Reign of Khmer Rogue

During the reign of Khmer Rogue, over 2 million people from minority ethnic groups were killed while many others were driven away from their homes. Classes of people were also targeted and those people who the leaders perceived as enemies were immediately killed. In her book titled "When Broken Glass Floats”, Chanrithy Him tells an auto biography of her childhood and the way she experienced her life as a child. She tells her innocent story and the title is derived from a Cambodian proverb. The proverb tries to show that there is a difference between good and evil. The evil is likened to broken glass which floats at first then sinks after sometime. The force between good and evil is tested and the evil is first victorious but is later overcome by the forces of good, This is what happened in Cambodia. The force of evil was overcome in 1979 when Khmer Rogue followers fled away from the country.

During the war, where millions lost their lives, the main policies were to have an agrarian revolution in Cambodia. There was supposed to be total reliance on the available local resources and the country was not to import any product including medicine. As a result of this, many people died from curable diseases such as malaria and there was widespread famine and hunger that claimed a large share of the deaths.

The Khmer Rogue targeted the minority groups of people in their execution. Those ethnic Chinese, ethnic Vietnamese as well as others who came from the Eastern Highlands were the main victims. They were seen as a bother and they were not supposed to live because they were perceived not to have the strength of overcoming hunger and starvation. These people had no voice and they did not have any followers and could therefore not join hands to fight against the Khmer Rouge brutality.

The other category of people that was targeted was the learned and professionals in the society. These were refereed to as the ‘new people’ and one of the mottos that was highly upheld by the Khmer Rogue followers was that if they killed one of the ‘new people’, there would be no loss and keeping them alive would give the country no benefit. This was among the things that led to the fleeing of the Him family from their homeland. They went away from home because some of them were learned. The Khmer Rogue staunch followers led by their leader, Pol Tot believed that these people would form an organization that would go against their reign. Surprisingly, Pol was a university drop out, yet he had a passionate hatred against the learned people. Those people who wore spectacles were killed as well with the perception that they were learned and were included along with the ‘new people’. The passion to read by some of the members of Him family such as Chanrithy was among the reasons that made them flee to Oregon where they went to stay with their uncle.

The sick were also treated cruelly. Chanrithy Mother was brutally buried along with corpses in a well despite being sick but not dead. Chanrithy believed that there were other people like her mother, who were buried along with corpses despite being alive.

Those people who lived in urban areas were also brutally killed. They were perceived not to know the farming techniques and they were brutally killed. Thos who were not good in farming were seen as people who were not supposed to live since they could not feed themselves. They were referred to as economic saboteurs.  According to the Khmer policy, this was not acceptable and everyone had to be a good farmer.

It is therefore evident that there was a god and significant effect of class and ethnicity according to the story in the book “When Broken Glass Floats”. These two groupings formed a good stratification on the killings and placed the large population into distinct groups from where the Khmer Rogue could get the people that they would kill. The stratification therefore helped in increasing the number of people who died during the Khmer Rouge reign. 

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