Pol Pot was born on 19 May 1925 in Prek Sbauv village, outside Kampong Thom city in Cambodia. He was named Saloth Sar due to its light skin complexion. Pol Pot attended school in some of Cambodia's elite schools, and he got a scholarship to study radio electronics in Paris where he concentrated much in Marxism hence neglecting the studies. He lost the scholarship and came back to Cambodia in 1953 where he joins an underground Communist party. In 1954, Cambodia gained its full independence from France, governed by a royal monarchy (Edwards 61). Pol Pot was a Cambodia Communist Party leader by 1962, and he fled into the jungle to escape Cambodia leader Prince Norodom Sihanouk wrath. At the jungle, he created an armed resistance movement known as the Khmer Rouge (Red Cambodians) where he launched a guerrilla war in 1968 against Prince Sihanouk's government.
In 1970, Sihanouk became ousted by US military coup forcing the prince to retaliate and join the former enemy Pol Pot to fight against Cambodia's new military government. The same year, the US attacked Cambodia to misplace the North Vietnamese from settling in their border thus driving them deeper until they allied with Khmer Rouge. The US military continuously bombed the North Vietnamese in eastern Cambodia resulting in the death of around 150,000 Cambodians from 1969 to 1973. The killing result in flew of hundreds of thousands of peasant Cambodians settling in Phnom Penh, Cambodia's capital city. The events resulted in military and economic instability in Cambodia hence surge of Pol Pot support. The US withdrew its army from Vietnam by 1975 leaving Cambodian government full of corruption and incompetence and lack of support from the American military. Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge army took advantage of the condition and marched to the capital city Phnom Penh, and seized to control Cambodia on April 1975 (Beachler 73).
In power, Pol Pot introduced a radical experiment to develop an agrarian utopia inspired by Mao Zedong's Cultural Revolution witnessed during Communist China visit. The revolution comprises of the forceful evacuation of Chinese from the cities and disappearance of class enemies. Pol Pot wanted to try the "Super Great Leap Forward" in his country. He renamed Cambodia the Democratic Republic of Kampuchea and declared that "This Is Year Zero" where purification of societies, city life, western culture, religion and foreign influences got extinguished for the sake of peasant communism. All foreigners in the country encounter deportation, all embassies closed, any foreign medical and economic assistance declined. There was the banning of foreign language use, the shutdown of television channels and radio stations, newspapers, bicycle confiscation and telephone and mail usage curtailed (Edwards 66). Forbidding of money use exist resulting in shutting down of all businesses. Religion was banned, health care and education system halted and revocation of parental authority. All cities in Cambodia encountered force evacuation with two million inhabitants in Phnom Penh city evacuated into the countryside on foot at gunpoint. More than 20,000 people died on the way to the countryside due to thirst, lack of food and fatigue.
Millions of Cambodia citizens used to city life faced forced slave labor in "killing fields" where they started dying from diseases, overworking and malnutrition. Cambodians worked in the fields for 18 hours a day and had only two resting periods supervised by armed young Khmer Rouge military which were eager to kill anyone who makes a mistake. People starving could not consume rice and rice harvested in the fields. Crops harvesting took place, and Khmer Rouge trucks would collect the entire harvest. Each person survived on a diet of 180 grams tin of rice for two days. Ten to fifteen family members stayed together headed by a supervisor who made all decisions of work. Living or dying was not of great benefit to the military. The people would rest every tenth day and had a total of three off days during the New Year festive season. Deadly search took part in Cambodia to eliminate the remaining "old society," the wealthy, the educated, police, lawyers, doctors, teachers and former state officials (Beachler 70). The individuals were killed together with their wives and children. The Khmer Rouge slogan" What is rotten must be removed" was used to eliminate disloyal persons to Pol Pot including its soldiers by shooting them and cutting them with an ax. Gatherings in the village of more than two people were unacceptable and young men were taken from their guardians and put in communal. They were married in-group ceremonies to hundreds of unwilling couples. Torturing of around 20,000 people took place; they were forced to give false confession at a school in Phnom Penh, which acted as a jail and any suspects shot before questioning. Ethnic groups like Vietnamese, Cham Muslims, and Chinese faced tragic attack. Fifty percent which is 425,000 Chinese residing in Cambodia perished in 1975 and Muslims were forced to eat pork refusal lead to the shooting.
On December 25, 1978, Vietnam planned an invasion of Cambodia to end the Pol Pot attack where on January 1979, Pol Pot got defeated, and Phnom Penh fell (Edwards 58). The puppet government was formed comprising of Khmer Rouge defectors and the Vietnamese. Pol Pot and his remaining army began a fight against a succession of the Cambodian government which took part for 17 years leading to its defeat in the 1990s and loss of Khmer Rouge control. In 1997, Pol Pot was placed under house arrest where he died of heart attack in 1998 before trial.
Beachler, Donald W. "The Quest for Justice in Cambodia: Power, Politics, and the Khmer Rouge Tribunal." Genocide Studies and Prevention: An International Journal (2014): 67-75.
Edwards, Matthew. "The rise of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia: internal or external origins?" Asian Affairs Journal (2007): 56-67.
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