The Fall of the Khmer Rouge War (Fall 2012)

During the Vietnam War, Cambodia was a neutral state, until the Vietnamese guerrilla soldiers known as the Viet Congs had created bases within Cambodian territory in order to regroup and store supplies. The United States had believed that a bombardment in Cambodia will eliminate the Vietnamese and deprive them of the land, so, the Vietnam War can quickly end, but this only resulted in a political destabilization of the Cambodian country. These political stages had set the rise of the Khmer Rouge War and their leader name Pol Pot. The American had exacerbated the plan by the influence and actions of the allies of the two warring sides. The Viet Cong’s involvement was to protect their base areas and sanctuaries in eastern Cambodia. Then following the Cambodian coup of 1970, in which, Lon Nol, a former Prime Minister of Cambodia, had successfully staged to dethrone the king of Cambodia, name Norodom Sihanouk and invoke himself as the President of Cambodia. The North Vietnamese Army's attempt was to overrun the entire country in 1970, thus, Cambodia had a civil war.

The U.S. was motivated by the desire to buy time for its withdrawal from Southeast Asia, to protect its ally in South Vietnam, and to prevent the spread of communism to Cambodia. America and both the South and North Vietnamese forces directly participated one at a time in the fighting. By the end of 1972, after five years of civil war, the Vietcong’s withdrew from Cambodia and left the Khmer Rouge to control Cambodia. In 1973, about eighty percent of the Cambodian territory was in the hands of the Khmer Rouge. Then came April 17, 1975, when the Khmer Rouge war had successfully defeated the Viet Cong’s and deprived them of Cambodia. This was the beginning of independence for Cambodia and the beginning for the Khmer Rouge to rule Cambodia. This was also the beginning of colonialism in the city of Phnom Penh. Lon Nol had resigned from his position on April 1st because he believed that a peace agreement will be negotiable between the Khmer Rouge and Allies, even when he is not in office, therefore, Saukam Khoy was appealed to Head of State.

The United States embassy had evacuated the officials of the Cambodian government, including the new president Saukam Khoy, but the ambassadors, members of Lon Nol’s cabinet and Lon Nol’s brother rejected the offer to be evacuated after how the civil war has devastated the economy of the country. They had to choose to stay in Cambodia and help aid the people, plus share the same fate. They entrusted the Khmer Rouge that they will not be alienated and murdered, but help them build a new Cambodian economy, plus, society; however, they were all executed by the Khmer Rouge. A general name Sak Sutsakhan, together with the Supreme Committee, they were governing Cambodia. Then on April 15th, the walls of Cambodia had collapsed because they were defeated by the communists Khmer Rouge. In just after a few days the Khmer Rouge had victoriously proclaimed Cambodia, they stripped the city, Phnom Penh, of their intellectual professions and separated from their loved ones. The people were forced to work in agricultural fields and had no adequate food or rest. Pol Pot had imposed radical Maoist and Marxist-Leninist belief systems. The dictator wanted to transform Cambodia into a rural, classless society in which there were no rich people, no poor people, and no exploitation. With this in mind, the Khmer Rouge exterminated religious practices such as buddhism and muslim, plus, monks, and traditional Khmer culture, also, education and government buildings were occupied into prisons and concentration camps. There were no public or private transportation, and no social activities, in which they were restricted. People throughout the country, including the leaders of the Khmer Rouge had to wear black costumes, their traditional revolutionary clothes. Everything was fundamentally erased from the civilians and even food because the Khmer Rouge had occupied the Mekong River, in which the South Vietnamese convoy would supply the city, but the United States strategized to airlift materials to Phnom Penh. This was risky for the United States because this had caused artillery fires to rain down on the starving city and innocent people’s lives.

In Phnom Penh, the Khmer Rouge would not allow anyone to gather and hold discussions. If people held discussions or events, they would be accused of being enemies and arrested or executed. People were forbidden to show affection, humor or pity. The Khmer Rouge asked all Cambodians to believe, obey and respect Pol Pot, where he was everyone’s “mother and father.” The Khmer Rouge believed that people who were “pure” can only be a part of the revolution, therefore, they arrested and killed thousands of soldiers, military officers and servitude civilians led by Lon Nol, in which they did not believe were “pure.” Over the next three years, the Khmer Rouge executed hundreds of thousands of intellectuals; city residents; minority people such as the Cham (Vietnamese Muslims), Vietnamese and Chinese; and many of their own soldiers and party members, who were accused of being traitors. There were much intermarriage with the Cambodians, Vietnamese and Chinese that the intermarried couples were annihilated because they were also not seen as “pure” Cambodian. Many Cambodians were held in prisons, where they were detained, tortured and executed. The main prison in Cambodia, known as S-21, held approximately 14,000 prisoners and only 12 would survive. The people’s conditions worsened in the agricultural fields when the Cambodians were to produce more than three tons of throughout the country. People had to constantly plant rice for 12 months, but in most regions, the Khmer Rouge forced people to work more than 12 hours; his was called the “Four Year Plan,” under the terms of the Pol Pot. Many innocent lives had perished from the agricultural fields, because that was the only “employment” for the people, thus, they would not get paid. Pol Pot had declared the Year Zero and it meant the emphasis of familiarity in the lives of the people whose life will be destroyed.

Pol Pot and his guerilla army, the Khmer Rouge, were finally defeated on January 7th of 1979 where the Viet Cong’s had captured the city of Phnom Penh. On December 1978, there had been border conflicts between Vietnam and Cambodia because the people of Cambodia had been fleeing to Vietnam, thus changed the relationship between the Vietnamese and Pol Pot Khmer Rouge dictator. Before, Pol Pot was becoming paranoid throughout the 5 years of dictatorship about the fact that the Vietnamese will dominate Cambodia. He became afraid that he strategized to have the borders and territory of Vietnam to be raided and have it massacred, thus, the villages and innocent lives in the regions of Vietnam were brutally killed. About 3,157 lives were killed in the village called Ba Chúc, but only 2 survived the massacre. These raids have given the advantage of the Vietnamese to invade Cambodia in 1978. They had made their way through the walls of Cambodia and routed the Khmer Rouge to be faced in battle. The Khmer Rouge were routed into the jungles of Cambodia, about 35,000 Khmer Rouge guerrilla soldiers, and were faced in battle with the former State of Head, King Sihanouk and his guerilla movement, hoping to overthrow the Khmer Rouge system, in which, King Sihanouk retreated Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge into the borders of Thailand. Pol Pot found a way to escape by helicopter to the borders of Thailand as the city was falling under the invasion of Vietnam’s army. In the borders of Thailand, the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot were aided by the Chinese and Thailand. However, the United Nations had voted the Khmer Rouge a seat in the organization as the General Assembly because they were the only representatives of Cambodia through 1979 to 1990. Since Pol Pot was diminished on the borders of Thailand, a new government in Cambodia, call pro-Hanoi government led by Heng Samrin was created. The new government had named Cambodia the People's Republic of Kampuchea.

In Thailand, Pol Pot and his guerilla army had continued to colonize small regions on the borders. The regions they retained included Phnom Malai, the Cardamom Mountain villages and Dângrêk Mountain villages. In the mid 1980’s, Pol Pot had retired from being the leader of the Khmer Rouge and had assigned his dictatorship to his longtime associate, Son Sen, but Pol Pot was still the original leader de facto of the Khmer Rouge. The Khmer Rouge still made existence until 1999, but during the duration of the 1990’s, in 1995, Pol Pot suffered a stroke that left the left side of his body paralyzed. Then he had his longtime assistance Son Sen and Son Sen’s family executed two years later, because he believed that Sen had attempted to negotiate with the new Cambodian government. These deaths of Son Sen and his family had made the remaining Khmer Rouge leaders upset that the feelings of Pol Pot’s paranoia were out of control. The remaining Khmer Rouge were worried that they might be the next target to Pol Pot’s execution, that they had Pol Pot arrested and put him on trial for the murder of Son Sen and possibly some other members of the Khmer Rouge leaders. Pol Pot was guilty and charged to house arrest, but the remaining Khmer Rouge leaders had questioned if this was a lenient way to punish Pol Pot. A year passed, on April 15, 1998, Pol Pot heard a on the radio that the Khmer Rouge had to turned him over to an international tribunal. Pol Pot was heard to had mysteriously died that night, but people assumed and wonder, he possibly was murdered or committed suicide.

The Khmer Rouge War was one of the terrorizing genocide and extermination during the Vietnam War. Two million Cambodians died from diseases due to the lack of hospitality, also malnutrition, and exhaustion from working in the agricultural fields. Thousands of children and women were made into widows and orphans. Those who shared the same fate and had to live through the massacre are still severely traumatized by the experiences of the Khmer Rouge that had greatly affected them. During the Khmer Rouge war, thousands of people in Cambodia were escaping the borders and became refugees in Thailand and were hosted in families in America. Even though it has been a decade since the dictatorship of the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot, the terrorizing killings made by the guerilla group still live on the fields and the memories of the people of Cambodia.


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