The Khmer Rouge (1975—1979), led by Marxist Pol Pot, killed two million people in Cambodia—one-fourth of the total population. Aiming to establish a classless agrarian utopia where there was complete rejection of capitalism, the Khmer Rouge destroyed all the cities, all the industries, hospitals and schools, and every speck of modernity in Cambodia.
All this in just four years! The entire upper class of Cambodian society was wiped out.
When Pol Pot acquired power in 1975, after the bloody civil war, he declared that Cambodia would make a fresh start at “Year Zero.” He ordered that the entire country would be isolated from rest of the world, especially from Western influence. He abolished money and private property, then used his revolutionary militia to force the evacuation of the cities. They forced everyone to move into the countryside and do back-breaking work in collective farms.
In 1975, Ayn Rand spoke about the barbarism of the Khmer Rouge in her article, “The Lessons of Vietnam” (The Voice of Reason). Here’s an excerpt:
“Since the Khmer Rouge are peasants who feel hatred for cities, the inhabitants of Phnom Penh—its entire population without exceptions—were ordered to march out of the city and go on marching until they reached uninhabited countryside, where they were to start farming on their own, without knowledge, tools, or seed. This order applied to everyone: young and old, rich and poor, men, women, and children, the well and the ill, even the crippled and, according to a news report, even the hospital patients who had just had their legs amputated. Everyone was ordered to walk. They walked.”
Pol Pot and his Marxist comrades believed that modern education is evil because it leads to inequality in the society. They ordered anyone who seemed to have some kind education to be killed. There were many instances of people being condemned because they were wearing glasses, or they knew a foreign language. Hundreds of thousands of the educated middle-class were tortured and executed in the collective farms and the special prisons.
A popular Khmer Rouge slogan of that time read: “What is rotten must be removed.” They exterminated anyone who did not fit their social ideal either by execution or simply by starvation and working people to death in the fields. The areas where people were killed and buried became known as the “killing fields.” In order to save bullets, those being killed were often hit over the head with clubs, before being hurled into the mass-graves.
The Security Prison-21 (S-21) that the Khmer Rouge operated was so deadly that only seven of the roughly 20,000 people imprisoned there are known to have survived. Whenever a new prisoner was brought to S-21 he was made aware of 10 rules:
1. You must answer accordingly to my question. Don’t turn them away.
2. Don’t try to hide the facts by making pretexts this and that, you are strictly prohibited to contest me.
3. Don’t be a fool for you are a chap who dare to thwart the revolution.
4. You must immediately answer my questions without wasting time to reflect.
5. Don’t tell me either about your immoralities or the essence of the revolution.
6. While getting lashes or electrification you must not cry at all.
7. Do nothing, sit still and wait for my orders. If there is no order, keep quiet. When I ask you to do something, you must do it right away without protesting.
8. Don’t make pretext about Kampuchea Krom in order to hide your secret or traitor.
9. If you don’t follow all the above rules, you shall get many lashes of electric wire.
10. If you disobey any point of my regulations you shall get either ten lashes or five shocks of electric discharge.
There were 150 detention centers like S-21 in Cambodia.
In the recently published book Equal in Unfair, the authors Don Watkins and Yaron Brook point out that the egalitarian insistence for equality is to be blamed for Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge nightmare: “Most of their [Khmer Rouge] leadership, including their general secretary, Pol Pot, were educated in France. Studying with French intellectuals, and coming under the influence of Rousseau, Marx, and other collectivist intellectuals, the Cambodians adopted a radical egalitarian ideology.”
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