POLI 369 Chapter Notes -Lon Nol, Communist Society, Genocide Convention
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Khmer Rouge Genocide and Responsibility to Protect
What distinguishes human beings from other animals is the ability to remember what
hurts. As days and months pass by the tragic incident of Khmer Rouge is still rooted in memories
of many. This paper is like a time machine which takes the reader on a journey to the past and
revisits the Khmer Rouge genocide. In the latter part of this paper, the concept of responsibility
to protect has been applied to the case, in the hope that our proposed plan would make the
horrible incident a less painful memory.
Background and root cause of genocide in Cambodia
The Khmer Rouge led by Khieu Sampan and Pol Pot took over the power from Marshal
Lon Nol‟s government in 1975 and formed the government. Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge
was extreme violent since the group intended to adjust the socialist ideology to the country. It
refused to ally with any foreign countries as well as denied to accept the foreign aids. The Khmer
Rouge leaders believed that the country must be isolated from the international community and
there should be only one ethnic group. Hence, people were forced to do farming without using
any kinds of technology. Some people were tortured or starved to death. Millions of intellectual
and minority groups had been killed in the place called „killing field‟.
After taking power, the Khmer Rouge leadership renamed the country Democratic
Kampuchea. The Khmer Rouge subjected Cambodia to a radical social reform process so called
social engineering aiming at creating a purely agrarian-based Communist society. Social
engineering is a discipline in political science that refers to efforts to influence popular attitudes
and social behaviors on a large scale, whether by governments or private groups. In the political
arena, the counterpart of social engineering is political engineering. As the result, the Khmer
Rouge forced around two million people from the cities to the country to work in agriculture.
They forced many people out of their homes and ignored many basic human freedoms; they
controlled what they wore, who they could talk to, and many other aspects of their lives. The
Khmer Rouge wanted to eliminate anyone suspected of the involvement in free-market activities,
suspected capitalists encompassed professionals and almost everyone with an education, many
urban dwellers, and people with connections to foreign governments. One of their motto was “to
keep you is no benefit. To destroy you is no loss."
What is Genocide?
Genocide is defined as "any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in
whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: killing members of the
group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on
the group conditions of life, calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; forcibly transferring children of
the group to another group.", according to the 1948 United Nations Convention on the
Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (CPPCG), Article 2.
The reason why the Khmer Rouge is considered genocide: People who refused to leave were
killed; so were those who didn't leave fast enough, and those who wouldn't obey orders. Children
were taken from their parents and placed in separate forced labor camps even old, disable, ill,
pregnant women and they dehumanized these people as characteristic of genocide such as rape,
mass-killing or even called them as “cockroach”. Factories, schools and universities were shut
down. Educated persons were murdered, together with their extended families. Religion was
banned, all leading Buddhist monks were killed and almost all temples destroyed. It was possible
for people to be shot simply for knowing a foreign language, wearing glasses, laughing, or
crying. Also targeted were minority groups, victims of the Khmer Rouge's racism.
Justification of Killing
Since Khmer Rouge leaders believed in new social engineering, socialist communism
was a regime that Khmer Rouge adopted to rule Cambodia. Agrarian-based society was
introduced to Cambodia as Khmer Rouge leaders aim the country to be dependent and free from
international influences. As a consequence, Khmer Rouge carried out a radical program that
included isolating the country from foreign influence, closing schools, hospitals and factories,
abolishing banking, finance and currency, outlawing all religions, confiscating all private
properties and relocating people from urban areas to collective farms. However, nothing can be
worse than mass killing of 0.85 – 3 million people, a number that was collected form every
incident Khmer Rouge committed during its term. Hence, these following justifications will
elaborate about Khmer Rouge‟s motivations.
• Social Transformation, as Khmer Rouge adopted communism as a political
regime so it had to cope with resistance from oppositions who did not obey its rules. As a
consequence, execution was carried out to demolish resistance in order to stabilize social order
which revolved Cambodian society. The Khmer Rouge killed many intellectuals, city-dwellers,
minority people, and many of their own party members and soldiers who were suspected of
being traitors. Moreover, a great deal of people also died in the farm from work exhaustion since
they worked for 12-15 hours with getting a good rest, illness that could not be cured by
traditional medicine since western‟s was refused, and starvation for insufficient nutrient that they
got. In other words, they wanted to keep all the farmers and killed everyone else that did not fit
• Class elimination, a practice that played a big role in Khmer Rouge‟s regime as
equipment to achieve agrarian-base communist society. Since class system typically did not suit
with communism, thus social class was no use for society. Consequently, the only job available
at that time was a farmer that equalized everybody in the society regardless of education and
economic status. Schools and banks were shut down in order to make new state that did need
money for survival. Intellectuals and teachers were murdered so they would not obstruct
communist party plan.
• Otherness, a perception that dehumanized humanity of some particular groups of
people in society as their value was subsided. The rich and educated people were seen as a
problem of society; they could get better off at the end of the day while the poor were left
starving and suffered from being exploited by the rich‟s wealth. Rather be revenge when the poor
had a chance to rise up equate with the rich where economic class was worth for nothing. The
rich and intellectuals were insulted and communism just twisted everything up-side-down as
those people became minorities of society. One of their mottos, in reference to the New People
(urban dwellers), was: "To keep you is no benefit. To destroy you is no loss."
Firstly, struggle of power of Monarchy, Elite and Khmer Rouge. In the year 1955, King
Sihanouk came into power. With his great success in diplomacy abroad enhanced Sihanouk's
political control at home.
Ultimately, In March 1970, while Sihanouk was abroad, his prime minister, General Lon
Nol, seized power and sent his army to fight the National Liberation Front (NLF) guerrillas. In
April 1970, U.S. and South Vietnamese troops entered Cambodia, supporting Lon Nol's army.
Meanwhile, Khmer Communist Party guerrillas, called the Khmer Rouge were aided by the
North Vietnamese and by Prince Sihanouk in battling Lon Nol's regime.
Secondly, The Khmer Rouge. After Khmer Rouge overthrown Lol Nol‟s administration
they took in charge in controlling country with radical Marxists, the leaders consisted of Pol Pot,
Nuon Chea, Ieng Sary, Son Sen, and Khieu Samphan. They sought to cleanse Cambodia of
capitalists and intellectuals, and to impose a new social structure based entirely on collective
Thirdly, the victims of Khmer Rouge atrocities. During their four years in power, people
overworked and starved and killed. The Khmer Rouge forced people to work for 12 hours non-
stop, without adequate rest or food in order to produce three tons of rice per hectare. In the end,
Civilian deaths in this period, from executions, disease, exhaustion and starvation, have been
estimated at well over 2m.
Lastly, another group of stakeholders are the third party to the conflict including the
United Nations, the US, and the coalition of the good willing consisting of England and France.
Our approach: Responsibility to Protect (R2P) and Challenges of the Plan
The group‟s approach to deal with Khmer Rouge genocide mentioned above is to use
R2P. As noted earlier, the case of Khmer Rouge slaughtering millions of people is considered
What distinguishes human beings from other animals is the ability to remember what hurts. As days and months pass by the tragic incident of khmer rouge is still rooted in memories of many. This paper is like a time machine which takes the reader on a journey to the past and revisits the khmer rouge genocide. In the latter part of this paper, the concept of responsibility to protect has been applied to the case, in the hope that our proposed plan would make the horrible incident a less painful memory. Background and root cause of genocide in cambodia. The khmer rouge led by khieu sampan and pol pot took over the power from marshal. Lon nol s government in 1975 and formed the government. Cambodia under the khmer rouge was extreme violent since the group intended to adjust the socialist ideology to the country.