The Cambodian genocide lasted nearly four years and between 1.5 and 2 million people were killed
On April 17, 1975, Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge took over the Cambodian government and set about creating a communist state. Over the course of the next three years, eight months, and 20 days, millions of people were forced into labor camps where at least 1.5 million were killed. Here are some lesser-known facts about that time:
- Unlike other genocides in which specific ethnic groups are targeted for execution, the Cambodian genocide had no exceptions and would single out doctors, teachers, minorities, people with an education, children and even babies.
- Pol Pot wanted the nation to revert to a self-sufficient way of living where money had no influence in society. This led to the forced evacuation of cities into the rural communities for a “fresh start.”
- Among the near two million dead were an estimated 100,000 Cham Muslims and 20,000 Vietnamese.
- While some facts about the Cambodian genocide gained international recognition, it lacked an international investigation due to the United States’ recent loss in the Vietnam War and the hesitance to become involved in the region again.
- In the years following the calamity, Cambodia began opening up to the international community again with survivors sharing their stories and recollections. With horrific facts about the Cambodian genocide coming to light, Hollywood created the movie “The Killing Fields” based off of victims’ firsthand experiences. This film brought worldwide attention to what was, just a few years earlier, internationally neglected.
- The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, otherwise known as the ECCC, was established in 1997 with the assistance of the United Nations. The purpose of the tribunal was to try the senior leaders of the Khmer Rouge for the mass crimes committed during the genocide.
- Pol Pot faced a show trial in 1997 where he was sentenced to house arrest. He died just less than a year later, never facing a real trial for his crimes and leaving millions of affected people without the chance to bring him to justice.
- Victims were allowed to actively participate in the trial proceedings as complainants and civil parties, giving them the satisfaction of justice being enforced. The amount of victims present during each case varied from 94 to 4,128.
- Throughout the trials, three offenders were convicted and four were charged for allegations pertaining to crimes against humanity, homicide, violations of the 1956 Cambodian Penal Code, breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and genocide.
This list was compiled by Samantha Harward.
Genocide may be unpleasant to talk or think about but it is nearly impossible to find a time in human history when one wasn’t happening. I don’t see this as a reason to throw my hands up and do nothing, it makes me want to do more to stop it. We have made a lot of progress over the last year getting companies and governments to get out of the genocide business.
With your help, we can end this once and for all.