Lon Nol's regime fell in 1975. Tens of thousands, including ethnic minorities and Khmer Rouge leaders suspected of disloyalty, were killed during the war with Vietnam.

Militarily, the Khmer Rouge was strongest, before, during, and after 1975-1979, in the Northeastern Zone, a backward rural area sparsely populated by peasants, many from Khmer Leou tribes with resentments against Khmer colonization under Sihanouk and Lon Nol. It was weakest in the Northwest, the most developed and agricultural productive region of the country, with a large number of relatively wealthy peasants.

During the war with Lon Nol itself, the Khmer Rouge depended heavily on Vietminh aid to establish military control of "liberated" areas, and the rout of Lon Nol's forces came not so much through Khmer Rouge victory as through the total collapse of Lon Nol's unpopular regime after U.S. aid was cut off.


President: Much of the leadership of the party and state centered on members of the royal family, including Pol Pot, his wife Khieu Ponnary, her sister Ieng Thirith, their half-brother Khieu Samphan, and Ieng Thirith's husband Ieng Sary. They, as well as Vorn Vet, were radicalized in Paris in the 1950s under the tutelage of the ultra-Stalinist French Communist Party, although Pol Pot and Ieng Sary openly rejected the basic theory of communism and probably none of them ever had a discussion with a worker who was not performing a personal service. Nuon Chea, number 2 on the Politburo, was an intellectual from a wealthy peasant background, and older than Pol Pot and his compatriots. Most of the other leaders, including Politburo members Son Sen and his wife Yun Yat, came from peasant backgrounds, including many who grew up poor and uneducated.

The Politburo consisted of, in order of precedence, Pol Pot (arrested on Ta Mok's orders for betraying the Khmer Rouge in 1997; died in house arrest in 1998); Nuon Chea (surrendered 1998; briefly prime minister in 1976 as Pol Pot was pushed aside by the left; arrested by the Cambodian government in 2007; sentenced to life imprisonment for war crimes in 2014); Ieng Sary (deputy prime minister, minister of foreign affairs for the party, and co-minister for foreign affairs for the state; led a breakaway supporting the Cambodian government 1996; pardoned by the King 1996; arrested by Cambodia in 2007; died awaiting trial 2013); So Phim (officially fourth in the Politburo according to the election by the Central Committee; excluded from all Politburo meetings after 1976; killed on Pol Pot's orders 1979); Khieu Samphan (minister for relations with the front and royal government; surrendered 1998; arrested 2007 by Cambodia; sentenced to life in prison for war crimes 2014); Ta Mok (last Khmer Rouge leaders captured 1999; died awaiting trial 2006); Son Sen (minister of defense and Santebal leader; led a breakaway faction in alliance with Cambodian government 1991; killed on Pol Pot's orders 1997); Yun Yat (minister of information and education; organized hours-long political education sessions for peasants; also killed with her family on Pol Pot's orders in 1997); Ke Pauk (surrendered 1998; died at home 2002); and Ieng Thirith (minister of culture and social welfare; co-minister of foreign affairs for the state; surrendered 1996; arrested 2007; ruled incompetent to stand trial on grounds of Alzheimer's disease 2012; died 2015). Despite all the factional struggle, the composition of the Politburo remained unchanged during the Khmer Rouge's years in power.

Other cabinet members and top officials include:

Hou Yuon (minister for cooperatives and personal friend of Pol Pot from Paris; killed by Pol Pot's own hand 1975; death not acknowledged till 1978)
Hun Sen (replaced Son Sen as minister of defense 1979; prime minister of modern Cambodia since 1998)
Chou Chet (deputy health minister and leading opponent of Ta Mok; executed for treason on Pol Pot's orders 1977)
Thiounn Thioeunn (health minister; Paris - educated; surrendered 1998; died at home 2006)
Thiounn Prasith (brother of Thiounn Thioeunn; ambassador to UN; granted asylum by U.S. 1995)
Khieu Ponnary (diagnosed with schizophrenia 1975; president of women's association, with no legal power; divorced by Pol Pot 1979; surrendered and given amnesty 1996; died at home 2003)
Vorn Vet (minister of industry, railways, and fishing; arrested by Santebal and killed in Tuol Sleng 1978)
Koy Thoun (minister of Commerce; arrested by Santebal and killed in Tuol Sleng 1977)
Non Suon (minister of agriculture; Koy Thoun ally; surrendered 1979; sentenced to 5 years for war crimes in 2010; released 2015)
Duch (Tuol Sleng commandant; wife killed in Pol Pot-organized assassination attempt 1995; escaped under assumed identity and converted to evangelical Christianity; identity unmasked and arrested 1999; sentenced to 30 years for war crimes 2010; sentenced extended to life 2012).
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Race relations: The Central Committee, cabinet, and zone commanders were, like most of the country, largely ethnic Khmer. Exceptions included the ethnic Chinese Ta Mok, and the half-Chinese Khieu Samphan and Duch. Son Sen was of the Khmer Krom ethnicity (described below). And Thiounn Thioeunn and Thiounn Prasith were both ethnic Jarai.

The regime was militantly nationalistic but didn't discuss the fact that other ethnicities existed. The Vietnamese minority, the most talked about, were treated not as an ethnic minority but as representatives of a foreign power. During the long fight between the pro-Vietnamese and pro-Chinese political tendencies, and especially after increased N. Vietnamese incursions in 1971 led to increased American bombings, the pro-Chinese faction led by Pol Pot and Ta Mok pushed for ethnic cleansing of the Vietnamese population, especially in the Eastern Zone. They had already beginning in 1966 pushed the largely Vietnamese leadership, including party founder and general secretary Son Ngoc Minh (exiled in 1972 on Ieng Sary 's orders), out of leadership positions in the Khmer Rouge. So Phim and his allies Hou Yuon and Khieu Samphan, who wanted to maintain the alliance with N. Vietnam, resisted, supporting policies of ethnic - neutral advancement in the party as opposed to Khmer preference, and a long war of attrition ensued. Vietnamese were often categorized as base people, but of the lowest political reliability, and thousands were killed and tens of thousands more fled in 1976 as Ta Mok gained power in the east. In 1975, Pol Pot announced that the ethnic Vietnamese would not be allowed to live in Cambodia, a position publicly challenged by Hou Yuon. The Vietnamese language was outlawed on pain of death. In 1978, fostered largely by Ke Pauk and Khieu Samphan, an all-out campaign of extermination against the Vietnamese began, and every remaining ethnic Vietnamese person in the country was killed, some 20,000 in all. Most were shot, but dozens were tortured to death in a grim repetition of a punishment allegedly visited by Vietnamese conquerors on the Khmer in the Middle Ages: they were buried up to their necks in sand and on their heads were placed dripping wax candles balanced on a plate that would spill hot wax on their face of they moved, while they were admonished not to "spill the master's tea."

The ethnic Khmer minority in Vietnam, or Khmer Krom, were cynically appealed to by the government, particularly Ieng Sary, to rise against the discrimination that they undoubtedly faced in Vietnam. Thousands, facing mass reprisals by the Vietnamese for border raids and rebellions, fled across the border to Cambodia ... where they (along with dissident Khmer Rouge members) were accused of being "Khmer bodies with Vietnamese minds," and the vast majority were shot or buried alive on the spot.

In 1973-1976, as Mok faced a challenge for control of the Southwest by the ethnic Thai leftist Prasith, allied with Chou Chet and Non Suon, he initiated a bloody purge of the ethnic Thai and Lao soldiers who were the majority of the Khmer Rouge in that zone. Rural Thai and Lao villages were wiped out to remove bases of support for Prasith. Thousands were killed before Prasith was defeated and Ieng Sary, hoping to mobilize ethnic resentment against the Vietnamese instead, put an end to the killings. The Thai and Lao languages were outlawed, and nearly all ethnic Thai in that zone were classified as "new people," eventually giving them a death rate more than twice as high as that of the "base people." The Lao, though almost always classified as "base people," were often rated as the least politically reliable. In other parts of the country, where the Thai and Lao were less numerous, they were usually classified as "base people" if they came from rural areas, while the urban Thai in the northwest were resettled in segregated villages, given the hardest work and lowest rations, and died at a comparatively high rate (up to 50%).

The Cham minority were usually classified as "base people" but unreliable; many allied with So Phim and Heng Samrin and were targeted by forces loyal to Pol Pot for that. The 1976 ban in fishing pushed by Ta Mok was largely aimed at Cham autonomy. But most of the persecution of Chams, driven by Ieng Sary and Nuon Chea, was religious, as detailed below.

The Khmer Leou, or Mountain Khmer, were a group of several ethnic groups speaking Mon-Khmer or Austronesian languages, including most prominently Jarai, and centered in the northeast. This group, from a zone formerly personally administered by Pol Pot and then Ieng Sary, was largely friendly toward the Khmer Rouge. They were uneducated, resentful of the Sihanouk and Lon Nol forces, bitter toward cities and the cultural progress that was tearing apart their traditional ways, and they saw the appeal of the improved rations Pol Pot brought them, a return to the "year zero," and the communal eating arrangements that resembled their traditional longhouses. The Northeastern Zone was also the Khmer Rouge's power base. Their general support was rewarded with friendly treatment. Although Pol Pot pushed to replace Khmer Leou commanders with ethnic Khmer that he found reliable, his personal bodyguard was Jarai, most Khmer Leou languages were not banned, Khmer Leou were almost always classified as "base people" of high or medium political reliability, villages were sometimes left standing under Ney Sarann 's direction despite orders from the center to demolish them and construct collective farms, and Khmer Leou district commanders were common.

The ethnic Chinese, almost entirely middle-class urban dwellers (the large numbers of Chinese landlords having fled before the capture of Phnom Penh), died at a comparatively high rate as other urban dwellers died at high rates, but the Chinese language was not banned and they were seldom targeted for persecution based on ethnicity, largely so as not to antagonize China. The one exception was in 1979, when faced with coup plots, Pol Pot ordered the ethnic cleansing of hundreds of ethnic Chinese workers in Phnom Penh itself.

2 sympathetic British journalists were killed in 1979, apparently on Duch 's orders, in an effort to embarrass Pol Pot.
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Religion: The constitution officially decreed freedom of religion, and abolished the Thera ads Buddhism that was the official religion prior to 1975 and after 1979. Khieu Samphan and Yun Yat were outspoken atheists, while Pol Pot was an adherent of the Mohanikay sect of Buddhism followed by a tiny minority (estimated at about 4%) largely associated with the old aristocracy.

In 1975, on Khieu Samphan's orders, tens of thousands of Buddhist monks, mostly of the Thommayut sect of Buddhism (like Mohanikay a sect of Theravada, but practiced by over 90% of the population and introduced by the Thai empire of Chiang Mai in the Middle Ages), were shot or beaten to death as "exploited." Hundreds of thousands more were labeled as unreliable new people after being forced to abjure their faith. Persecution of monks was heaviest in the Special Zone and rare in the Northeast and East. After 1976 the remaining monasteries, on Ieng Thirith's instructions, were generally left to find for themselves, and sometimes (especially in the Western Zone) even supplied with serf laborers (ultimately numbering in the thousands) by the government. Lay Buddhist practitoners were generally not molested, although during the period of least privacy and highest killing rates of 1976-1977, especially in the Eastern and Northwestern Zones, it was best not to do anything that would cause you to stand out. In the Northeastern Zone, with the most village autonomy, Buddhism was often a vibrant unity practice.

Christians were a small minority centered in the big cities (Pol Pot both studied at and taught social studies in a Catholic school), where Catholicism was practiced mostly by whites and ethnic Vietnamese, and the Northeastern Zone, where evangelical Protestant, Mormon, and Catholic missionaries had gained adherents among the Khmer Leou. On Khieu Samphan's orders, the Phnom Penh cathedral was destroyed in 1975, and hundreds of Christians were shot on the initiative of Khieu and Vorn Vet. In the Northeast tribes with large numbers of Christian adherents (Prong and Stieng) saw their languages banned on Ney Sarann's orders on the rationale that Christianity would make them sympathetic to Vietnam, and hundreds were sent to Santebal prison for Christian practice, but there were no general reprisals against these tribes beyond that. Tens of thousands of mostly white Christians fled the country in 1975-1976 after their relatives or churches paid ransom to the Cambodian government.

The traditional religious practices of rural minorities were generally not interfered with.

The Muslim minority, almost entirely Cham, faced the most sustained religious persecution. Cham villages and families were split up and reassigned to separate collectives as part of a drive to stamp out Islam, rooted in ethnic and national prejudice and in the Chams' general sympathy to the Sihanouk faction which put them at odds with Pol Pot, Ieng Sary, and Ta Mok. In 1976, while famine was widespread and meat rations for the populace were unheard of, the Cambodians traded valuable rubber for pork imported from China just so they could make Cham people eat pork on pain of death. Tens of thousands were killed for refusing to eat pork.


That's jacked up: 1.7 million deaths

Cambodia overall: 12% starved. 9% executed. 79% survived. 1.7 million deaths.

Urban Cambodia: 20% starved. 10% executed. 70% survived. 725,000 deaths.
Rural Cambodia: 8% starved. 9% executed. 83% survived. 1 million deaths.

"Base people": 12% starved. 4% executed. 84% survived. 800,000 deaths.
"New people": 17% starved. 12% executed. 71% survived. 900,000 deaths.

Ethnic Khmer: 19% starved. 5% executed. 76% survived. 1.3 million deaths.
Ethnic Chinese: 43% starved. 7% executed. 50% survived. 200,000 deaths.
Khmer Leou: 13% starved. 2% executed. 85% survived. 9,000 deaths.
Ethnic Vietnamese: 8% starved. 92% executed. 0% survived. 20,000 deaths.
Ethnic Lao: 20% starved. 20% executed. 60% survived. 4,000 deaths.
Ethnic Thai: 5% starved. 35% executed. 60% survived. 8,000 deaths.
Ethnic Cham: 7% starved. 29% executed. 64% survived. 90,000 deaths.

Buddhist: 12% starved. 9% executed. 79% survived. 1.6 million deaths.
Muslim: 7% starved. 29% executed. 64% survived. 90,000 deaths.
Christian: 3% starved. 2% executed. 95% survived. 1,500 deaths.
Traditional religions: 10% starved. 1% executed. 89% survived. 1,000 deaths.

Special Zone: 22% starved. 20% executed. 58% survived. 400,000 deaths.
Southwestern Zone: 2% starved. 10% executed. 88% survived. 20,000 deaths.
Western Zone: 5% starved. 8% executed. 87% survived. 30,000 deaths.
Northwestern Zone: 40% starved. 30% executed. 30% survived. 750,000 deaths.
Northern Zone: 8% starved. 17% executed. 75% survived. 80,000 deaths.
Northeastern Zone: 4% starved. 1% executed. 95% survived. 15,000 deaths
Eastern Zone: 6% starved. 37% executed. 57% survived. 400,000 deaths.
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The media: None to speak of. Under Yun Yat's direction, propaganda sessions averaging three hours per day after 1976 for workers and five hours a day for soldiers indoctrinated people into regime ideology while depriving them of time to think for themselves. The Constitution contained specific instructions for the flag and other symbols of the regime. The national anthem created in 1976, which spoke in detail about how the blood of the people would create a glorious future, was widely taught and sung. Party mottos were repeated religiously. What little dissent existed often took the form of sarcastic misuse of mottos, but that or singing the anthem with an insufficiently enthusiastic tone could be enough to get someone killed.

User political polls: The Khmer Rouge regime is one of the most widely hated in history, even among its own top leaders. Initially popular among a majority of the Khmer and Khmer Loeu peasantry, at least outside the Southwestern and Western zones, it lost nearly all the support it had after 1977 when the mass killings began. A minority continued to support it in the northeast until the fall of the regime and the revelation of the scope of the killings. Also, many were so caught up in the Stockholm syndrome situation of trying to survive the murderous regime that they couldn't let themselves afford the luxury of consciously hating it until 1979. After the war, the Khmer Rouge became the darling of the U.S., China (which invaded Vietnam in an effort to put the Khmer Rouge back in power), and Thailand.

The Khmer Rouge was widely denounced not only by the U.S. and its allies, but by most of the international communist tendencies, as of 1975, although it was supported by China before 1978, and by N. Korea even after that. Vietnam was critically supportive prior to 1976, but the USSR and the Warsaw Pact nations (besides Romania) as well as Albania and Cuba quickly and loudly denounced it. Yugoslavia and Romania flirted with support of it in 1975-1976 before also turning sharply against it. The far right was also hostile to the regime, as was Ethiopia's radical left-wing capitalist regime. A right-leaning faction of the world Trotskyist movement briefly welcomed the capture of Phnom Penh in 1975 before getting the picture and reversing its opinion by 1977 (although the scope of the killings was beyond the comprehension of even the most critical observers before 1979). And it was supported by a small smattering of ultraleftist Maoists, particularly those adhering to "Marxism-Leninism-Maoism," although this tendency was denounced by the Khmer Rouge themselves, who rooted their politics in "Mao Zedong Thought" and ended up drifting toward the political line of Deng Xiaoping. With these exceptions, nearly all Maoists, Trotskyists, Titleist, Hoxhaists, and Moscow - oriented "communists" were unequivocally hostile. Within China, Deng Xiaoping was the most consistent supporter of the Khmer Rouge and Zhou Enlai the most consistent opponent.


Still jacked up: one of the most widely repeated Khmer Rouge slogans was, "To spare you is no benefit; to remove you, no loss."


And of course communism has NOTHING to do with it. Just betrayal after betrayal. o_O
Given that the prime minister (and #1 party leader) and deputy prime minister/foreign minister (and #3 party leader) explicitly denounced Lenin and communism, and that the Khmer Rouge betrayed basic principles of communism such as a revolution led by workers, open and honest government by the people and for the people, priority for urban over rural interests, solidarity with workers’ regimes, and anti-racism, I would say so.

You could more honestly blame “lefty” since (with the qualified exception of Ieng Sary) the party was clearly an ultra leftist party. Or with greater honesty yet you could recognize that Cambodia’s nightmare was assured long before the U.S. came to power and that the betrayals of communism that allowed Pol Pot to come to power at the head of an officially communist party were symptoms of the obliteration and abandonment of a backward peasant civilization by the world’s most advanced industrial power, and the prior Stalinist counterrevolutions made possible by communism’s weakness.
Given that the prime minister (and #1 party leader) and deputy prime minister/foreign minister (and #3 party leader) explicitly denounced Lenin and communism, and that the Khmer Rouge betrayed basic principles of communism such as a revolution led by workers, open and honest government by the people and for the people, priority for urban over rural interests, solidarity with workers’ regimes, and anti-racism, I would say so.
Every time you have an excuse. Why is it do you think there is an excuse? Shouldn't communism be natural and just happen as a kind of path of least resistance? Why isn't it natural like that? Can it ever wildly succeed and give a better quality of life than well regulated capitalism? Will it happen in your lifetime?

You could more honestly blame “lefty” since (with the qualified exception of Ieng Sary) the party was clearly an ultra leftist party. Or with greater honesty yet you could recognize that Cambodia’s nightmare was assured long before the U.S. came to power and that the betrayals of communism that allowed Pol Pot to come to power at the head of an officially communist party were symptoms of the obliteration and abandonment of a backward peasant civilization by the world’s most advanced industrial power, and the prior Stalinist counterrevolutions made possible by communism’s weakness.
I'm not buying this excuse for what should be so obvious that ALL of human nature would wildly accept the communist tenets by default. Why doesn't it? Maybe human nature isn't communist?