The Khmer Rouge Regime


 

Original Essay by Meghan Lockhart

In Remembrance of a Tragic History:
Stepping out of the van into the blistering heat, fairly cool to a native Cambodian, the magnificent structure bearing thousands of cracked skulls stood mounted in the blood-spilled Earth, giving a daunting feeling—a chill up my spine—warning me this is the place that went down in history as that of cruelty and animosity. I was at the Killing Fields in Phnom Penh. While walking the grounds—the striking, mind haunting bones and clothing poked through the ground on the walking path—giving an eerie vibe that the regime was reality. What depressed me the most was that in such a horrific place, the environment was so tranquil when it seemed as if it should be in complete calamity. Calm music played in the background, beautiful trees and flowers embraced the ground, and the glorious configuration containing the thousands of cracked skulls glistened in the sun. At first, it seemed to be a fake cover-up to the tragic event that many Khmer people try to hide, even though it should never be forgotten, or perhaps a splendid false reality for tourist functionality, except in my mind, the serenity of the environment is in remembrance of the victims to rest their souls at ease.

When one hears the term genocide, the first thought dawns to the horror of the Holocaust with images of imprisoned families, mass killings, and gas chambers. What doesn’t come to mind is that of the Khmer Rouge Regime: the Killing Fields. When I utter the name to friends as if they should feel the vehemence the name truly contains prickle down their spine, they stare blankly, unsure of the term I speak of. This name I speak of, “the Khmer Rouge Regime” was indeed genocide; the premeditated and systematic extermination of a race ostracized by the Angka, a genocide so horrific, that many Cambodians feel to be the worst in history, for their own people, Cambodians, did the killings. It was a time that started April 17th, 1975 when Pol Pot, the leader of the communist guerrilla group, controlled Cambodia with the mission to “reorganize a society to bring it backwards in time to a state of agrarian purity.” (CBS). What isn’t thought about, are the millions of innocent civilians killed silently, secretly, while the rest of the world knew nothing of the occurrence. This is a genocide that made such a drastic effect on a once prosperous country, forcing it to a great depression where many people of the country, the Asian Development Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the World Health Organization, the World Food Program’s, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, the United Nation’s Children Funds, and multiple countless organizations have worked to regain the prosperity of the beautiful country once more. This is a time that many people walking in the streets, many government officials desire to forget, to carry on, moving on with their everyday lives, working to better the country, but this was an inhumane act everyone should be informed of. Not only to comprehend the tragic history the Khmer people have endured, but in means to assist, to obstruct this from ever occurring again.

When the dreadful year of 1975 enforced its presence, the Khmer Rouge took hold of the capitol Phnom Penh forcing two million inhabitants of the city to march and reside in labor camps in the country, splitting families apart and closing down all institutions that symbolized an industrial capitalist country: hospitals, schools, factories, banks, stores, markets, everything imaginable was immediately shut down. Along the way, 20,000 people were killed. Any outside connections to the surrounding world, to Western civilization, was completely shunned, any affection or love shown toward a family member was banned, finding religion and praying was outlawed; all that was accepted was complete allegiance to the Angka, the Khmer Rouge government, otherwise the dreaded alternative of cruel and unusual punishment, leading to the painful truth of death was the only option. In these camps, over a four-year period nearly 30 percent of the population, or about 2 million of 7 million people, were surreptitiously murdered. The most inhumane, cruel, unfathomable ways of killing people were the methods the Khmer Rouge resided. They were worked to death, starved to death, slowly cut to death, infested with scorpions and other insects, slit in the neck from sharp palm tree leaves, beat over the head with bamboo sticks, and many other forms too grotesque to even utter. The Khmer Rouge wouldn’t even waste a single bullet, the friendlier alternative, for the Angka wouldn’t waste their money on ammunition. Rest and play became terms foreign to the victims, words thought about in a distant place, in their vacant memories, far and forsaken, for their workday began at 4 a.m. lasting until10 p.m. From the grueling hard labor, three meals full of nutrients and vitamins to regain strength and vivaciousness to the body would be ideal; instead, the prisoners received one tin of rice or 180 grams for every two days. (History Place ). To cover the horrific screams, pleads, and pierces from the victims, “Magic trees” stood beautifully in the fields bearing hidden microphones, forcibly playing thunderous music. Families were killed, educated people, those wearing glasses, people sympathetic towards their family—everyone was killed no matter the ethnicity—everyone who did not bear allegiance to Angka were killed, no questions asked. The Khmer Rouge reigned until January 7th, 1979 when Vietnamese troops captured Phnom Penh, but the Pol Pot Regime was still able to prevail through a resistance movement until the early 1990’s. (Wikipeida). 

When one hears of such cruel, appalling acts, you must ask yourself, and for what was the purpose of such evil and ignorance that millions of poor victims must suffer the price of another’s greed and stupidity? The horror and pain the victims experienced through the Khmer rouge is unfathomable, forever remaining a mystery, but always empathizing with, trying to grasp their sorrows. All of the countless stories from survivors of the regime absolutely break my heart, for no one on the face of this “civilized” planet should suffer such pain and tragedy. I look to the Khmer victims with admiration. My thoughts forever go out to each and every victim; with the hope, their souls will someday be relieved of their memories and fear of the regime.


Would You Survive?

These are the security regulations the prisoners of Tuol Sleng Prison were forced to abide during their captivity.

1. YOU MUST ANSWER ACCORDINGLY TO MY QUESTIONS. DON'T TURN THEM AWAY.

2. DON'T TRY TO HIDE THE FACTS BY MAKING PRETEXTS THIS AND THAT. YOU ARE STRICTLY PROHIBITED TO CONTEST ME.

3. DON'T BE A FOOL FOR YOU ARE A CHAP WHO DARE TO THWART THE REVOLUTION.

4. YOU MUST IMMEDIATELY ANSWER MY QUESTIONS WITHOUT WASTING TIME TO REFLECT.

5. DON'T TELL ME EITHER ABOUT YOUR IMMORALITIES OR THE ESSENCE OF THE REVOLUTION.

6. WHILE GETTING LASHES OR ELECTRIFICATION YOU MUST NOT CRY AT ALL. WHEN I ASK YOU TO DO SOMETHING, YOU MUST DO IT RIGHT AWAY WITHOUT PROTESTING.

7. DO NOTHING. SIT STILL AND WAIT FOR MY ORDERS. IF THERE IS NO ORDER, KEEP QUIET.

8. DON'T MAKE PRETEXTS ABOUT KAMPUCHEA KROM IN ORDER TO HIDE YOUR JAW OF TRAITOR.

9. IF YOU DON'T FOLLOW ALL THE ABOVE RULES, YOU WILL GET MANY LASHES OF ELECTRIC WIRE.

10. IF YOU DISOBEY ANY POINT OF MY REGULATIONS YOU WILL GET EITHER TEN LASHES OR FIVE SHOCKS OF ELECTRIC DISCHARGE.

 


BIBLIOGRAPHY 

CBS Worldwide Inc. “Remembering the Killing Fields.” [Online]

            http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2000/04/15/world/main184477.shtml

Dith Pran Holocaust Awareness Project, Inc. “The Cambodian Killing Fields.”

[Online] http://www.dithpran.org/killingfields.htm

History Place, the. “Genocide in the 20th Century.”   

Kemp, Charles and Lance Rasbridge. “Cambodian Refugees & Health Care

in the Inner-City.” <http://web.archive.org/web/20031002050712/

www3.baylor.edu/~Charles_Kemp/cambodian_health.htm
>.

        < http://www.historyplace.com:80/worldhistory/genocide/pol-pot.htm>.

 Wikipedia. “Khmer Rouge.” [Online] <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khmer_Rouge>.

 

 

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