Out with the new,
In with the old.
This was the Khmer Rouge’s strategy. They wanted to make the country prosperous again. Their strategy was to return the country to year zero, getting rid of modern accretions; going back to their roots. Anyone with education was classed as ‘new’ and received an immediate death sentence. Those kept were the ones who worked the land or didn’t have an education; the ‘old’. The plan was to massively up rice production to be exported and the method was through a commune strategy. Possessions, money, books were not only useless, but potentially harmful. Anyone with an education was targeted and killed. This was Cambodia’s ‘great leap forward’, done at break-neck speed.
The tactics of the Khmer Rouge were deception. The first was a false alarm call of bombing in Phnom Penh in 1975. From there deception flowed as children were pitted against parents to rat our anyone with an education. The Khmer Rouge soldiers were mostly young, yet their targets were any age and any religion; anyone that couldn’t contribute to their plan, young and old alike, both the religious and irreligious. In the few short years that the Khmer Rouge were in power, one quarter of the 8 million people in Cambodia died. Half of those 2-3 million were killed, executed. The other half died from the effects of war, poverty, famine and disease.
The Vietnamese captured Phnom Penh from the Khmer Rouge in 1979. What followed was a 14 year struggle to work out how to bring political stability to a wounded country. Next post we explore some of the larger effects of the Khmer Rouge on the nation of Cambodia.