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Published: March 23rd 2006
There is a memorial setup at the Killing Feilds with all the skulls they found organized into age group...10-15, 15-20, 20-25 year old...and so on.
This is a story about the extremely violent mass murder of millions of men, women, and children...just a warning.
Cambodia was a French colony until King Sihanouk declared independence in 1953. Sihanouk was very popular in the beginning and went on to create a socialist state, and around the same time cut ties with the US. This was a time when you were either on the side of North Vietnam and China…or the South Vietnam and the US. But his form of socialism was not very popular with the Khmer (Cambodian) people and the US-backed, anti-communist, Lon Nol, ousted him in 1970.
From exile in China, Sihanouk formed a revolutionary group to go against Lon Nol. He called this group the Khmer Rouge. As the war in Vietnam started finding it’s way across the border into Cambodia, North Vietnamese troops were joining up with the Khmer Rouge. This was a problem for Lon Nol because this new group was becoming more powerful than his military. Even with the US providing everything they could to Lon Nol, he could not win against the Khmer Rouge. It probably didn’t help that the US was now carpet-bombing Cambodia to kill the Vietnamese
This is where the skulls are kept...stacked all the way to the top
communists they knew were there, but in the meantime killed 250,000 Cambodians with those bombs. All this did was drive more and more into the arms of the Khmer Rouge…to fight against a US backed leader for family members killed by US bombs. Over half a million more Cambodians were killed during this civil war.
The Khmer Rouge finally took Phnom Penh, and with it the country, in 1975. Because Lon Nol was so corrupt and such an ineffective leader, the Khmer Rouge was greeted on the streets with open arms. They had liberated Cambodia!
The celebrations did not last long. The problem was that King Sihanouk was not leading the Khmer Rouge anymore; Pol Pot was now leading it. I don’t know if most the cadres in the Khmer Rouge even knew this. But Pol Pot was now in charge and he had his own ideas for Cambodia…something called a “Maoist, peasant-dominated agrarian cooperative”.
The first thing he did was turn the clocks back to “Year Zero”. He then abolished all currency, books, and communication lines with the outside world. He evacuated all towns and cities. Everyone was to be relocated to the countryside. Just days after he took
This grave they found over 100 people without heads
over hundreds of thousands of people were forced to leave their homes with what they could carry and to walk for days and days into the country. The people were told the cities were not safe because the US was going to bomb them. These people were then put into labor camps. They were split into groups…the base people (people who lived in the country before the civil war) were treated better than the new people (from the cities) because the base people were considered a part of the revolution and the new people were not. Everyone was forced to work 15-hour days in the fields and they were only fed rice porridge.
While the people were getting into their new lives as peasants…the Khmer Rouge started executing the educated…anyone who might pose a threat to the new regime. The educated’s families were next…then anyone with ties to the old government…and their families…and then anyone with foreign blood…Chinese, Vietnamese…their families…all executed and buried in mass graves. Not shot either…bullets were too expensive. These people had their heads bashed in with spades or large sticks. Children, brainwashed children, would be put in charge of killing the babies. They would hold the
The Killing Tree
One of the trees where they killed the babies
babies by their feet and swing them into trees to smash their heads before throwing them in the ground. This wasn’t a thousand years ago…it was 30 years ago! The sad part is I could go on and on with things like this…whenever I think I’ve heard the worst, I walked around the corner and see a picture of something else that sends chills down my spine. I really wonder how long it will take to get this shit out of my head. I wonder how the people who survived can live after going through this.
Why was all this being done? Pol Pot’s idea of a utopia was a Cambodia that did not relay on the outside world for anything. A Cambodia that worked to provide enough food to feed everyone…a Cambodia of peasants…no need for money, no need for the rest of the world. And anyone that could threaten that system had to go. Why the babies? They might grow up and want to avenge their parents.
Some say the ones that were executed were lucky…it was the hundreds of thousands who died of starvation, malaria, or dysentery after working so hard for years in the fields or
the ones who died from torture in the political prisons like SR-21 (a high school turned into one of the prison/torture chambers in Phnom Penh where over 14,000 prisoners died).
Pol Pot’s rage didn’t stop there though, he started getting paranoid and executing his own. Khmer Rouge cadres were being executed a little too often by 1978…and a lot of them started defecting to Vietnam. It was these defectors, along with Vietnamese troops, that invaded Cambodia in December 1978 and overthrew the regime in less than 2 weeks. The Khmer Rouge fled to the jungle and ended up lasting out there for quite some time. They were known to kidnap and kill tourists in the 90s…but I think it was in 1999 that the Khmer Rouge was finally declared dead.
Pol Pot died in 1998 a free man. He believed in what he was trying to do until the day he died. I really don’t know why he was never brought to justice…I haven’t gotten that far in the book I’m reading about him yet.
This is the only case in history of people committing genocide against themselves. Depending on the source anywhere from 1-3 million Cambodians died during the
A high school turned political prison...all prisoners died
4 years of Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge rule.
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