Democratic Kampuchea

Democratic Kampuchea was the name of the Khmer Rouge-controlled state that, between 1975 and 1979, ruled the Southeast Asian country of Cambodia. It was founded when the Khmer Rouge forces defeated the Khmer Republic of Lon Nol. After losing control of most of Cambodian territory to Vietnamese occupation, it survived as a shadow state supported by China. In June 1982, the Khmer Rouge formed the Coalition Government of Democratic Kampuchea with two non-communist guerilla factions, which retained international recognition. The state was renamed Cambodia in 1990 in the run up to the UN-sponsored Paris Peace Agreement conference of 1991.

The Khmer Rouge were heavily influenced by Maoism, the French Communist Party and the writings of Marx and Lenin, as well as ideas of Khmer racial superiority. This resulted in the drive to create both an ethnically pure and classless Khmer society, which made the Khmer Rouge regime reminiscent of both Communism and National Socialism, or fascism, according to some scholars. Others reject the notion that the regime was fascist on the basis that the Khmer Rouge lacked protection for private property. The governing body was referred to as “Angkar Loeu” (Khmer: អង្គការ លើ upper organization).[8] The Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK) leadership referred to themselves as “Angkar Padevat” during this period. Its constitution defined it as a “State of the people, workers, peasants, and all other Kampuchean labourers”

Under the leadership of Pol Pot, cities were emptied, organized religion was abolished, and private property, money and markets were eliminated. An unprecedented genocide campaign ensued that led to annihilation of about 20% of the country’s population, with much of the killing being motivated by Khmer Rouge ideology which urged “disproportionate revenge” against rich and powerful “oppressors.” Victims included such class enemies as rich “capitalists,” professionals, intellectuals, police and government employees (including most of Lon Nol’s leadership), along with ethnic minorities such as Chinese, Vietnamese, Lao, and Cham.

The genocide was essentially stopped only in 1979 by invasion of Kampuchean United Front for National Salvation and People’s Army of Vietnam troops, following which the People’s Republic of Kampuchea (PRK) was installed. The PRK had a pro-Soviet government, which started to recreate the totally devastated country. This process was significantly hampered by defeated Khmer Rouge forces, which regrouped along the border with Thailand and retained the structure of the Democratic Kampuchea state in the regions they controlled. The situation was exacerbated by the fact that the People’s Republic of China, the Khmer Rouge’s strongest supporter, and most Western nations continued to recognize Democratic Kampuchea as the legitimate government of the country.

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