Like all sad murder stories, this one starts out with an evil dictator who lacks heart or emotion. Many peasants, soldiers, and foreigners died in 1975-1979 because of Pol Pot's guerilla war group, Khmer Rouge which was responsible for a horrifying twenty-five percent decrease in Columbia's population.
The horror began to unravel in 1962, when Pol Pot became the leader of the Cambodian Communist Party and was forced to escape into the jungle by Prince Norodom Sihanouk, the leader of Cambodia. Pol Pot then formed an armed resistance movement against Cambodia's government, known as Khmer Rouge (Red Cambodians); which would later on be known for its guerrilla war attacks against Sihanouk's government and the people of Cambodia.
In 1970, Prince Sihanouk was thrown out of office, not by Pol Pot, but instead due to an U. S.
backed military coup. Reluctant Prince Sihanouk then joined with Pol Pot in opposing Cambodia's new military government. Throughout 1969 to 1973, the United States intermittently bombed North Vietnamese sanctuaries in Cambodia, killing up to 150, 000 Cambodian peasants. Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot's popularity was starting to grow and more recruits where joining by the day.
By 1975, the U. S decided to withdrawn its troops from Vietnam and Cambodia, leaving Cambodia's government weaker than ever. Taking advantage this opportunity, Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge army, consisting of mostly teenage peasants, marched into Phnom Penh (Cambodia's capital) on April 17 and effectively seized control of Cambodia. Once in power, Pol Pot began attempting his own "Super Great Leap Forward" which was based on the teachings of Mao Zedong's (China's cultural revolutionary).
The "Super Great Leap Forward" led Pol Pot to change Cambodia's name to the Democratic Republic of Kampuchea and also pronounce that the society was to be "purified." Little did anyone know that Pol Pot's purification would cut Cambodia off from any communication to the outside world? Capitalism, Western culture, city life, religion, and all foreign influences were extinguished. Foreigners were expelled, embassies closed, and any foreign economic or medical assistance were refused in Cambodia. The uses of foreign languages were banned. Newspapers and television stations were shut down, radios and bicycles confiscated, and mail and telephone usage curtailed.
Money was forbidden. All businesses were shuttered, religion banned, education halted, health care eliminated, and parental authority revoked. Cambodia was sealed off from the outside world in anyway. All of Cambodia's cities were then forcibly evacuated. At Phnom Penh, two million inhabitants were evacuated on foot into the countryside at gunpoint. As many as 20, 000 died along the way.
Millions of Cambodians accustomed to city life were now forced into slave labor in Pol Pot's "killing fields" where they soon began dying from overwork, malnutrition and disease, on a diet of one tin of rice (180 grams) per person every two days. Workdays in the fields began around 4 a. m. and lasted until 10 p.
m. , with only two rest periods allowed during the 18 hour day, all under the armed supervision of young Khmer Rouge soldiers eager to kill anyone for the slightest infraction. Starving people were forbidden to eat the fruits and rice they were harvesting. After the rice crop was harvested, Khmer Rouge trucks would arrive and confiscate the entire crop. Throughout Cambodia, deadly purges were conducted to eliminate remnants of the "old society", which included the educated, the wealthy, Buddhist monks, police, doctors, lawyers, teachers, and former government officials.
Ex-soldiers were killed along with their wives and children. Anyone suspected of disloyalty to Pol Pot, including eventually many Khmer Rouge leaders, was shot or bludgeoned with an ax. Ethnic groups were attacked including the three largest minorities; the Vietnamese, Chinese, and Cham Muslims, along with twenty other smaller groups. Fifty percent of the estimate 425, 000 Chinese living in Cambodia in 1975 perished. Khmer Rouge also forced Muslims to eat pork and shot those who refused. On December 25, 1978, Vietnam launched a full-scale invasion of Cambodia hoping to end the Khmer Rouge attacks.
On January 7, 1979, Phnom Penh fell and Pol Pot was deposed. The Vietnamese then installed their own puppet government consisting of Khmer Rouge defectors. Pol Pot retreated into Thailand with the remnants of his Khmer Rouge army and began a guerrilla war against a succession of Cambodian governments lasting over the next 17 years. After a series of internal power struggles in the 1990 s, he finally lost control of the Khmer Rouge.
April 15, 1998, 73-year-old Pol Pot died of an apparent heart attack following his arrest. He was never brought to trial for the events of 1975-79. web.