Legacy Khmer rouge

November 14, 2008 at 7:44 pm Leave a comment

Today i visited the Tuol Sleng Museum, sight of the largest prison/detention center used by the Khmer Rouge to interogate and torture before depositing the victims into the mass graves of the killing fields of Choeung Ek, which i also visited. Tuol Sleng was a high school before the Khmer Rouge came to power and despite the 30+ years still retains the feeling of a school. Hard to imagine that in the 3 years 8 months and 20 days that the rouges were in power, more than 17,000 people passed through this prison and only 7 survived. The corpses in the killing fields were discovered by Khmers (term for ordinary Cambodian citizens) returning home after the massive deportations to the countryside during the rouge period.

I’ll give a wiki worthy summary of the history:

Unhappy with the corruption of the current government, Khmer Rouge (conducted by Cambodians who were educated in France and had ties with communists in Hanoi) was able to gain support and control of the Cambodian countryside. In April 1975 they took control of Phnom Penh, diposing of the former government and asserting the beginning: year 0. Some people were very happy.

yel072-vi (celebrations in Phnom Penh the day Khmer rouge forces marched in)

Those with something to lose and those who understood the repurcusions of the rouge’s takeover worried. The goal was to eliminate the old way of life (family, traditions, religion, social classes, economy, education, urban life) and to create a classless society of peasants. Rice cultivation was the goal. Upon taking over Phnom Penh, they evacuated nearly the whole city and sent them to the countryside to work in the rice fields. All throughout Cambodia, people were moved from the urban centers into the rural putting a lot of stress on the environment. The goal for rice harvest was never  reached. People starved to death. The small crop they harvested was given to the soldiers and beaurocratic personal (or sent to China!). Families were separated. Fathers usually killed for “treason.” Young men sent to work in the fields. Young women sent to work in other fields. Children sent to work in others. The threats were constant. Family and community ties were broken. Back in Phnom Penh (and other sites) the rouge was busy eliminating enemies of the state: doctors, teachers, monks… Later, they turned on their own. And when they had killed too many men, they employed boys to serve as cadres.


Because it was for the greater good and this was the result…



Entry filed under: travel. Tags: , , .

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