This month marks the 40th anniversary of the Khmer Rouge genocide in Cambodia and I remember that episode in world history very well. This morning I watched a BBC special on a film on the genocide sponsored by Angela Jolie and it brought back memories. There have been many such incidents in the past – the elimination of the Kulaks in the Soviet Union when they resisted collectivization following the Russian Revolution, the mass killings of the Kurds in the Middle East.
Source: Genocide in the 20th Century – The Zimbabwean 05.03.2017 by Eddie Cross
But the Cambodian experience was different in that it was ideologically driven and executed by a small group of intellectuals trained largely in France. They held the view that the only element in society that was not exploitive was that of the simple rural peasant farmer, all others forms of human activity were capitalist and exploitive.
They took control of Cambodia and in a ruthless and savage campaign murdered millions. The targets were the educated elite, religious leaders, business men and women, anyone who was educated and urban. Those who survived were driven into the rural areas and forced into manual labour in the farming industry. The madness and genocide was halted and a measure of sanity restored by the Vietnamese who sent their army into Cambodia to remove the Khmer Rouge from power and restore conventional government.
At that time the news magazine Time, published a brilliant analysis of the Khmer revolution – its rationale and what the sponsors wanted to achieve and even today I regard that piece as an outstanding example of journalism. It will take Cambodia 100 years to recover from the genocide and become a normal society with only limited recollection of what transpired. What was interesting in today’s BBC programme on Cambodia was the feeling that only now, 40 years on, can they really look back at what happened in any sort of rational way and come to grips with the history that it represents.