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What happened to Cambodia?














During the Vietnam war, Cambodia – taking no sides- allowed the North Vietnamese military sanctuary in Eastern Cambodia.  This resulted in the American’s bombing these havens and, as a result, up to 150,000 Cambodian peasants were killed.  Along with other political events, destabilisation developed in Cambodia, and the people began to support a communist inspired, radical leader, Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge Army (made up of uneducated, peasant farm young men).

In 1975, the Americans withdrew from the Vietnam War.  As a result, on the 17th April, Pol Pot marched his troops into Phnom Penh and took control of Cambodia.  Over the next three years, 25%, (that is a quarter!) of the Cambodian population, died from starvation, exhaustion and executions.

All foreigners were expelled and the embassies were closed.  Religion, newspapers, radio stations, radios, bicycles, money, telephones, mail, businesses, education, healthcare and parental authority were shutdown, banned, confiscated and revoked.  Cambodia was isolated and shut off from the rest of the world.

With the intent to establish a Communist peasant farming society, Pol Pot instructed his army to eliminate


“Remnants of the "old society" - the educated, the wealthy, Buddhist monks, police, doctors, lawyers, teachers, and former government officials. Ex-soldiers were killed along with their wives and children. Anyone suspected of disloyalty to Pol Pot, including eventually many Khmer Rouge leaders, was shot or bludgeoned with an axe”  

Retrieved from The History Place.  Genocide in the 20th Century.

During the next few years over two million people were killed by the  Khmer Rouge. Nearly the entire ‘educated’ population of Cambodia was eliminated and the education system was completely destroyed by the regime.

On December 25, 1978, Vietnam launched a full-scale invasion of Cambodia and on January 7th 1979,

Phnom Penh fell and Pol Pot was overthrown.

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