|Part of Khmer Rouge rule of Cambodia|
|Date||17 April 1975 – 7 January 1979 (3 years, 8 months and 20 days)|
|Target||Cambodia's previous military and political leadership, business leaders, journalists, students, doctors, lawyers, Buddhists, Chams, Muslims, Chinese Cambodians, Christians, intellectuals, Vietnamese Cambodians|
|Genocide, classicide, politicide, ethnic cleansing, extrajudicial killings, torture, famine, forced labor, human experimentation, forced disappearances, deportation, crimes against humanity|
|Deaths||1.5 to 2 million|
|Motive||Anti-Buddhism, anti-Cham sentiment, classism, anti-Christianity, anti-intellectualism, anti-Thai sentiment, anti-Vietnamese sentiment, Islamophobia, Khmer ultra-nationalism, Sinophobia, Marxism-Leninism|
Part of a series on the
|History of Cambodia|
|Independence and conflict|
The Cambodian genocide (Khmer: ហាយនភាពខ្មែរ or ការប្រល័យពូជសាសន៍ខ្មែរ) was the systematic persecution and killing of Cambodians by the Khmer Rouge under the leadership of Communist Party general secretary Pol Pot, who radically pushed Cambodia towards communism. It resulted in the deaths of 1.5 to 2 million people from 1975 to 1979, nearly a quarter of Cambodia's 1975 population (c. 7.8 million).
Pol Pot and Khmer Rouge had long been supported by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and CCP Chairman Mao Zedong; it is estimated that at least 90% of the foreign aid to Khmer Rouge came from China, with 1975 alone seeing at least US$1 billion in interest-free economic and military aid from China. After seizing power in April 1975, the Khmer Rouge wanted to turn the country into a socialist agrarian republic, founded on the policies of ultra-Maoism and influenced by the Cultural Revolution. Pol Pot and other Khmer Rouge officials met with Mao in Beijing in June 1975, receiving approval and advice, while high-ranking CCP officials such as CCP Politburo Standing Committee member Zhang Chunqiao later visited Cambodia to offer help. To fulfill its goals, the Khmer Rouge emptied the cities and forced Cambodians to relocate to labor camps in the countryside, where mass executions, forced labor, physical abuse, malnutrition, and disease were rampant. In 1976, the Khmer Rouge changed the name of the country to Democratic Kampuchea.
The massacres ended when the Vietnamese military invaded in 1978 and toppled the Khmer Rouge regime. By January 1979, 1.5 to 2 million people had died due to the Khmer Rouge's policies, including 200,000–300,000 Chinese Cambodians, 90,000 Muslims, and 20,000 Vietnamese Cambodians. 20,000 people passed through the Security Prison 21, one of the 196 prisons the Khmer Rouge operated, and only seven adults survived. The prisoners were taken to the Killing Fields, where they were executed (often with pickaxes, to save bullets) and buried in mass graves. Abduction and indoctrination of children was widespread, and many were persuaded or forced to commit atrocities. As of 2009, the Documentation Center of Cambodia has mapped 23,745 mass graves containing approximately 1.3 million suspected victims of execution. Direct execution is believed to account for up to 60% of the genocide's death toll, with other victims succumbing to starvation, exhaustion, or disease.
The genocide triggered a second outflow of refugees, many of whom escaped to neighboring Thailand and, to a lesser extent, Vietnam. The Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia ended the genocide by defeating the Khmer Rouge in January 1979. On 2 January 2001, the Cambodian government established the Khmer Rouge Tribunal to try the members of the Khmer Rouge leadership responsible for the Cambodian genocide. Trials began on 17 February 2009. On 7 August 2014, Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan were convicted and received life sentences for crimes against humanity committed during the genocide.
In 1968, the Khmer Rouge officially launched a national insurgency across Cambodia. Though North Vietnam had not been informed of this decision, its forces provided shelter and weapons to the Khmer Rouge after the insurgency started. North Vietnamese support for the Khmer Rouge's insurgency made it impossible for the Cambodian military to effectively counter it. For the next two years, the insurgency grew because Norodom Sihanouk did very little to stop it. As the insurgency grew stronger, the party finally openly declared itself to be the Communist Party of Kampuchea.
Sihanouk was removed as head of state in 1970. Premier Lon Nol deposed him with the support of the National Assembly, establishing the pro-United States Khmer Republic. On the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)'s advice, Sihanouk, in exile in Beijing, made an alliance with the Khmer Rouge, and became the nominal head of a Khmer Rouge–dominated government-in-exile (known by its French acronym, GRUNK) backed by China. Although thoroughly aware of the weakness of Lon Nol's forces and loath to commit American military force to the new conflict in any form other than air power, the Nixon administration announced its support for the new Khmer Republic.
On 29 March 1970, North Vietnam launched an offensive against the Cambodian army. Documents uncovered from the Soviet Union's archives reveal that the invasion was launched at the Khmer Rouge's explicit request after negotiations were held with Nuon Chea. A North Vietnamese force quickly overran large parts of eastern Cambodia reaching within 15 miles (24 km) of Phnom Penh before being pushed back. By June, three months after Sihanouk's removal, they had swept government forces from the entire northeastern third of the country. After defeating those forces, the North Vietnamese turned the newly won territories over to the local insurgents. The Khmer Rouge also established "liberated" areas in the south and the southwestern parts of the country, where they operated independently of the North Vietnamese.
After Sihanouk showed his support for the Khmer Rouge by visiting them in the field, their ranks swelled from 6,000 to 50,000 fighters. Many of the new recruits were apolitical peasants who fought in support of the king, not for communism, of which they had little understanding.
By 1975, with Lon Nol's government running out of ammunition and having lost U.S. support, it was clear that it was only a matter of time before it would collapse. On 17 April 1975, the Khmer Rouge captured Phnom Penh and ended the civil war.
From 1970 to 1973 a massive United States bombing campaign against the Khmer Rouge devastated rural Cambodia. An earlier U.S. bombing campaign of Cambodia actually started on 18 March 1969 with Operation Breakfast, but U.S. bombing in Cambodia started years earlier than that.
The number of Cambodian civilian and Khmer Rouge deaths caused by U.S. bombing is disputed and difficult to disentangle from the broader Cambodian Civil War. Estimates range from 30,000 to 500,000. Sihanouk used a figure of 600,000 civil war deaths, while Elizabeth Becker reported over a million civil war deaths, military and civilian included; other researchers were unable to corroborate such high estimates. Marek Sliwinski notes that many estimates of the dead are open to question and may have been used for propaganda, suggesting that the true number lies between 240,000 and 310,000; Judith Banister and E. Paige Johnson described 275,000 war deaths as "the highest mortality that we can justify"; and Patrick Heuveline states that "Subsequent reevaluations of the demographic data situated the death toll for the [civil war] in the order of 300,000 or less". Of these deaths, Sliwinski estimates that approximately 17% can be attributed to U.S. bombing, noting that this is far behind the leading causes of death, as the U.S. bombing was concentrated in underpopulated border areas. Ben Kiernan attributes 50,000 to 150,000 deaths to the U.S. bombing.
The relationship between the United States' massive bombing of Cambodia and the growth of the Khmer Rouge in recruitment and popular support has been a matter of interest to historians. Some scholars, including Michael Ignatieff, Adam Jones and Greg Grandin, have cited the United States intervention and bombing campaign from 1965 to 1973 as a significant factor that led to increased support for the Khmer Rouge among the Cambodian peasantry. According to Ben Kiernan, the Khmer Rouge "would not have won power without U.S. economic and military destabilization of Cambodia. ... It used the bombing's devastation and massacre of civilians as recruitment propaganda and as an excuse for its brutal, radical policies and its purge of moderate communists and Sihanoukists." Pol Pot biographer David P. Chandler writes that the bombing "had the effect the Americans wanted—it broke the Communist encirclement of Phnom Penh", but also accelerated the collapse of rural society and increased social polarization. Craig Etcheson agrees that U.S. intervention increased recruitment for the Khmer Rouge but disputes that it was a primary cause of the Khmer Rouge victory. According to William Shawcross, the United States bombing and ground incursion plunged Cambodia into the chaos that Sihanouk had worked for years to avoid.
Since the 1950s, Pol Pot had made frequent visits to the People's Republic of China, receiving political and military training—especially on the theory of Dictatorship of the proletariat—from the personnel of the CCP. From November 1965 to February 1966, high-ranking CCP officials such as Chen Boda and Zhang Chunqiao trained him on topics such as the communist revolution in China, class conflicts, Communist International, etc. Pol Pot also met with other officials, including Deng Xiaoping and Peng Zhen. He was particularly impressed by Kang Sheng's lecture on political purge.
In 1970, Lon Nol overthrew Sihanouk, and the latter fled to Beijing, where Pol Pot was also visiting. On the advice of CCP, Khmer Rouge changed its position to support Sihanouk, establishing the National United Front of Kampuchea. In 1970 alone, the Chinese reportedly gave the United Front 400 tons of military aid. In April 1974, Sihanouk and Khmer Rouge leaders Ieng Sary and Khieu Samphan met with Mao in Beijing; Mao agreed on the policies Khmer Rouge proposed but was against marginalizing Sihanouk in a new Cambodia after winning the civil war. In 1975, Khmer Rouge defeated the Khmer Republic and started the Cambodian genocide.
In June 1975, Pol Pot and other Khmer Rouge officials met with Mao Zedong in Beijing, where Mao lectured Pot on his "Theory of Continuing Revolution under the Dictatorship of the Proletariat（无产阶级专政下继续革命理论)", recommending two articles written by Yao Wenyuan and sending Pot as gifts over 30 books authored by Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin. During this meeting, Mao said to Pol Pot:
We agree with you! Much of your experience is better than ours. China is not qualified to criticize you. We committed errors of the political routes for ten times in fifty years—some are national, some are local…Thus I say China has no qualification to criticize you but have to applaud you. You are basically correct…During the transition from the democratic revolution to adopting a socialist path, there exist two possibilities: one is socialism, the other is capitalism. Our situation now is like this. Fifty years from now, or one hundred years from now, the struggle between two lines will exist. Even ten thousand years from now, the struggle between two lines will still exist. When Communism is realized, the struggle between two lines will still be there. Otherwise, you are not a Marxist...... Our state now is, as Lenin said, a capitalist state without capitalists. This states protects capitalist rights, and the wages are not equal. Under the slogan of equality, a system of inequality has been introduced. There will exist a struggle between two lines, the struggle between the advanced and the backward, even when Communism is realized. Today we cannot explain it completely.
Pol Pot replied:
The issue of lines of struggle raised by Chairman Mao is an important strategic issue. We will follow your words in the future. I have read and learned various works of Chairman Mao since I was young, especially the theory on people's war. Your works have guided our entire party.
On the other hand, during another meeting in August 1975, Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai warned Sihanouk as well as Khmer Rouge leaders including Khieu Samphan and Ieng Sary of the danger of radical movement towards communism, citing the mistakes in China's own Great Leap Forward. Zhou urged them not to repeat the mistakes that had caused havoc. Sihanouk later recalled that Khieu Samphan and Ieng Thirith responded only with "an incredulous and superior smile".
During the genocide, China was the Khmer Rouge's main international patron, supplying "more than 15,000 military advisers" and most of its external aid. It is estimated that at least 90% of foreign aid to Khmer Rouge came from China, with 1975 alone seeing US$1 billion in interest-free economics and military aid, "the biggest aid ever given to any one country by China". But a series of internal crises in 1976 prevented Beijing from exerting substantial influence over Khmer Rouge policies.
After Mao's death in September 1976, China went through around two years of transition until Deng Xiaoping became the new paramount leader in December 1978. During the transition period, Pol Pot made an official visit to China in July 1977 and was welcomed by Hua Guofeng and other high-ranking CCP officials, with People's Daily calling him the "Comrade from Cambodia（柬埔寨战友）". Pot also toured around the agricultural production model of Dazhai, a product of Mao's era. Chen Yonggui, Vice Premier of China and the leader of Dazhai, visited Cambodia in December 1977, commending the achievement of its movement towards communism.
In 1978, Son Sen, a Khmer Rouge leader and the Minister of National Defense of Democratic Kampuchea, visited China and obtained its approval for military aid. In the same year, high-ranking CCP officials such as Wang Dongxing and Deng Yingchao visited Cambodia to offer support.
Soon after Deng became the Paramount Leader of China, the Vietnamese invaded Cambodia and ended the genocide by defeating the Khmer Rouge in January 1979. The People's Republic of Kampuchea was then established. In order to counter the power of Soviet Union and Vietnam in Southeast Asia, China officially condemned the Vietnamese invasion and continued its material support to Democratic Kampuchea. In early 1979, China launched an invasion of Vietnam to retaliate against Vietnam's invasion of Cambodia. However, Deng was convinced by a conversation with Singapore prime minister Lee Kuan Yew to limit the scale and duration of the war; following the one-month war, Singapore attempted to serve as a mediator between Vietnam and China on the Cambodian issue.
As a result of Chinese and Western opposition to the Vietnamese invasion of 1978 and 1979, the Khmer Rouge continued to hold Cambodia's United Nations (UN) seat until 1982, after which the seat was filled by a Khmer Rouge-dominated coalition known as the Coalition Government of Democratic Kampuchea (CGDK). Motivated by its opposition to Vietnam, China trained Khmer Rouge soldiers on its soil from 1979 to at least 1986, "stationed military advisers with Khmer Rouge troops as late as 1990," and "supplied at least $1 billion in military aid" during the 1980s. After the 1991 Paris Peace Accords, Thailand continued to allow the Khmer Rouge "to trade and move across the Thai border to sustain their activities ... although international criticism, particularly from the United States and Australia ... caused it to disavow passing any direct military support." There are also allegations that the United States directly or indirectly supported the Khmer Rouge to weaken Vietnam's influence in Southeast Asia. Owing to the support from China, the U.S., and some Western countries, the CGDK held Cambodia's UN seat until 1993, long after the Cold War had ended.
Ideology played an important role in the genocide. Pol Pot was influenced by Marxism-Leninism, and wanted an entirely self-sufficient agrarian society that would be free of foreign influence. Stalin's work has been described as a "crucial formative influence" on his thought. Also heavily influential was Mao's work, particularly On New Democracy. Jean-Jacques Rousseau was one of his favorite authors, according to historian David Chandler (1992, p. 32). In the mid-1960s, Pol Pot reformulated his ideas about Marxism-Leninism to suit the Cambodian situation with goals such as: bringing Cambodia back to its "mythic past" of the powerful Khmer Empire; eradicating corrupting influences, such as foreign aid and western culture; and restoration of an agrarian society. Pol Pot's strong belief in an agrarian utopia stemmed from his experience in Cambodia's rural northeast, where—while the Khmer Rouge gained power—he developed an affinity for the agrarian self-sufficiency of the area's isolated tribes. Attempts to implement these goals (formed upon the observations of small, rural communes) into a larger society were key factors in the ensuing genocide. One Khmer Rouge leader said the killings were meant for the "purification of the populace".
The Khmer Rouge forced virtually Cambodia's entire population into mobile work teams. Michael Hunt has written that it was "an experiment in social mobilization unmatched in twentieth-century revolutions". The Khmer Rouge used an inhumane forced labor regime, starvation, forced resettlement, land collectivization, and state terror to keep the population in line. The Khmer Rouge’s economic plan was aptly named the "Maha Lout Ploh", a direct allusion to the "Great Leap Forward" of China that caused tens of millions of deaths in the Great Chinese Famine. A doctoral dissertation written by Dr. Kenneth M. Quinn about the "origins of the radical Pol Pot regime" is "widely acknowledged as the first person to report on the genocidal policies of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge". While employed as a Foreign Service Officer for the U.S. State Department in Southeast Asia, Dr. Quinn was stationed at the South Vietnamese border for nine months between 1973–74. While there, Dr. Quinn "interviewed countless Cambodian refugees who had escaped the brutal clutches of the Khmer Rouge". Based upon the compiled interviews and the atrocities he witnessed firsthand, Dr. Quinn "wrote a 40-page report about it, which was submitted throughout the U.S. government". In the report, he wrote that the Khmer Rouge had "much in common with those of totalitarian regimes in Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union". Dr. Quinn has written of the Khmer Rouge: "[w]hat emerges as the explanation for the terror and violence that swept Cambodia during the 1970s is that a small group of alienated intellectuals, enraged by their perception of a totally corrupt society and imbued with a Maoist plan to create a pure socialist order in the shortest possible time, recruited extremely young, poor, and envious cadres, instructed them in harsh and brutal methods learned from Stalinist mentors, and used them to destroy physically the cultural underpinnings of the Khmer civilization and to impose a new society through purges, executions, and violence".
Ben Kiernan has compared the Cambodian genocide to the Armenian Genocide perpetrated by the Ottoman Empire during The First World War and the Holocaust perpetrated by Nazi Germany during The Second World War. While each was unique, they shared certain common features. Racism was a major part of the ideology of all three regimes. All three targeted religious minorities and tried to use force to expand into what they believed to be their historical heartlands (the Khmer Empire, Turkestan, and Lebensraum respectively), and all three "idealized their ethnic peasantry as the true 'national' class, the ethnic soil from which the new state grew."
The Khmer Rouge regime frequently arrested and often executed anyone suspected of connections with the former Cambodian government or foreign governments, as well as professionals, intellectuals, the Buddhist monkhood, and ethnic minorities. Even those who were stereotypically thought of as having intellectual qualities, such as wearing glasses or speaking multiple languages, were executed for fear that they would rebel against the Khmer Rouge. As a result, Pol Pot has been described by journalists and historians such as William Branigin as "a genocidal tyrant". British sociologist Martin Shaw described the Cambodian genocide as "the purest genocide of the Cold War era". The attempt to purify Cambodian society along racial, social and political lines led to purges of Cambodia's previous military and political leadership, along with business leaders, journalists, students, doctors, and lawyers.
Ethnic Vietnamese, ethnic Thai, ethnic Chinese, ethnic Cham, Cambodian Christians, and other minorities were also targeted. The Khmer Rouge forcibly relocated minority groups and banned their languages. By decree, the Khmer Rouge banned the existence of more than 20 minority groups, which constituted 15% of the country's population.
While Cambodians in general were victims of the Khmer Rouge regime, the persecution, torture, and killings committed by the Khmer Rouge are considered an act of genocide according to the United Nations as ethnic and religious minorities were systematically targeted by Pol Pot and his regime.
Scholars and historians have varying opinions on whether the persecution and killings under the hands of the Khmer Rouge should be considered genocide. This is because the earlier scholarship which came about right after the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime in 1979 had claimed that the victims could have been killed due to the circumstances they were in. For instance, Michael Vickery opined that the killings were "largely the result of the spontaneous excesses of a vengeful, undisciplined peasant army." Such view was also supported by Alexander Hinton, who related an account by a former Khmer Rouge cadre who claimed that the killings were acts of retribution for the injustices of the Lon Nol soldiers when they killed people who were known to be former Viet Minh agents before the rise of Pol Pot and Khmer Rouge to power. Vickery—erroneously, as maintained by the more recent scholarship of Ben Kiernan—argued that the number of Cham victims during the Khmer Rouge regime to be around 20,000 which would rule out the crime of genocide against Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge.
The killings were a centralized and bureaucratic effort by the Khmer Rouge regime, as recently documented by the Documentation Center of Cambodia (DC-Cam) through the discovery of Khmer Rouge internal security documents which instructed the killings across Cambodia. However there were also instances of "indiscipline and spontaneity in the mass killings." On top of that, Etcherson has also maintained that with the systematic mass killings based on political affiliation, ethnicity, religion, and citizenship resulting in the loss of a third of the Cambodian population, the Khmer Rouge is effectively guilty of committing genocide.
David Chandler has argued that, although ethnic minorities fell victim to the Khmer Rouge regime, they were not targeted specifically because of their ethnic backgrounds, but rather because they were mostly enemies of the revolution. Furthermore, Chandler also rejects the use of the terms "chauvinism" and "genocide" just to avoid drawing possible parallels to Hitler. This indicates that Chandler does not believe in the argument of charging the Khmer Rouge regime with the crime of genocide. Similarly, Michael Vickery holds a similar position to Chandler’s, and refuses to acknowledge the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge regime as genocide; Vickery regarded the Khmer Rouge a "chauvinist" regime, due to its anti-Vietnam and anti-religion policies. Stephen Heder also conceded that the Khmer Rouge were not guilty of genocide, stating that the atrocities of the regime were not motivated by race.
Ben Kiernan makes the argument that it was indeed a genocide and disagrees with these three scholars, by bringing forth examples from the history of the Cham people in Cambodia, as did an international tribunal finding Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan guilty 92 and 87 counts of said crime respectively.
The Khmer Rouge initially ordered the expulsion of ethnic Vietnamese from Cambodia but then conducted large scale massacres of large numbers of Vietnamese civilians who were being deported out of Cambodia. The regime then prevented the remaining 20,000 ethnic Vietnamese from fleeing, and much of this group was also executed. The Khmer Rouge also used the media to support their goals of genocide. Radio Phnom Penh called on Cambodians to "exterminate the 50 million Vietnamese."
Additionally, the Khmer Rouge conducted many cross-border raids into Vietnam where they slaughtered an estimated 30,000 Vietnamese civilians. Most notably, during the Ba Chúc massacre in April 1978, the Khmer Rouge military crossed the border and entered the village, slaughtering 3,157 Vietnamese civilians at once. This forced an urgent response from the Vietnamese government, precipitating the Cambodian–Vietnamese War in which the Khmer Rouge was ultimately defeated.
The state of the Chinese Cambodians during the Khmer Rouge regime was alleged to be "the worst disaster ever to befall any ethnic Chinese community in Southeast Asia." Cambodians of Chinese descent were massacred by the Khmer Rouge under the justification that they "used to exploit the Cambodian people". The Chinese were stereotyped as traders and moneylenders associated with capitalism, while historically the group had attracted resentment due to their lighter skin color and cultural differences. Hundreds of Cham, Chinese and Khmer families were rounded up in 1978 and told that they were to be resettled, but were actually executed. At the beginning of the Khmer Rouge regime in 1975, there were 425,000 ethnic Chinese in Cambodia; by the end of 1979 there were just 200,000 stuck at Thai refugee camps or Cambodia. 170,000 Chinese fled Cambodia to Vietnam while others were repatriated. Furthermore, the Chinese were predominantly city-dwellers, making them vulnerable to the Khmer Rouge's revolutionary ruralism and evacuation of city residents to farms. The government of the People's Republic of China did not protest the killings of ethnic Chinese in Cambodia as they were probably unaware of the situation.
According to Ben Kiernan, the "fiercest extermination campaign was directed against the ethnic Chams, Cambodia's Muslim minority." Islam was seen as an "alien" and "foreign" culture that did not belong in the new Communist system. Initially, the Khmer Rouge aimed for the "forced assimilation" of Chams through population dispersal. Pol Pot then began using intimidation efforts against the Chams that included the assassination of village elders but he ultimately ordered the full-scale mass killing of the Cham people. American professor Samuel Totten and Australian professor Paul R. Bartrop estimate that these efforts would have completely wiped out the Cham population were it not for the overthrow of the Khmer Rouge in 1979.
The Cham began to rise in prominence through joining the communists as early as the 1950s, with a Cham elder, Sos Man joined the Indochina Communist Party and rose through the ranks to become a major in the Party’s forces. He then returned home to the Eastern Zone in 1970 and joined the Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK), and co-established the Eastern Zone Islamic Movement with his son, Mat Ly. Together, they became the mouthpiece of the CPK to get the Cham people to take part in the revolution. Sos Man’s Islamic Movement was also tolerated by CPK’s leadership between 1970–75. The Chams were gradually made to abandon their faith and distinct practices as early as 1972 in the Southwest.
Ten Cham villages were taken over by the CPK in 1972–73, where new Cham leaders were instated and led the villagers to work in the fields away from their hometowns. A witness interviewed by Kiernan asserts that they were well-treated by the CPK then, and allowed to return to their homes in 1974. Moreover, the Cham were classified as "depositee base people," making them further vulnerable to persecution.
Despite that, the Cham in many areas do live side by side with the locals, speaking the Khmer language, and even inter-marrying with the majority Khmers as well as the minority Chinese and Vietnamese. The diverse ethnic and cultural practices of Cambodians began to deteriorate with the rise of the CPK in 1972, when the Cham were prohibited from practising their faith and culture: Cham women were required to keep their hair short like the Khmers; Cham men were not allowed to put on the sarong; farmers were made to put on rudimentary dark or black clothing; religious activities like the mandatory daily prayers were curbed. Vickery notes that the Cambodian Cham were discriminated against by the Khmer before the beginning of the war "in some localities," partly because the Cham were stereotyped as being practitioners of black magic. But in other localities, the Cham were well-assimilated within the host communities, speaking the Khmer language and marrying Khmers, Vietnamese, and the Chinese.
Between 1972 and 1974, the enforcement of such restrictions was further amplified as the Khmer Rouge found the Cham to be a threat to its communist agenda due to their unique language, culture, belief, and independent communal system. Not only that, the Cham were renamed "Islamic Khmers" to disassociate them with their ancestral heritage and ethnicity and assimilate them into the larger Khmer-dominated Democratic Kampuchea. The Khmer Rouge believed that the Cham would jeopardise the communist efforts of establishing close-knit communities where everyone could be easily monitored. As such, the regime had decided to disperse the Cham by deporting them from their respective localities to work as peasants across Cambodia, hence contributing directly to the new DK economy. This move was undertaken to ensure that the Cham will not congregate to form its own community again, which undermines the regime’s plan of establishing central economic cooperatives. Slowly, those who defied these restrictions were arrested by the regime. Hence in October 1973, Cham Muslims in the Eastern Zone of DK demonstrated their displeasure towards the CPK restrictions by beating the drums—traditionally used to inform locals of the time for daily prayers—at local mosques. This act of communal defiance prompted the blanket arrest of many Cham Muslim leaders and religious teachers.
In February 1974, the Cham in Region 31, which is in the Western Zone of DK, protested the CPK policy which required the fishermen to register their daily catch with the local cooperative and sell them to the cooperative at a low price. At the same time, the locals were also made to buy those fishes from the cooperative at a higher price. This prompted the locals to confront the cooperative to express their discontent, only to be shot at, "killing and wounding more than 100," as one account put it. By December 1974, a rebellion by the Cham in Region 21 of the Eastern Zone had broken out against the CPK after community leaders were arrested. The rebellion was repressed forcefully by the regime with no records of casualties documented.
As much as there are records of these restrictions, resistance, and repressions, there were also accounts from the Cham community which deny the oppression by the regime between 1970 and early 1975. While restrictions on certain activities like trade and travel were in place during that period, they were understood to be by-products of the ongoing civil war. Moreover, some Cham had also joined the revolution as soldiers and members of the CPK. According to some local accounts, people had confidence in the Khmer Rouge when they first came to the village communities who assisted the locals with food and provisions, and there were no bans on local culture or religion; even if restrictions were imposed, the consequences were not harsh. The CPK were considered heroes of the revolution as they struggled for the cause of the peasantry and nation against the United States (Hinton, 2005:58). As the Cham communities were to be found across DK, various Cham communities might have experienced the effects of the CPK pre-1975 differently; some communities experienced the repressions and restrictions while others did not. Only when Pol Pot had consolidated power by the end of 1975 that the persecution became more severe and affected all of the Cham people indiscriminately.
This could well be one of the simpler factors as to why the Cambodian government and the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) do not prosecute the pre-1975 Khmer Rouge perpetrators before Pol Pot consolidated his power. As such, the accounts of those who experienced the repressions prior to 1975 were not considered to be part of the genocide as the case for a systematic annihilation of a people based on ethnic or religious profiling was not concrete enough.
In 1975, upon the victory of the CPK over the Khmer Republic forces, two brothers of Cham descent who had joined the Khmer Rouge as soldiers returned home to Region 21 within the Kampong Cham province, where the largest Cham Muslim community could be found. The brothers then told their father of the adventures they had experienced being part of the revolution which included killing Khmers and consuming pork, in the hopes of convincing their father to join the communist cause. The father who had remained silent, was clearly not intrigued by the accounts related by his sons. Instead, he grabbed a cleaver, killed his sons, and told his fellow villagers that he had killed the enemy. When the villagers pointed out that he had indeed murdered his own sons, he recounted the stories he was told by his sons earlier, citing the Khmer Rouge’s hatred for Islam and the Cham people. This prompted a unanimous agreement amongst the villagers to kill all Khmer Rouge soldiers within the area on that night. The next morning, more Khmer Rouge forces descended the area with heavy weapons and surrounded the village, killing every single villager in it.
Similarly, in June or July 1975, the CPK authorities in Region 21 of the Eastern Zone tried to confiscate all copies of the Qur'an from the people, while at the same time impose a mandatory short haircut for Cham women. The authorities were met with mass demonstration staged by the local Cham community who were shot at by the regime soldiers. The Cham retaliated forcefully with swords and blades killing a few soldiers, only to be met with military reinforcement from the regime which annihilated the villagers and their properties. In another account by Cham refugees in Malaysia, thirteen leading figures within the Cham Muslim community were killed by the regime in June 1975. The reasons behind the killings was supposedly because some of them were "leading prayers instead of attending a CPK meeting," while the others were purportedly "petitioning for the permission on marriage ceremonies" .
Events went from bad to worse in mid-1976 due to the rebellion, when the ethnic minorities were obliged to pledge loyalty only to the Khmer nationality and religion: there were to be no other identities besides Khmer. Consequently, the Cham language were not uttered, communal eating where everyone shares the same food became mandatory, forcing Cham Muslims to raise pigs and consume pork against their religious belief. One explanation for the rise of such rebellions offered by locals is that some of the Cham were involved in the Khmer Rouge as soldiers who were anticipating positions of power once Pol Pot consolidated power. In 1975, these soldiers were dismissed from the Khmer Rouge forces, deprived of their Islamic practices and robbed of their ethnic identity.
The patterns were consistent throughout the killings of the Cham people: first, the dismantling of the communal structure through the murder of Cham Muslim leaders, including muftis, imams, and other learned men of influence. Second, the dismantling of the Cham’s Islamic and ethnic identities by restricting practices that distinguished the Cham from the Khmers. Third, the dispersal of the Cham from their communities, either by forced labour in the fields or by arresting them for alleged plots of resistance or rebellion against the CPK.
During the Khmer Rouge era, all religions, including Buddhism and Islam, were persecuted. According to Cham sources, 132 mosques were destroyed during the Khmer Rouge era, many others were desecrated, and Muslims were not allowed to worship. Muslims were forced to eat pork and murdered when they refused. Whole Cham villages were exterminated. Chams were not permitted to speak their language. Cham children were taken away from their parents and raised as Khmers.
Orders given by the Khmer Rouge government in 1979 stated: "The Cham nation no longer exists on Kampuchean soil belonging to the Khmer. Accordingly, Cham nationality, language, customs and religious beliefs must be immediately abolished. Those who fail to obey this order will suffer all the consequences for their acts of opposition to Angkar."
After the end of Khmer Rouge rule all religions were restored. Vickery believes that about 185,000 Cham lived in Cambodia in the mid-1980s and that the number of mosques was about the same then as it was before 1975. In early 1988, there were six mosques in the Phnom Penh area and a "good number" in the provinces, but Muslim dignitaries were thinly stretched; only 20 of the previous 113 most prominent Cham clergy in Cambodia survived the Khmer Rouge period.
Under the leadership of Pol Pot, who was an ardent Marxist atheist, the Khmer Rouge enforced a policy of state atheism. According to Catherine Wessinger, "Democratic Kampuchea was officially an atheist state, and the persecution of religion by the Khmer Rouge was only matched in severity by the persecution of religion in the communist states of Albania (see Religion in communist Albania) and North Korea (see Freedom of religion in North Korea)." All religions were banned, and the repression of adherents of Islam, Christianity, and Buddhism was extensive. It is estimated that up to 50,000 Buddhist monks were massacred by the Khmer Rouge.
In 1978, in order to purge the Eastern Military Zone of those he perceived to have been contaminated by the Vietnamese, Pol Pot ordered military units from the Southwest Zone to move into eastern Kampuchea and eliminate the "hidden traitors". Unable to withstand an attack from the Kampuchea Government, So Phim committed suicide while his deputy Heng Samrin defected to Vietnam. The series of massacres in the Eastern Zone were the most serious of all of the massacres which took place during the Pol Pot regime's genocide.  It was described as a "massive and indiscriminate purges of party, army and people alike".
The Khmer Rouge exploited thousands of desensitized, conscripted children in their early teens to commit mass murder and other atrocities during and after the genocide. The indoctrinated children were taught to follow any order without hesitation.
The organization continued to use children extensively until at least 1998, often forcibly recruiting them. During this period, the children were deployed mainly in unpaid support roles, such as ammunition-carriers, and also as combatants. Many children had fled the Khmer Rouge without a means to feed themselves, and believed that joining the government forces would enable them to survive, although local commanders frequently denied them any pay.
The Khmer Rouge regime is also well known for practicing torturous medical experiments on prisoners. People were imprisoned and tortured merely on suspicion of opposing the regime or because other prisoners gave their names under torture. Whole families (including women and children) ended up in prisons and were tortured because the Khmer Rouge feared that if they did not do this, their intended victims' relatives would seek revenge. Pol Pot said, "if you want to kill the grass, you also have to kill the roots". Most prisoners did not even know why they had been imprisoned and, if they dared to ask the prison guards, the guards would answer only by saying that Angkar (the Communist Party of Kampuchea) never makes mistakes, which meant that they must have done something illegal.
There are many accounts of torture in both the S-21 records and the documents of the trial; as told by the survivor Bou Meng in his book (written by Huy Vannak), tortures were so atrocious and heinous that the prisoners tried in every way to commit suicide, even using spoons, and their hands were constantly tied behind their back to prevent them from committing suicide or trying to escape. When it was believed that they could not provide any further useful information, they were blindfolded and sent to the Killing Fields, which were mass graves where prisoners were killed at night with metal tools such as scythes or nails and hammers (since bullets were too expensive). Oftentimes, their screams were covered with loudspeakers playing propaganda music of Democratic Kampuchea and noise from generator sets.
Inside S-21, a special treatment was given to babies and children; they were taken away from their mothers and relatives, and sent to the Killing Fields, where they were smashed against the so-called Chankiri Tree. A similar treatment is supposed to have been given to babies of other prisons like S-21, spread all over Democratic Kampuchea.
S-21 also had a few Westerners who had been captured by the regime. One was the British teacher John Dawson Dewhirst, captured by the Khmer Rouge while he was on a yacht. One guard of S-21, Cheam Soeu, said that one of the Westerners had been burned alive, but Kang Kek Iew ("Comrade Duch") denied that. He said that Pol Pot asked him to burn their corpses (after death) and that "nobody would dare to violate my order".
Tortures were not only meant to force prisoners to confess but for the prison guards' amusement. They feared that they would themselves become prisoners if they treated the prisoners well.
The previous doctors were killed or sent to the countryside to work as farmers during the Khmer Rouge and the library of the Medical Faculty in Phnom Penh was set on fire. The regime then employed child medics, who were just teenagers with no or very little training. They did not have any knowledge of Western medicine (which had been forbidden since it was considered a capitalist invention), and they had to practice their own medical experiments and make progress by themselves. They did not have Western medicines (since Cambodia, according to the Khmer Rouge, had to be self-sufficient) and all medical experiments were systematically conducted without anesthetics.
A medic who worked inside S-21 told that a 17-year-old girl had her throat slit and her abdomen pierced before being beaten and put into water for an entire night. This procedure was repeated many times and carried out without anesthetics.
In a hospital of Kampong Cham province, child medics cut out the intestines of a living non-consenting person and joined their ends to study the healing process. The patient died after three days due to the "operation".
In the same hospital, other "physicians" trained by the Khmer Rouge opened the chest of a living person, just to see the heart beating. The operation resulted in the patient's immediate death.
Other testimonies, as well as Khmer Rouge policy, suggest that these were not isolated cases. They also performed drug testing, for instance by injecting coconut juice into a living person's body and studying the effects. Coconut juice injection is often lethal.
Ben Kiernan estimates that 1.671 million to 1.871 million Cambodians died as a result of Khmer Rouge policy, or between 21% and 24% of Cambodia's 1975 population. A study by French demographer Marek Sliwinski calculated slightly fewer than 2 million unnatural deaths under the Khmer Rouge out of a 1975 Cambodian population of 7.8 million; 33.5% of Cambodian men died under the Khmer Rouge compared to 15.7% of Cambodian women. According to a 2001 academic source, the most widely accepted estimates of excess deaths under the Khmer Rouge range from 1.5 million to 2 million, although figures as low as 1 million and as high as 3 million have been cited; conventionally accepted estimates of deaths due to Khmer Rouge executions range from 500,000 to 1 million, "a third to one half of excess mortality during the period." However, a 2013 academic source (citing research from 2009) indicates that execution may have accounted for as much as 60% of the total, with 23,745 mass graves containing approximately 1.3 million suspected victims of execution. While considerably higher than earlier and more widely-accepted estimates of Khmer Rouge executions, the Documentation Center of Cambodia (DC-Cam)'s Craig Etcheson defended such estimates of over one million executions as "plausible, given the nature of the mass grave and DC-Cam's methods, which are more likely to produce an under-count of bodies rather than an over-estimate." Demographer Patrick Heuveline estimated that between 1.17 million and 3.42 million Cambodians died unnatural deaths between 1970 and 1979, with between 150,000 and 300,000 of those deaths occurring during the civil war. Heuveline's central estimate is 2.52 million excess deaths, of which 1.4 million were the direct result of violence. Despite being based on a house-to-house survey of Cambodians, the estimate of 3.3 million deaths promulgated by the Khmer Rouge's successor regime, the People's Republic of Kampuchea (PRK), is generally considered to be an exaggeration; among other methodological errors, the PRK authorities added the estimated number of victims that had been found in the partially-exhumed mass graves to the raw survey results, meaning that some victims would have been double-counted.
On 15 July 1979, following the overthrow of the Khmer Rouge, the new government of Cambodia passed "Decree Law No. 1." This allowed for the trial of Pol Pot and Ieng Sary for the crime of genocide. They were given an American defense lawyer, Hope Stevens, and were tried in absentia and convicted of genocide. In January 2001, the Cambodian National Assembly passed legislation to form a tribunal to try additional members of the Khmer Rouge regime.
The United States avoided describing Khmer Rouge atrocities as genocide until 1989 and refused to approve capturing and holding a trial for Pol Pot until as late as 1997 because the U.S. had diplomatically supported the Khmer Rouge as a hedge against Vietnamese and Soviet influence in Southeast Asia throughout the 1980s. There was also speculation that a trial might examine the legality of the U.S. bombing of Cambodia during the Vietnam War.
In 1999, Duch was interviewed by Nic Dunlop and Nate Thayer and admitted his guilt for crimes carried out in Tuol Sleng prison, where up to 17,000 political prisoners were executed. He expressed sorrow for his actions, stating that he was willing to stand trial and give evidence against his former comrades. During his trial in February and March 2009, Duch admitted that he was responsible for the crimes carried out at Tuol Sleng. On 26 July 2010, he was found guilty on charges of crimes against humanity, torture, and murder and was sentenced to 35 years in prison. On 3 February 2012 his previous sentence was replaced with life imprisonment. Duch died of lung disease in September 2020.
Nuon Chea ("Brother Number Two") was arrested on 19 September 2007. At the end of his 2013 trial he denied all charges, stating that he had not given orders "to mistreat or kill people to deprive them of food or commit any genocide." He was convicted in 2014 and sentenced to life imprisonment. He has expressed remorse and accepted moral responsibility for his crimes, stating "I would like to sincerely apologize to the public, the victims, the families, and all Cambodian people."
After being located in an opulent Phnom Penh villa, Ieng Sary was arrested on 12 November 2007 and indicted for crimes against humanity, as was his wife Ieng Thirith, who had been an unofficial adviser to the regime. On 17 November 2011, following evaluations from medical experts, Thirith was found to be unfit to stand trial due to a mental condition. Sary died of heart failure in 2013 while his trial was in progress.
Another senior Khmer Rouge leader, Khieu Samphan, was arrested on 19 November 2007 and charged with crimes against humanity. He was convicted in 2014 and sentenced to life imprisonment. At a hearing on 23 June 2017, Samphan stated a desire to bow to the memory of his guiltless victims, while also claiming that he suffered for those who fought for their ideal to have a brighter future.
A few months before his death on 15 April 1998, Pol Pot was interviewed by Nate Thayer. During the interview, he stated that he had a clear conscience and denied being responsible for the genocide. Pol Pot asserted that he "came to carry out the struggle, not to kill people." According to Alex Alvarez, Pol Pot "portrayed himself as a misunderstood and unfairly vilified figure". In 2013, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen unanimously passed legislation that prohibits the denial of the Cambodian genocide and other war crimes committed by the Khmer Rouge; a bill that mirrors legislation passed in European nations after the conclusion of the Holocaust. The legislation was passed despite comments by opposition leader Kem Sokha, who is the deputy president of the Cambodian National Rescue Party. Sokha stated that exhibits at the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum were fabricated and that the artifacts had been faked by the Vietnamese following their invasion in 1979. Sokha's party has claimed that his comments were taken out of context.
In 1988, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, who was once a member of the Khmer Rouge, described China as "the root of everything that was evil" in Cambodia. But after he ousted his domestic rivals in a bloody factional coup d’état in July 1997, prompting outrage in the West, China immediately recognized the status quo and offered military aid. New interests soon came into alignment. Then, in 2000, Jiang Zemin, who was the CCP General Secretary and Chinese President, arrived in Cambodia for an official visit, the first by a Chinese leader since 1963.
In December 2000, while Jiang was visiting Cambodia, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China issued a statement that Beijing never supported the wrong policies of Khmer Rouge while it was governing Cambodia and refused to apologize. Yang Yanyi (杨燕怡), then the Deputy Director of the Asian Department in the Foreign Ministry of China, claimed that:
This is an internal affair to be addressed by the Cambodians themselves. China had never interfered in the internal affairs of another country. Our assistance and support during that certain historical period was to support Cambodia's effort to safeguard its sovereignty and national independence. We never support wrong policies of other countries.
During the visit, Jiang met with Norodom Sihanouk and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, signing an agreement to offer US$12 million aid to Cambodia. Even though the Cambodia government never mentioned the issue of Khmer Rouge during Jiang's visit, protesters asked for apology and even restitution from China, and such request still persists. In 2015, Youk Chhang, the executive director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia, pointed out that "Chinese advisers were there with the prison guards and all the way to the top leader. China has never admitted or apologized for this." In 2009, during the court trials of some of the former Khmer Rouge leaders, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu claimed that:
For a long time China has ... had normal and friendly relations with previous Cambodian governments, including that of Democratic Kampuchea. As everyone knows, the government of Democratic Kampuchea had a legal seat at the United Nations, and had established broad foreign relations with more than 70 countries.
The Rescuers exhibition, which ran from 2011 to 2015, recognized individuals who risked their lives to save others. The Cambodian rescuers are paired alongside similar profiles of courage from other world genocides.
As best as can now be estimated, over two million Cambodians died during the 1970s because of the political events of the decade, the vast majority of them during the mere four years of the 'Khmer Rouge' regime. This number of deaths is even more staggering when related to the size of the Cambodian population, then less than eight million. ... Subsequent reevaluations of the demographic data situated the death toll for the [civil war] in the order of 300,000 or less.
We may safely conclude, from known pre- and post-genocide population figures and from professional demographic calculations, that the 1975–79 death toll was between 1.671 and 1.871 million people, 21 to 24 percent of Cambodia's 1975 population.
Between 17 April 1975 and 7 January 1979 the death toll was about 25% of a population of some 7.8 million; 33.5% of men were massacred or died unnatural deaths as against 15.7% of the women, and 41.9% of the population of Phnom Penh. ... Since 1979, the so-called Pol Pot regime has been equated to Hitler and the Nazis. This is why the word 'genocide' (associated with Nazism) has been used for the first time in a distinctly Communist regime by the invading Vietnamese to distance themselves from a government they had overturned. This 'revisionism' was expressed in several ways. The Khmer Rouge were said to have killed 3.3 million, some 1.3 million more people than they had in fact killed. There was one abominable state prison, S–21, now the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. In fact, there were more than 150 on the same model, at least one per district. ... For the United States in particular, denouncing the crimes of the Khmer Rouge was not at the top of their agenda in the early 1980s. Instead, as in the case of Afghanistan, it was still at times vital to counter what was perceived as the expansionist policies of the Soviets. The USA prioritised its budding friendship with the Democratic Republic of China to counter the 'evil' influence of the USSR in Southeast Asia, acting through its client state, revolutionary Vietnam. All the ASEAN countries shared that vision. So it became vital, with the military and financial help of China, to revive and develop armed resistance to the Vietnamese troops, with the resurrected KR at its core. ... [France] was instrumental in forcing the Sihanoukists and the Republicans to form an obscene alliance with its former tormentors, the KR, under the name of the Coalition Government of Democratic Kampuchea (CGDK) in 1982. In so doing, the international community officially reintegrated some of the worst perpetrators of crimes against humanity into the world diplomatic sphere...
Through interviews and physical exploration, DC-Cam identified 19,733 mass burial pits, 196 prisons that operated during the Democratic Kampuchea (DK) period, and 81 memorials constructed by survivors of the DK regime.
Like all but seven of the twenty thousand Tuol Sleng prisoners, she was murdered anyway.
On the higher end of estimates, journalist Elizabeth Becker writes that 'officially, more than half a million Cambodians died on the Lon Nol side of the war; another 600,000 were said to have died in the Khmer Rouge zones.' However, it is not clear how these numbers were calculated or whether they disaggregate civilian and soldier deaths. Others' attempts to verify the numbers suggest a lower number. Demographer Patrick Heuveline has produced evidence suggesting a range of 150,000 to 300,000 violent deaths from 1970 to 1975. In an article reviewing different sources about civilian deaths during the civil war, Bruce Sharp argues that the total number is likely to be around 250,000 violent deaths. ... Many attempts have been made to count or estimate the scale of deaths under the KR. While the KR officials claim that only around 20,000 civilians were killed, the true estimate likely falls somewhere between 1–3 million total deaths, with upper range estimates of those directly killed by the regime approaching 1 million. ... One of the more thorough demographic studies, conducted by Patrick Heuveline, also attempts to separate out violent civilian deaths from a general increase in mortality caused by famine, disease, working conditions, or other indirect causes. He does so by grouping deaths within different age and sex brackets and analyzing treatment of these age and sex groups by the Khmer Rouge and violent regimes in general. His conclusion is that an average of 2.52 million people (range of 1.17–3.42 million) died as a result of regime actions between 1970 and 1979, with an average estimate of 1.4 million (range of 1.09–2.16 million) directly violent deaths.
Le bilan humain de cette périod de guerre civile est difficile à établir. Les chiffres avancés ne sont pas irréfutables, et ils peuvent bien avoir été lancés à des fins de propagande ou d'intoxication. Ils oscillent, pour le nombre des morts, entre 600 000 et 700 000, soit entre 7.7% et 9.6% de la population du pays selon les évaluations les plus extrêmes. La cause principale de ces pertes serait les bombardements massifs de l'aviation américaine dont le but principal était l'anéantissement des pistes Ho-Chi-Minh et la destruction d'un mythique Q.G. du Viêt-cong. A cet égard, il est intéressant de rappeler que la population de toutes les régions traversées par les pistes Ho-Chi-Minh, régions situées sur la rive gauche du Mékong, ne comptait au total qu'environ 1 165 000 personnes, et que les trois plus grandes provinces longeant la frontiére laotienne et vietnamienne, Stung Treng, Ratanakiri et Mondolkiri, étaient pratiquement inhabitées. L'impact des bombardments américains sur l'état de la population du Cambodge durant les années 1970–1975 ne paraît donc pas aussi évident que certain auteurs le supposent. Nos propres statistiques sur les causes précises des décés ne situent d'ailleurs les victimes des bombardments qu'à la troisiéme place, loin derriére les victimes des armes à feu portatives et des assassinats. ... Pour la période de guerre civile, l'augmentation totale de la mortalité est donc de 7.5% Si l'on considére que la mortalité naturelle frappe chaque anné quelque 132 000 personnes, on pourrait facilement en déduire que la surmortalité due à la guerre se chiffre par un nombre de décés ne dépassant pas 50 000 personnes durant la périod allant de mars 1970 à avril 1975. Toutefois, en tenant compte du fait que la guerre a eu une forte incidence tant sur la dimunution de la mortalité naturelle que sur l'agumentation de la mortalité infantile, on peut estimer la proportion annuelle des victimes elles-mêmes de cette guerre à 0,64% de la population du pays, soit, pour toutes ces années, 240 000 personnes environ.
An estimated 275,000 excess deaths. We have modeled the highest mortality that we can justify for the early 1970s.
Article Cambodian genocide in English Wikipedia took following places in local popularity ranking:
Presented content of the Wikipedia article was extracted in 2021-04-07 based on https://en.wikipedia.org/?curid=40668394