From 1975 through 1979 Pol Pot led the Khmer Rouge and took control of the Cambodian government. About 1.5 to 2 million people were killed in an effort to turn the country into a communist utopia. Cities were evacuated and millions were sent to labor camps where they were abused. People were tortured and also died from starvation, disease, or execution. The Khmer Rouge aimed to get rid of doctors, teachers, monks or other religious figures to build a classless society.
The Khmer Rouge also killed people that couldn't work or make it to the camps and basically anyone they deemed to be against them. Many of their own members and even some of their leaders were killed. Children and babies were also subject to the brutality and many children were forced to become soldiers. People were forced to work on the collective farms but the manual labor was too harsh for children, the elderly, sick, and handicapped so they became targets. The Khmer Rouge restricted traditional Khmer culture during the period of genocide.
United to End Genocide
The killing fields were sites set up in Cambodia where the Khmer Rouge killed huge amounts of people once they couldn't work, weren't deemed as useful, or if they "confessed" to their supposed crimes. They are now memorials for people to visit and see the cruelty Cambodians endured under Pol Pot's regime. Every couple of weeks trucks were filled with victims to be executed. There was a large killing tree where children and babies were beaten to death. Many skeletons, bones, and teeth fragments have been found in the killing fields. About 1 million people died in the killing fields and were buried in mass graves.
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Pastor Sotha is a Cambodian genocide survivor. The Khmer Rouge forced his family out of the city to live in the rural area. His family was then separated into different working areas and he was forced to live in the jungle working as a farmer. During that time he became very sick with malaria and was very frail to the point of skin and bones. At one point he was sent to the hospital and while he was there he found out his brother was killed. Sotha came close to death one day when one of the leaders said wanted to kill him. He was brought to the hole where they killed people with his hands tied behind his back. Thankfully one of the high ranks spared his life and said he was going to die soon anyway and to release him. He is now a mission pastor and oversees 22 churches.
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Khiev You is a survivor from the Khmer Rouge genocide in Cambodia. In 1975 two bombs destroyed her house so she fled to a relatives house. There were also bombings there so she and her family had to leave. On their journey they were deported from one location after another and the military gave each of them jobs to do. In 1978 her husband was separated from her and one day she saw him tied up at the neck, waist, and with his hands behind his back. As she went to embrace him the soldiers threw her to the ground and they killed her husband with a knife in front of her. A week after he died the village chief wanted her to marry a head of Sahak Kar but she refused. She still wishes she could kill the Khmer Rouge cadres with her own hands after this ordeal.
The international community was well aware of the Cambodian genocide and US officials even made public statements condemning it but did little to do anything about it. At the time the US had just lost the war in Vietnam so the government was reluctant to get involved with that region again. Later on the United States made more public statements against the Khmer Rouge, but it wasn't until the regime was overthrown that it gained the international media's focus. Even so, it did not lead to a formal international investigation.
After the genocide ended, the Vietnamese regime tried to prosecute Pol Pot and leng Sary but the trial was not accepted as lawful since the defendants were not there. They didn't have anyone representing them either. It took over 30 years for the perpetrators to again try those who led the Khmer Rouge regime in the massacres and other crimes. In 2010 Kaing Guek Eav aka Dutch was found guilty for crimes against humanity and war crimes. It was appealed but afterwards he was sentenced to life in prison. There have been a few more cases against the leaders of the Khmer Rouge for crimes against humanity, war crimes, and genocide. One case against leng Thirst was dismissed (leng Sary's wife) because she incompetent to stand trial. Pol Pot died in 1998 and leng Sary died in 2013.