In 1975, soon after the Khmer Rouge, led by Pol Pot, grabbed power in Cambodia, Khieu Samphan, one of the group’s leaders who was then serving as deputy prime minister, visited China and met with Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai.

Zhou, the leader of a country that came under communist rule before Cambodia, gave Samphan a piece of advice: You should not try to build a perfect communist country in just one step.

In China, the forced collectivization of agriculture in the 1950s and 1960s devastated many farming villages. Based on lessons from the era, Zhou advised Samphan to “move forward one small step at a time,” according to a memoir of Norodom Sihanouk, who was then Cambodia’s head of state.

But Khmer Rouge leaders apparently ignored the Chinese statesman’s advice.

Under a policy of completely denying capitalism, the Pol Pot regime forced a large portion of the urban population to migrate to rural areas and engage in farming to increase agricultural productivity. Eventually, entire populations were forced into slave-like labor as the nation was transformed into a network of barbaric prison-like labor camps.

In the less than four years until the Khmer Rouge government was overthrown, an estimated 1.7 million Cambodians died from overtaxing work, torture or execution.

The other day, I read a news report saying the special tribunal in Cambodia set up to examine atrocities under the rule of the Khmer Rouge had held its final hearing. The court rejected an appeal by Samphan, the fanatical communist movement’s last surviving leader, upholding his conviction and life sentence for genocide.

We need to always be alert to some of the intrinsic elements of what happened in Cambodia under the Pol Pot regime.

The Khmer Rouge killed many people it saw as intellectuals, including doctors and teachers, in an apparent attempt to nip dissenting voices in the bud. Executions on forged charges of espionage were apparently part of a governing approach that blamed hardships on someone else.

All these historical facts should be remembered as a disgrace to humanity no matter how many years have passed since that dark era.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Sept. 25.

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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.

QOSHE - VOX POPULI: We must never forget horrors of Khmer Rouge’s rule in Cambodia - The Asahi Shimbun
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VOX POPULI: We must never forget horrors of Khmer Rouge’s rule in Cambodia

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26.09.2022

In 1975, soon after the Khmer Rouge, led by Pol Pot, grabbed power in Cambodia, Khieu Samphan, one of the group’s leaders who was then serving as deputy prime minister, visited China and met with Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai.

Zhou, the leader of a country that came under communist rule before Cambodia, gave Samphan a piece of advice: You should not try to build a perfect communist country in just one step.

In China, the forced collectivization of agriculture in the 1950s and 1960s devastated many farming villages. Based on lessons from the era, Zhou advised Samphan to “move forward one small step at a time,”........

© The Asahi Shimbun


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