Cambodian Genocide: Tragic Story and Haunting Photos From The Killing Fields And Prisons

The United States extended the Vietnam war to Cambodia, which radicalized and disrupted the political system. In 1965, Price Sihanouk of Cambodia officially cut ties with the U.S. and made the country natural in the war. This sudden shift in the policy allowed the Vietnamese communists to use the land of Cambodia. In response, the United States bombed military installations and Cambodian villages. Between 1965 and 1969, the U.S. dropped more explosives on Cambodia than the entire World War II bombings by the allies, which killed over 150K people, mostly civilians. During that time, Khmer Rouge, which was a small rebellion movement operating in the remote jungle and mountain areas became stronger, and they collaborated with the deposed leader and gained more support in all over the country.

Rise of Khmer Rouge

Eventually, the Khmer Rouge won, and in 1975 they invaded Phnom Penh and took over the city. After gaining control of the capital, they handed power to the leader of the Khmer Rouge, Pol Pot instead of Prince Norodom and he was forced to exile. The idea of communist-style Utopia inspired Pol Pot. There were a lot of self-sufficient and independent rural tribes in the northeast of Cambodia. They lived on the goods they produced through subsistence farming. Pol Pot considered the wealthy and businessmen as evil and inspired by the idea of a community that works together and untainted by the evils of money, wealth and religion. After becoming the leader, Pol Pot renamed Cambodia as Kampuchea and isolated the country from the global community. He forced the urban people into rural farming and abolished the country’s currency. Within days, the cities were evacuated, and the ownership of private properties was revoked. Everyone regardless of his or her former profession would work in the farms.

Cambodian Genocide

The people who denied or refused to follow the new rules were imprisoned, executed, tortured or starved to death in the camps. Farming is a daunting and challenging task, especially without modern machinery and equipment. People started dying from illness, forced labor, exhaustion and lack of medical facilities. Khmer Rouge did not care to about the sick people. And some people were also executed who were unable to work in the farms. Khmer Rouge soldiers have lack of command control skills because they were not trained to fight a guerilla war not to govern a country. They brutally punished and executed the people, especially the rich and elites. Khmer rouge recruited the soldiers from rural areas and ethnic minorities in the hills and mountains. The elites and wealthy businessmen maltreated them, and now the situation had changed the roles, and they falsely accused some people as foreign agents working against the Khmer Rouge and took the revenge. Those seen as intellectuals, or potential leaders of a revolutionary movement, were also executed. The country could not survive entirely on farming, so the government reduced food consumption and starved people to death. During the Pol Pot’s regime, an estimated 1.5 to 2.2 million Cambodians died and killed from 1975 to 1979.

The End of Pol Pot’s Regime

In 1979, the Vietnamese army invaded Cambodia and ended Pol Pot’s regime. The Khmer Rouge quickly moved back to the remote areas and remained active as an insurgency, albeit with declining influence. Pol Pot lived in the rural northeast of the country until 1997, and died under the house arrest. None of the members of Pol Pot’s regime faced any trial or punishment for their brutal crimes.

Below are some haunting photos of Prisoners and killing fields that depict the brutal genocide of Cambodian people.

#1 People looking at skulls displayed in a stupa during the annual ‘Day of Remembrance’ at the Choeung Ek killing fields memorial in Phnom Penh

#2 A terrified prisoner inside the Tuol Sleng prison where nearly 20,000 people locked in Tuol Sleng, only seven survived.

#3 Skulls lie in the killing fields of Choeung Ek, 1981

#4 Khmer Rouge soldiers drive through the capital, Phnom Penh. 1975.

#5 Skulls at the Killing fields of Choeung Ek

Skulls at the Killing fields of Choeung Ek

These skulls were on display at the memorial of the Genocide. Choeung Ek is one of the sites were the victims of the Khmer Rouge were buried (if at all).

#6 Cambodian inhabitants wait in a street of Phnom Penh, 17 April 1975 as the gasoline depot burns before the Khmer Rouge enter the capital and establish government of Democratic Kampuchea (DK).

#7 Corpses found at a prison run by the former Khmer Rouge government, about 30 kilometres north-west of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, 28th February 1979.

#8 Mass Grave in Cambodia. The simple hut behind the three boys at the Choeung Ek extermination camp contains hundreds of human skulls and bones.

#9 Vietnamese soldiers and a group of children witness the unearthing of a mass grave, 1980

#11 On the evening of the Fall of Phnom Penh to the Khmer Rouge on April 16, 1975 as night fall, thousands of people are streaming towards the center of Phnom Penh on Monivong Boulevard.

#13 A young girl with her baby in the prison.

A young girl with her baby in the prison.

Often times, the entire family of a prisoner were captured and taken to Tuol Sleng, where their fate was shared with their accused relative.

#15 A young prisoner tortured brutally.

A young prisoner tortured brutally.

The Torture methods were "beating with fists, feet, sticks or electric wire; burning with cigarettes; electric shocks; being forced to eat feces; jabbing with needles; ripping out fingernails; suffocation with plastic bags; water boarding; and being covered with centipedes and scorpions."

#16 A child soldier with a human skull resting on the tip of his rifle, Dei Kraham, Cambodia. 1973.

#17 A crowd gathers around a civilian killed by the Khmer Rouge, Phnom Penh. 1975.

#18 A child soldier stands over a blindfolded soldier, Angkor Chey, Cambodia. 1973.

#19 Refugees peer through the gate to the French Embassy, begging to get in, Phnom Penh. 1975.

#20 A soldier stands by a mass grave, Oudong, Cambodia. 1981.

#21 An employee at the French Embassy offers a cigarette to a Khmer Rouge soldier, Phnom Penh, 1975.

#22 A woman rides a bicycle by a stack of destroyed cars, cast aside by the Khmer Rouge as of symbol of the bourgeoisie, 1979

#23 Cambodians climb over a fence, trying to escape to the French Embassy, 1975

#24 Young refugees hide under tall grass, escaping from the killing fields of the Khmer Rouge, Aranyaprathet, Thailand, 1979.

#25 Thousands of refugees prepare to evacuate the capital, fleeing from the Khmer Rouge, 1975

#26 Cambodians helping an injured civilian, Phnom Penh, 1975.

#27 A line of a thousand Cambodian refugees makes it into Thailand, Klong Kwang, Thailand. 1979.

#28 The French Embassy in Phnom Penh struggles to handle the hordes of people begging for protection, 1975

#29 Injured people hide out in the hospital, before the capital was under complete Khmer Rouge control, 1975

#30 A Thai border patrolman finds a dead child that was killed by Khmer Rouge soldiers, Thailand, 1977

#31 Starving refugees get help from a Thai relief mission, laying in tents near the border, Pailin, Cambodia, 1979

#32 Cambodian soldiers who fought against the Khmer Rouge in the Olympic Stadium, the place the Khmer Rouge used for their executions, Phnom Penh, 1975.

#33 A dead man’s body lies on the ground at Tuol Sleng, following his murder by the Khmer Rouge.

#34 A field of people massacred by the Khmer Rouge, My Duc, Vietnam. 1978.

#35 A dead man, with his shirt ripped open, lies on the cold ground of Tuol Sleng.

#36 A young boy picks up a soldier’s helmet as the victorious Khmer Rouge parades through the streets of his city, Phnom Penh, 1975.

#37 A prisoner bleeds on the floor of Tuol Sleng, Phnom Penh, 1976

#38 A Cambodian soldier fighting against the Khmer Rouger is captured in Thailand, Aranyaprathet, Thailand, 1985.

#40 The Fall of Phnom Penh to the Khmer Rouge on April 17, 1975

#41 The young Khmer Rouge guerrilla soldiers atop their US-made armored vehicles enter 17 April 1975 Phnom Penh

#42 People who found shelter at the French Embassy in Phnom Penh rest in one of the room of the building late April 1975

#43 Cambodian refugee children in a refugee camp set up by the UNHCR in Thailand, near the border with Cambodia, 1987.

#44 Cambodian refugees and pro Sihanouk guerrilla along the Thai border during the rainy season before the Thai authorities and the UN could get the setup of camps to shelter them.

#45 Human Skulls at Choeung Ek Cambodia’s Genocide Memorial

#47 Cambodian refugees in a hospital in a refugee camp set up by the UNHCR in Thailand, near the border with Cambodia, 1987

#48 The Fall of Phnom Penh. A group of people who found shelter next to an abandoned market area in the city center.

#49 The Killing Fields at Choeung Ek just a few kilometers south of Phnom Penh

The Killing Fields at Choeung Ek just a few kilometers south of Phnom Penh

This is the location of the largest mass grave of the victims of the Khmer Rouge purges. Most of the victims were first at the prison of S-21 run by infamous Duch in the city, Cambodia

#50 Brutally killed prisoners.

Brutally killed prisoners.

Due to international sanctions and a collapsed economy, bullets became scarce in Cambodia. Instead of guns, executioners were forced to use makeshift weapons like pick axes and iron bars to carry out mass executions.

#51 A distraught woman cries over the body of her husband, killed by Khmer Rouge soldiers, Phnom Penh. 1975.

A distraught woman cries over the body of her husband, killed by Khmer Rouge soldiers, Phnom Penh. 1975.

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#53 Child soldiers working for the Khmer Rouge show off their machine guns, Galaw, Cambodia. Circa 1979.

Child soldiers working for the Khmer Rouge show off their machine guns, Galaw, Cambodia. Circa 1979.

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Written by Benjamin Grayson

Former Bouquet seller now making a go with blogging and graphic designing. I love creating & composing history articles and lists.

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