The Cambodian Genocide
Over the time of human existence, many men have tried to change the world to fit their image. In these attempts, tens of millions of innocent people have lost their lives for a terrible cause that would never work out in the end. Cambodia and it’s people were just another part of this statistic. No-one really knew what happened there with all Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge’s social injustices. Until survivors, like one man, named Dith Pran, came forward and told their stories. His activismt to bring attention and help those who suffered is what makes him an everyday hero. Also, the Khmer Rouge used propaganda to get all the citizens to move to the countryside by sating the U.S. was going to bomb all major cities, along with printing a monthly magazine to try to reshape society.Historical Overview
Everyone has at least heard of the Holocaust and the terrible actions of Adolf Hitler, but how many people know of Pol Pot and his injustices in Cambodia. The Khmer Rouge, the communist rebel group led by Pol Pot that was responsible for the 4 year oppressive regime in Cambodia. The Cambodian Communist Party, the Khmer Rouge, overthrew the corrupt
government in Cambodia at the time, after waging a over decade long civil war. Pol Pot, leader of the Communist Party, became the new head power in Cambodia on April 17th, 1975, after the government lost U.S. support and invading Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh. Once in power, Pol Pot began to move all the people out of cities and forced them to work themselves to death in rural farms. He tried bringing the country back to the middle ages, saying, “This is year 0. The whole idea was based on Maoism, something Pol Pot had witnessed first hand. Within days, millions of people had been moved out of urban areas and into rural farms, now known to the world as “The Killing Fields.” Of the 7 million people living in Cambodia at the time, almost 2 million died from execution, starvation, or exhaustion.
The American equivalent would be the death of 70 million Americans. Survivors of this terror remember being told that if it wasn’t for their strong will, the revolution would’ve been successful, and it didn’t matter if they lived or died. One case reports over 14,000 people ranging from minorities to Khmer Rouge loyalists and everyone in between being imprisoned in an old, abandoned school. Only 7 were reported to make it out alive. In 1979, after an oppressive 4 year regime, Vietnamese forces invaded and forced the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot to give up power and retreat to Thailand and deep into the Cambodian jungles. The remnants of the Khmer Rouge and it’s leader began a guerrilla war against the newly established puppet government in Cambodia. This war would go on for the next 17 years, until all leaders of the communist party had defected to the new Royal government, died, or had been arrested. From 1979 to 1990, the Khmer Rouge was given a seat in the U.N.’s general assembly and was seen as the only representative from Cambodia. During this time, the remains of the Khmer, China, the leader pre-civil war, Prince Sihanouk, and non-communist leader, Son Sann, worked to create a new government that was known as the Tri Party Coalition. Meanwhile, Vietnam was working to create the People’s Republic of Kampuchea. Imagine trying to go about your life, already under an extremely oppressive country. Then imagine someone coming in and taking control then telling you and your family to go work for 20 hours a day in a field living on one spoonful of rice. Now, imagine doing it for 4 years. That is how the citizens of Cambodia lived from 1975 to 79.
Artistic Examples of Social Injustice
Pol Pot was nutorios for being very dishonest in public announcments in order to get his way. This speech is something that he would say in response to the people after an uproar of people saying he is mass kiling.
I come here to tell you, that I did not join this fight to assassinate the people. I have an image for a new world, a better world. Image a place where you don’t have the worries of modern day. You don’t think about the distarction in life, and can focus on what matters. Being productive, getting work done. This is the only way we can overcome the peolpe who have oppressed us for years. The only way this will become a reality, is if I have complete participation by all my people. We must come together, work as one, or we will never acomplish what is truly important. The people who have been exterminated, are not victims. They are simply not strong enough to achive total acomplishment. That is why we are doing this, to only keep those who have the will strong enough to keep going in unsurmountable odds. My friends, this is year Zero, and we will be victorious!
What the People Saw
I was sitting at home,
eating some dinner,
but sooner than I knew,
it would all be gone.
Shouts came from the streets,
“The Prince is gone! We’re free!”
We all rejoiced, but was it too soon?
Before I could take another bite,
door frame splintered, and all was turned over.
Pol Pot was new, but wasn’t going to make things right.
Those fields were bare, and sprinkeled with death.
My poor baby, he never stood
Now I stay here today, still hungry,
remembering those horrors, hoping for a chance to forget.
Everyday Hero — Dith Pran
This man you see here is named Dith Pran. He is a photo-journalist and reporter from Cambodia who is best known for for being a survivor and refugee from the Cambodian Genocide. His story was portrayed in the movie, “The Killing Fields”. He brough so much attertion to the civil war and the rise of the Khmer Rouge, that he earned a Pulitzer Prize. Pran was one of the most influential figures in bringing U.S. attention to the Khmer Rouge’s actions. He once told a friend, “In the water wells, the bodies were like soup bones in broth.” Pran and Schanberg, another activist, made the Cambodian Genocide Act of 1994 pass in order to collect evidence against Pol Pot and other officers to have them brought to justice. Sadly, Pol Pot died in Thiland before he could answer the U.N.’s questions.
“I‘m not a politician. I’m not a hero. I’m a messenger,” he said. “It’s very important that we study genocide because it has happened again and again. We made a mistake because we didn’t believe Cambodians would kill Cambodians.
“We didn’t believe that one human being would kill another human being. I want you to know that genocide can happen anywhere on this planet. . . . Like one of my heroes, Elie Wiesel, who alerts the world to the horrors of the Jewish holocaust, I try to awaken the world to the holocaust of Cambodia, for all tragedies have universal implications.”
Uses of Propaganda
Pictures like the one here were printed into a monthly magazine to try move all people in big cities to rural fields. Pol Pots goal was to take the country back to a communist farming community. His would say, “This is year zero!” Other ways of moving the people out included public announcements saying that the U.S. was going to be bombing the capitol and other cities. They did this so people would be scared and evacuate into the fields that The Khmer Rouge used as mass graves and working areas. Propaganda wasn’t a huge part of the Khmer Rouge’s attempts at reshaping civilization, but if they hadn’t, they wouldn’t have been as successful as they were.
For my service learning project, I spent about 3 hurs voulenteereing for the Elk’s Lodge at Huckfinn day at the park. I was there to help little kids learn to catch theit first fish. It was great to see how happy the kids were and how excited they got when they caught a fish. I spent the rest of the 3 hours walking along the river trail and around town, picking up any ttrash I saw. I was able to collect enough to fill a 30 gallon trashbag.