Pol Pot in Cambodia

The Vietnam War was probably most costly to the country of Cambodia, which experienced the ascension of the Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK), also called the Khmer Rouge. This communist dictatorship seized power in Cambodia from 1975 to 1979 and perpetuated a campaign of mass genocide. Marxist activists, educated in France, formed the CPK in 1951. They took advantage of the political instability that followed a military coup in 1970 that ousted the traditional Cambodian monarchy. The CPK received financial backing from North Vietnam and took control of Cambodia after a five-year civil war.

In 1976 the infamous Pol Pot (1925–1998) assumed power as the prime minister of Democratic Kampuchea, later the general secretary of the CPK. He led mass executions of perceived government opponents, coupled with malnutrition and poor medical care, which historians estimate killed between 1.5 and 2 million people, approximately a quarter of Cambodia's population. The three years of genocide featured mass grave sites known as Cambodia's killing fields. In December 1978, the newly-unified Vietnam invaded Cambodia after several years of border clashes. They deposed Pol Pot and installed a rival Marxist–Leninist government in 1979.

Watch this documentary which explains why Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge were able to gain such power. How did this period of violence and genocide impact the history of Cambodia and Southeast Asia?

Note that this video includes many disturbing images of the victims of Pol Pot's killing fields.

Last modified: Friday, March 25, 2022, 5:30 PM