Thursday, January 30, 2020

The Killing Fields In Cambodia Essay Example for Free

The Killing Fields In Cambodia Essay Introduction: The killing fields mark a tragic time in history; over two million (2,000,000) reported killed while hundreds of thousands of people displaced.   The architect of this massacre is Pol Pot who led the communist guerilla group in 1975 and took over the Khmer Rouge (Etcheson 32).   Many of the deaths that occurred during this time were because of the executions that were mandated on anyone who opposed the rule of Pol Pot. While many were executed, a large number also died because of the starvation that became rampant during this period.    Reports show that almost every Cambodian family lost at least a single relative during this holocaust (Etcheson 32).   This short discourse will attempt to shed more light upon this event by discussing the events that led up to this holocaust as well as identifying several of the factors that may have led to its occurrence. Pol Pot   Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚   In order to arrive at a better understanding of the situation, it is important to first take a brief look at the life of the leader who led the Khmer Rouge during this time and initiated what was perhaps one of the most tragic events in human history.   Pol Pot was born on May 19, 1925 as Saloth Sar in Kompong Thom province (Kiernan 162).   The son of a prosperous farmer that had connections to the royal family, Pol Pot was able to win a government scholarship to study radio electronics in Paris (Kiernan 163).   It is during this time that he becomes exposed to the teachings of Marx and soon develops a passion for revolutionary socialism.   Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚   In his quest for more enlightenment in the teachings of Marx, he soon finds himself in the company of other young Cambodians who were studying Paris, such as Ieng Sary, Khieu Samphan, Khieu Ponnary and Song Sen (Kiernan 164).   They soon after formed what was known as the â€Å"Paris Student Group† and eventually became the leaders of the Khmer Rouge (Kiernan 164).   It was with the help of these young students that Pol Pot was able to gain the influence that he did and eventually orchestrate the Killing Fields. In 1953, Pol Pot had his scholarship revoked and was forced to return to Cambodia where he worked for the Kampuchean People’s Revolutionary Party (KPRP) (Kiernan 162).   This Cambodian Communist Party was the first step in the plan of Pol Pot.   He then used the connections from this party to find work as a teacher where he taught history and geography at a private school in Cambodia (Kiernan 162). The most radical step, however, was when Pol Pot visited China where the â€Å"Cultural Revolution† of Chairman Mao had just been launched.   He was taken by the radical change that was occurring in China during this time and thus the seeds for this recreation of Cambodia were planted (Kiernan 262).   The continuous revolution concept that Chairman Mao introduces in China is something that deeply inspires Pol Pot and soon after that begins his mission of taking over Cambodia.   Hidden in the northeast portion of Cambodia, Pol Pot lives with a hill tribe and realizes that this simple life is the realization of all of the communist ideals that he espouses.   Not long after, the Khmer Rouge establishes the Revolutionary Army of Kampuchea (Kiernan 262). Unknown to most, the growth of the Khmer Rouge and the influence that Pol Pot possessed was because of the intervention and support that the United States provided at that time (Chandler 301).   In an attempt to attack the Vietnamese communist sanctuaries, former President Richard Nixon and former security adviser, Henry Kissinger, authorized secret and illegal bombing raids on all communist sanctuaries within Cambodia (Chandler 301). The damage that resulted and the failure of the United States in the Vietnam War served to increase the support that the people had for the Khmer Rouge (Chandler 301).   This enabled the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot to win the civil war that was ensuing in Cambodia and eventually take over control of Phnom Penh thus beginning the tragedy that will be known forever as the â€Å"Killing Fields.† The Killing Fields:   Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚   It was on April 17, 1975 that Phnom Penh finally fell to the Khmer Rouge group who were led by Pol Pot.   Not long after, the residents of the city were forced into the countryside and into concentration camps and labor camps (Becker 365).   During the next three years, eight months and twenty days of Pol Pot’s rule, Cambodia endured what was perhaps the its darkest moment in history.   It has been estimated that over thirty percent (30%) of the population of Cambodia died from starvation, execution or torture during this period (Becker 365).   Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚   â€Å"Year Zero,† as Pol Pot called the day when the Khmer Rouge succeeded in capturing Phnom Penh on April 17, 1975, was the event that led to the death of nearly two million (2,000,000) people (Becker 362).   The ruthless program that Pol Pot initiated to â€Å"purify† the Cambodian society of any vestiges of western capitalism, western philosophy, and western influences was all part of his grand design for the country.   He desired to create an entirely new Cambodia that was isolated from the rest of the world, much like China was, and totally self-sufficient, similar to the Maoist agrarian states (Becker 365).   He enforced this policy by killing anyone who opposed his plans.   Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚   The first part of the plan included the expulsion of foreigners and the closing down of any foreign embassies on Cambodian territory.   The local currency was abolished and any other capitalist symbols were purged (Etcheson 32).   This included the closure of public markets, public and private schools, newspapers, religious practices and even the prohibition on owning any private property.   The extremism that marked this reign was never more evident than in the policy of Pol Pot to execute all the members of the previous Lon Nol government, public servants, police, teachers, ethnic Vietnamese, Christian and Muslim clergy, and other members of the middle-class and educated sectors of society (Etcheson 32).   Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚   Once this plan was set into place, Pol Pot soon sent the entire population of the country into labor camps.   These citizens were stripped of all of their private belongings and sent to what resembled communes where they were forced to do agricultural labor.   This led to the so called â€Å"Killing Fields† because of the fact that a number of the people died there due to the very primitive living conditions that were provided (Chandler 211).   Families were separated and even the Buddhist monks living in the area were forced to work in these fields.   This led to a collapse of society as even children were forced to spy upon adults including their parents.   Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚   The situation was so severe that almost all the offenses that were committed during this time were punishable by death.   There was no leniency in the enforcement of the policies of Pol Pot.   Of the millions of people who were displaced (over Seven Million estimated), over one and a half million (1.5 million) to three million (3 million) people were either worked or starved to death (Etcheson 32).   This does not include those who died of disease or executed for the commission of crimes that the Pol Pot regime would not tolerate. The crimes that were punishable under this regime included the death penalty for those who were found to be not working hard enough, those who complained about the primitive living conditions, those who were caught collecting or stealing food for their own personal consumption, those who were found wearing any form of jewelry, those who engaged in any form of sexual relations, those who grieved over the death of their relatives or friends and finally those who expressed any religious sentiments (Becker 387).   Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚   There was no judicial process that existed during this time as Pol Pot abolished any of the vestiges of Western influence including the courts of law.   This meant that justice was to be served solely by the Khmer Rouge (Chandler 211).   All decisions with regard to political and even minor crimes would be initiated by a warning that was sent by the Angkar, which was the government of Cambodia during this time. Those who were unlucky enough to receive two (2) warning were sent for â€Å"re-education,† which meant certain death (Chandler 211).   Similar to the secret police in other communist regimes, the suspects were â€Å"encouraged† to confess to the crimes that they were blamed for under the pretense that if they confessed the Angkar would be lenient and â€Å"wipe the slate clean.†Ã‚   All those who were found to have any connections with foreigners were arrested and promptly executed (Chandler 211).   The most common targets were the ethnic Vietnamese, ethnic Thai the Christians and the Buddhists. Conclusion:   Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚   As the events show, the cause of the genocide in the killing fields was primarily borne from the leadership of Pol Pot.   The â€Å"radical† change that Pol Pot envisioned for Cambodia and the intolerant leadership that he possessed led to the deaths of nearly two million (2,000,000) people.   It has been argued that the Killing Fields were actually a result of many different historical factors such as the loss of the Americans during the Vietnam War which rallied support around the Khmer Rouge and the aid that the Americans initially lent to the Khmer Rouge. Whatever theories may lie surrounding this event, however, does not alter the fact that this is one of the saddest and darkest moments of human history.   The loss of all these lives and the destruction of the lives of many other families who lost their loved ones and everything that they had in this event is something that the world should not soon forget.   It takes a million people to create a civilization that will last for centuries but it only takes one person to destroy all of that. Works Cited: Becker, Elizabeth (1998) When The War Was Over: Cambodia And The Khmer Rouge Revolution, Revised Edition PublicAffairs; 1st PublicAffairs ed edition (November 9, 1998) Chandler, David (1993) The Tragedy of Cambodian History: Politics, War, and Revolution since 1945. Yale University Press (September 10, 1993) ISBN-13: 978-0300057522 Chandler, David (2000) Voices from S-21: Terror and History in Pol Pots Secret Prison University of California Press; 1 edition (January 7, 2000) Etcheson, Craig (2005). After the Killing Fields: Lessons from the Cambodia Genocide. Westport: Praeger, 2005. xii + 256 pp. Notes, selected bibliography, ISBN 978-0-275-98513-4. Kiernan, Ben (2004) How Pol Pot Came to Power: Colonialism, Nationalism, and Communism in Cambodia, 1930-1975; Second Edition Yale University Press; 2 edition (August 11, 2004)

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