Yesterday, I discussed the political situation in Cambodia that allowed for the Khmer Rouge to rise to power. Today, I want to talk about what happened once they were in control of the country. All the same caveats that I mentioned yesterday still hold true. Mainly: I’m not a historian, so while I’ve done my best to be accurate (and cite my sources), I may have made some mistakes. If you find one, please let me know in the comments, and include a source. Also, as you probably know, I’m an American. I’ve tried not to editorialize too much, but everything that I write will have that bias.
Statue at the Royal Palace, Phnom Penh.
Lesson 1: The Khmer Rouge (continued)
After years of Civil War and fighting (exacerbated by U.S. involvement), Cambodia was pretty damn unstable. The country had been ravaged – by bombs, by poverty, by hunger and war – under the old regime of the Khmer Republic. So when the Khmer Rouge (the KR) finally took Phnom Penh, on April 17, 1975, people cheered.
This was different. This had to be salvation.
This detail breaks my heart perhaps more than any other – because people were so damn hopeful for what the Khmer Rouge could do, for what they might bring to the country. They were cheering their would-be murderers.