Cambodian Genocide

The Horrors Of War

What is the Cambodian Genocide?

The Cambodian Genocide began on April 17th, 1975. The party that was the cause of this genocide was a communist group known as the Khmer Rouge. They believed that all people should be equal and have no ranks or advances in anything, such as technology or knowledge. The Khmer Rouge had began a "cleanse", also known as a genocide. They killed anyone that was smart, religious, foreign, etc. At one point they began killing people with glasses. The leader, Pol Pot, wanted to turn Cambodia into a communist country and turn it back to year 0.

What had happened prior to the genocide? How did these events affect the war?

  • The United States erratically bombed North Vietnamese shelters in eastern Cambodia from 1969 until 1973, resulting in the deaths of up to 150,000 Cambodian peasants.

  • This same year, the U.S. invaded Cambodia looking to drive out the North Vietnamese from their military camps along the border. This just drove the Vietnamese deeper into Cambodia where they united themselves with the Khmer Rouge.

  • The U.S. had pulled its troops from Vietnam by 1975 and Cambodia's government lost its American military support. Pol Pot took advantage of this opportunity and led his Khmer Rouge army, consisting primarily of teenage peasant, into Phnom Penh.

Who Were The Political Leaders On Each Side?

Resources and Technology

The Khmer Rouge had used guerrilla warfare to invade Cambodia. They had many advances such as having tanks, gun and rocket supplies from China. They got almost all technologies from trading rice to China. The captures grew loads of rice in many places and the Khmer Rouge sent many loads to China in order to get weapons and items for warfare. Whenever the Youns (Vietnamese) would try to invade loads of rice were shipped out. Other than weapons as technology advances, the Khmer Rouge had not believed in any other sources of technology. They thought and technology advances or knowledge advances would break the belief of the communist country (having everyone equal).

The Arts

How can the arts help people deal with the war?

People like Ken Svay use art as an outlet to try to forget the trauma that they had received. They used it to try to forget their past. They also would use their past experiences to reflect and draw.

How can the arts be used to tell the story of civil wars?

When people created art they would use it as an outlet and a way to tell what happened to them. They would make it to show the world of certain events that had occurred and to show certain perspectives on the war(soldier vs victim).

Unfortunately almost all artists and many works of art were destroyed and killed. They had lost many art that was created.

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A Song For Cambodia by Michelle Lord

Written about a nine-year-old boy, Arn, who was taken away from his and forced to work in the fields. He was asked to play music for a living instead to please guards, the decision changed his life forever

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This photo is one of thousands of the mugshot like photos taken of the Khmer Rouge’s victims. It is found in the Tuol Sleng Museum.

Map One

This is an image of Cambodia as a whole, outlining different regions and cities. Certain people traveled miles to each different city when the takeover occurred; it shows you were the people would have to travel.

Map Two

This is the infamous skull map that was on display in the former S-21 prison camp at Tuol Sleng, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Graph One

This graph shows the deaths per years in Cambodia. As you can see, the graph spikes around the years when the Khmer Rouge was in reign, 1975-1979. This is due to the Khmer Rouge killing over 2 million people between four years.

Graph Two

This graph shows the ages of different people and shows how long they may have lived and averages at what year would be common for them to die.


Did any side in this war have a clear advantage?

The Khmer Rouge had a clear advantage. First, the Lon Nol government took over the Sihanouk government. Because of this, the Americans/Vietnamese had already overthrown Lon Nol, and the new president of Cambodia. Prince Sihanouk was angered that he was overthrown and called to the Khmer Rouge to try to take out that government, bringing him back into office. In return, they tricked the Prince and overthrew him. The Vietnamese were unable to takeover Cambodia for 4 years. The Khmer Rouge was violent and used guerrilla warfare. They were stronger than many other armies because they had so many Cambodians trained for war. They also had much labor that contributed to rice production. The more rice produced, the more they were able to send to China to earn more weapons.


There were no allies in this war. The U.S had unintentionally contributed to the war by weakening Cambodia and making it easier for the Khmer Rouge to invade. The Khmer Rouge had worked alone, no other country had helped them invade Cambodia. Cambodia did not have anyone representing them or trying to free them of their suffering. Vietnam did overthrow the Khmer Rouge, but not because of the genocide, because of a border dispute. They wanted more land and invaded Cambodia to benefit themselves.


How do civil wars relate to problems in societies?

This Civil War relates to the problem of segregation in society. Segregation is the act of separating or judging people because they are different or not the same as others. In the Cambodian war those who were “city” people were frowned upon and looked at as if they were evil. People were killed for simply being educated or religious. Then there was a point in the war where anyone who seemed to be a threat to the government was killed.