The Khmer Rouge was the communist ruling political party of Cambodia from 1975 to 1979. Gradually losing power following a Vietnamese invasion in December 1978, the Khmer Rouge maintained control in some regions until 1998 when the final stronghold, in Anlong Veng District, fell to the government.
The term "Khmer Rouge," French for "Red Khmer", was coined by Cambodian head of state Norodom Sihanouk and was later adopted by English speakers. It was used to refer to a succession of Communist parties in Cambodia which evolved into the Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK) and later the Party of Democratic Kampuchea. The organization was also known as the Khmer Communist Party and the National Army of Democratic Kampuchea.
The Khmer Rouge is remembered mainly for the many deaths of an estimated 1.5 million people or 1/5 of the country's total populationreference required (estimates range from 850,000 to two million) under its regime, through execution, torture, starvation and forced labor. Following their leader Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge imposed an extreme form of social engineering on Cambodian society — a radical form of agrarian communism where the whole population had to work in collective farms or forced labor projects. In terms of the number of people killed as a proportion of the population (est. 7.5 million people, as of 1975), it was one of the most lethal regimes of the 20th century.reference required
Khmer Rouge wanted to eliminate anyone suspected of "involvement in free-market activities". Suspected capitalists encompassed professionals and almost everyone with an education, many urban dwellers, and people with connections to foreign governments. Khmer Rouge believed parents were tainted with capitalism. Consequently, children were separated from parents and brainwashed to socialism as well as taught torture methods with animals. Children were a "dictatorial instrument of the party" and were given leadership in torture and executions.reference required
One of their mottos, in reference to the New People, was: "To keep you is no benefit. To destroy you is no loss." The ideology of the Khmer Rouge evolved over time. In the early days, it was an orthodox communist party and looked to the Vietnamese Communists for guidance. It became more Stalinist and anti-intellectual when groups of students who had been studying in France returned to Cambodia. The students, including future party leader Pol Pot, had been heavily influenced by the example of the French Communist Party (PCF). After 1960, the Khmer Rouge developed its own unique political ideas. For example, contrary to most Marxist doctrine, the Khmer Rouge considered the farmers in the countryside to be the proletariat and the true representatives of the working class, a form of Maoism which brought them onto the PRC side of the Sino-Soviet Split. By the 1970s, the ideology of the Khmer Rouge combined its own ideas with the anti-colonialist ideas of the PCF, which its leaders had acquired during their education in French universities in the 1950s. The Khmer Rouge leaders were also privately very resentful of what they saw as the arrogant attitude of the Vietnamese, and were determined to establish a form of communism very different from the Vietnamese model and also from other Communist countries, including China.
After four years of rule, the Khmer Rouge regime was removed from power in 1979 as a result of an invasion by the Socialist Republic of Vietnam and was replaced by moderate, pro-Vietnamese Communists. It survived into the 1990s as a resistance movement operating in western Cambodia from bases in Thailand. In 1996, following a peace agreement, their leader Pol Pot formally dissolved the organization. Pol Pot died on 15 April, 1998, having never been put on trial.
- CNN.com:'Key events regarding Pol Pot and Khmer Rouge'
- Jackson, Karl D. (1992). Cambodia, 1975-1978: Rendezvous with Death. Princeton University Press. ISBN 069102541X.
- How the mighty are falling.The Economist