The last Killing Fields of Cambodia

Killing Fields of Cambodia

The brutality of the Khmer Rouge has often been stated as only occurring during the brief existence of Democratic Kampuchea, but in actuality it started in the zones help by them before their victory, as well as those held after their defeat.

Photo: Manny Tafari & Snappytappy

Early atrocities of the Khmer Rouge

It is known that the secret police, namely Santebal under the leadership of Son Senn and comrade Duch was set up in 1971. As the areas controlled by the Khmer Rouge increased so did the level of brutality.

The secret police was not only omnipresent in looking for counterrevolutionaries, but also in setting up the first prison camps. These would be the first places that saw mass deaths of civilians by the Khmer Rouge.

Democratic Kampuchea

Of course most of the death occurred during the reign of Democratic Kampuchea with S-21 alone being responsible for 20,000 deaths.

This prison camp was accompanied by another 150, or so camps as well as what would later become known as the Killing Fields. It is esteemed that anywhere between 2 million and 4 million people died during this period.

Rebranding of the Khmer Rouge

After being overthrown from power in 1979 Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge remained the largest fighting force in league with Sihanouk. They were though not without detractors so tried to rebrand.

This led to the Communist Party of Kampuchea becoming the Party Of Democratic Kampuchea, which was led by Khieu Samphan rather than Pol Pot and exposed democratic socialism rather than communism.

In reality though the party leadership had changed very little since the time of Angkar and the ideology was still dominated by extreme-communism and ultra-nationalism.

There are numerous documented reports from former KR members of punishments for capitalist behavior as well as anti-party activities.

Areas of the country under the control of the party were still ran under the struct ideology of the Central Committee, despite words to the contrary.

The last Killing Fields

The last rebranding of the group and the party took place in 1994 when they set up the last Khmer Rouge state and renamed themselves the Cambodian National Unity Party.

Again despite claims of liberalism, caring for the people and nationalism, executions and even killing fields continued until as late as 1997.

Photo: Manny Tafari & Snappytappy

The last know confirmed killing field was in mountains 6km from their last capital of Anlong Veng where 3000 people were killed and buried after their mind had become “corrupted”. These bodied have not been excavated due to the amount of landmines in the area.

Ta Mok was the leader of the Khmer Rouge at this point, rather than Pol Pot.