What can we learn about socialism from Cambodia's darkest years?


*In progress

The Khmer Rouge regime set upon what became to be known as the darkest chapter of Cambodian history. Within just a period of 3 years and 8 months, an estimated quarter of the entire population of Cambodia were either starved to death or murdered under this brutal communist regime.

With the rise of communism during the cold war, the growing inequality in Cambodia between the farmers in the countryside and those in the cities meant that an ideology that promises the people of a nation that the means of production and wealth will be distributed equally was quick to spread.

How did the Khmer Rouge become so powerful?

A multitude of factors spanning many decades. Here I will attempt to state the key reasons that led to the Khmer Rouge having hundreds of thousands of recruits and later on being able to overthrow the US-backed Phnom Penh government.

1. Foreign intervention

After suffering from constant American bombing, many from the rural parts of Cambodia hold a hostile view towards the nation with the largest military in the world.

2. Chinese weapons supply

3. French-educated Khmer Rouge leaders

4. Support from the popular exiled king

Why wouldn't it go wrong?

Anyone who's studied 20th century history would rather ask this question instead of the other way around.

Khmer Rouge leaders were well educated. Many of its top-ranking members were taught in French universities.

Khieu Samphan graduated with a PhD in economics from the University of Paris in 1959.[1]

The misery and humanitarian disaster than ensued

In a 2013 testimony to the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, a special court established by the Cambodian National Assembly with assistance and participation from the United Nations and the international community, Ms. Huo Chantha, a survivor of the genocide, testified, β€œthey did not welcome our applause. The happiness did not last long because these black-clad soldiers, who were carrying weapons, shouted to us to leave the city.” She continued with a recount of what she saw during the evacuation, β€œSome women who just delivered their babies were forced to walk under the sun and rain. Some people were disabled, both old and young. Young children were crying because their feet felt pain.”

Β© Masaya Shida 2021