The vast Cambodian Killing Fields stretching across Cambodia are an evidence of the number and the ruthless manner of killing more than one million people by the Khmer Rouge communists. The term ‘killing fields’ was given to these mass graves by journalist Dith Pran after he managed to escape from one of these.
During its rule on Cambodia between 1975 and 1979, immediately after the Cambodian Civil War ended, the then administration carried out mass killings and burial of more than one million people as a part of Cambodian genocide – a state-sponsored pogrom.
As a result of these killings, Pol Pot, the Cambodian revolutionary who led the Khmer Rouge has been labeled as “a genocidal tyrant”.
The mass killings was done by the Khmer Rouge in an attempt to create a completely self-sufficient agrarian society. With thousands of people starved, forced to overwork on fields and deprived of imported medicines, the government killed more than 1.2 million people in the name of revolution and to “wipe the state clean”.
The communist Khmer Rouge regime arrested and ultimately executed professionals, intellectuals and anyone and everyone suspected of having connection with foreign governments or the previous government in the name of revolution. Demographic targets of this mass persecution were ethnic Vietnamese, ethnic Chinese, ethnic Thai, ethnic Cham, Cambodian Christians, and the Buddhist monks.
There was a particular process followed for the execution wherein people were issued warnings and eventually executed. Since the administration wanted to save ammunition, it made use of poison and spaded or sharpened bamboo sticks to carry out execution.
Even the children and infants of adult victims were not spared, and in some cases were executed by bashing their heads against trees so that they could be stopped from growing up and taking revenge of their parents’ death. The corpses were then buried into these mass graves. Some of these victims were even required to dig their own mass graves.
There are different estimates of the number of deaths by different researchers and organizations. According to the estimates by DC-Cam Mapping Program and Yale University, the analysis of these mass grave sites indicate death of at least 1,386,734 victims of execution.
If the number of deaths from starvation and diseases during the Khmer Rouge rule is included, the total number of deaths would be somewhere between 1.7 million and 2.5 million. Considering the total population of Cambodia being about 8 million in 1975, the percentage of the population killed comes to a shocking 31%.
Now let this sink in.