The disastrous land reforms: Pol Pot's Democratic Kampuchea

Stalinist nations ( called Communist nations by the capitalist media ) are famous for their abuse of power, bureaucratic rule and mismanagement of their economy. Anticommunists also love to spread the lie that communism as an ideology is responsible for the death of 150 million people. Most victims of these regimes died during the major land reforms that the ruling communist parties enforced. In this series of documents we tell about the Soviet, Chinese, Vietnamese and Khmer land reforms. The USSR, People's Republic of China, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam ( North Vietnam ) and Pol Pot's Democratic Kampuchea showed no tolerance or sympathy for supposed ''class enemies''. Millions died because of these disastrous land reforms!

Land reforms in Stalinist nations have led to famine and death. In the USSR and China more then 150 million people died because of hunger, slave work and executions. Stalin's land reforms between 1929 and 1932 caused the death of 8 million workers and peasants in Ukraine. Mao's reforms led to the death of 25 million peasants during the Great Leap Forward. Most victims of ''communism'' as the capitalist media love to spread, died because of hunger. Stalinist inefficiency and brutality have indeed led to death and suffering. But there is one nation that lost 1/3 of its population thanks to land reforms! 

Cambodia was part of Indochina since 1887. The French colonialists ruled with iron fist. Jailing all who stood up to their dictatorial colonialist regime. In 1925 a boy was born that would forever be linked to the world mass-murders. Saloth Sar was born into a fishing family in Prek Sbauv. Farther Pen Saloth was a rice farmer who owned 12 hectares of land and several buffaloes and the family was considered moderately wealthy by the day's standards. 

In 1935 Saloth Sar left his town to attend the École Miche, a Catholic school in Phnom Penh. He lived with his cousin, a woman called Meak, a member of the Royal Ballet. Sar's cousin was close to the king of Cambodia, who under French rule was still allowed to live in his palace in Phnom Penh. The young Saloth Sar visited the Royal Palace many times when he was a boy. He qualified for a scholarship for technical studies in France and studied radio electronics at the EFR in Paris from 1949 to 1953!

When he was 26 years old, Saloth Sar joined a secret communist group called the Marxist Circle. They controlled the Khmer Student's Association and soon Sar joined the French Communist Party like most young Khmer nationalists. Because of his poor academic record he was considered a true proletarian because of his poor peasant background. Saloth Sar developed a deep hatred for the intellectuals of the world, a view that was supported by the Stalinist; French Communist Party!

Cambodia became an independent kingdom in 1954. The nation was to become a constitutional monarchy under a parliamentary democracy. But the ruling class and the landlords of Cambodia did not wanted a fair democratic system. The elections were not fair and massive fraud was committed by those in power to elect their supporters. Leftist Cambodians started to rebel, only to be arrested and tortured by the monarchist police!

Saltoh Sar returned to Cambodia, he became a contact person for the above-ground leftist parties and the underground communist movement. By 1962 he married and became a teacher at a private school. The underground communist movement was controlled by pro-Vietnamese Khmer and Saloth Sar opposed that. His Khmer nationalism also led him to hate the Vietnamese, who controlled the Indochinese anti-colonialist movement. So he and his supporters took control over the Khmer People's Revolutionary Party and changed its name to Workers Party of Kampuchea!

The new Workers Party of Kampuchea ( WPK ) broke with marxism and moved to dogmatic maoism. They declared that poor peasants were the true working class. Intellectuals, capitalists and wealthy farmers were called the greatest class enemies of the WPK. Beside maoism, the party also became Khmer nationalist. Saloth Sar spread the idea of a great Khmer Empire under his leadership. But only a few members of the party knew that he was party leader. Most members of the WPK wound not knew who was their leader until 1977!

By the summer of 1968, Saloth Sar began transitioning from a party leader working with a collective leadership, into the absolute leader of the Khmer nationalist movement. Where before he had shared communal quarters with other leaders, he now had his own compound with a personal staff and guards. Outsiders were no longer allowed to approach him. Rather, people were summoned into his presence by his staff. Saloh Sar also changed the name of the WPK to Communist Party of Kampuchea!

A year later he ordered his Red Khmer to change their propaganda tactics. Until then the CPK was making active propaganda against the ruling king. Now Saloth Sar wanted the propaganda to stop attacking the monarch. This was done to gain support from the nationalist monarchists, because the Red Khmer was not all that strong. In 1970 they only had 200 active members, but their information network was very widely spread across many villages!

The Kingdom of Cambodia was transformed into the Khmer Republic by 1970. This angered many monarchists who became opponents of the new Republican regime. Saloth Sar's propaganda was no longer anti-monarchist and therefore more acceptable for parts of the ruling class. Since 1970 the Red Khmer were growing by each year. Most members of the CPK were peasants who hoped for an agrarian socialist Cambodia!

As a Khmer nationalist party, the CPK promoted Khmer culture and traditions. Minorities like Vietnamese, the Chams and Chinese were discriminated against. They were forced to speak Khmer and to dress as Khmer. The land reforms in the era's under Red Khmer control led to brutal killings of landlords and former members of the ruling class. The Red Khmer also used forced labour to produce rubber!

In September 1974, Sar gathered the central committee of the party together. As the military campaign was moving toward a conclusion, Saloth decided to move the party toward implementing a socialist transformation of the country in the form of a series of decisions. The first being to evacuate the main cities, moving the population to the countryside. The second dictated they would cease to put money in circulation and quickly phase it out. The final decision was that the party would accept Sar's first major purge. In 1974, Saloth had purged a top party official named Prasith. Prasith was taken out into a forest and shot without any chance to defend himself. His death was followed by a purge of cadres who, like Prasith, were ethnically Thai, another proof that Saloth Sar wanted to destroy all none-Khmer leaders of the CPK!

The Khmer Republic collapsed together with the Kingdom of Laos and the Republic of Vietnam. Red Khmer forces took Phnom Penh on 17 April 1975. They restored the monarchy only to keep the world beliving that the Kingdom of Cambodia would return. Meanwhile Saloth Sar was building his new society, he called it Democratic Kampuchea. It was then that Saloth Sar changed his name. He became Pol Pot, a name he took from the French; Politique potentielle!

Norodom Sihanouk became puppet king under Pol Pot for a year. Nobody knew what would happen. The Kingdom of Cambodia seemed to have returned under this mysterious Pol Pot who nobody knew. The Red Khmer forced western journalists out of the country and closed the borders. In January 1976, Democratic Kampuchea replaced the Kingdom of Cambodia. The flag of the Red Khmer became the state banner. The puppet king was put under house arrest and Pol Pot became general secretary of the Communist Party of Kampuchea. But he did not became head of state, Khieu Samphan was selected to be the face of the government!

In reality it was Pol Pot who controlled Khieu Samphan. The new peasant state was to be purged of all intellectuals, capitalists, rich farmers and urban workers. All people in Cambodia were to become farmers in gigantic collective farms, run as concentration-camps by the cruel Red Khmer forces. 

The Communist Party of Kampuchea remained clandestine and very closed. Even in 1976 nobody knew who or what political group was in power. People knew the new leaders only by the French name; Khmer Rouge or Red Khmer. Pol Pot told the public that Angkar was the ruling force in the nation. All power laid in the hands of Angkar, the communist party under this strange name. The Red Khmer wasted no time. More then three million urban workers were told to move to the farmlands and become farmer. Cambodia had a population of 8 million people, but Pol Pot only needed three million for his Khmer peasant utopia to be build. That is why he did not mind that many people died! 

Like in all Stalinist/Maoist based dictatorships, the supporters of the ruling party had a better way of life. It is guessed that 2,5 million people in Cambodia, supported the Angkar ( CPK ) and were giving special privileges, like enough food and better housing. Soldiers from the army were always giving better treatment then ordinary peasants. Although they wanted nothing to do with the nepotist ways of the old ruling class, some members at the top of Angkar's hierarchy were practicing nepotism. Pol Pot's wife, Khieu Ponnary, was head of the Association of Democratic Khmer Women and her younger sister, Khieu Thirith, served as minister of social action. These two women were considered among the half-dozen most powerful personalities in Democratic Kampuchea. Son Sen's wife, Yun Yat, served as minister for culture, education and learning!

Pol Pot hated all intellectuals, like teachers, doctors, philosophers and people who use their minds. The uneducated peasant was the jewel of Democratic Kampuchea. So thousands of teachers were executed. Western medicine was banned, only traditional medicine was allowed. Many Cambodians died from deceases so easily cured. The regime's most cruel and violent executioners were young teens. Boys and girls were raised to spy on adults and to punish them if they spoke out against Angkar. Children even executed their own parents. The youth of Democratic Kampuchea was brainwashed like the Hitler Youth and Mao's Red Guards. Pol Pot trusted the youth to be his most loyal supporters. Indeed, most teens would support him their whole lives. Many choose to remain at his side, even after the Vietnamese invasion of 1978!

Huge collective farms were created by the Red Khmer. People became numbers and lost their individuality. Live on these collective farms were hard and brutal. Many would die due to over work and executions if production was not high enough. Many died in the rice-fields of Cambodia, these fields would later be called ''Killer-fields''. The Red Khmer killed so many that their corpses were everywhere to see. It is believed that between one and three million Cambodians died between April 1975 and January 1979. 

Security Prison 21 was a famous torture prison. Created in a former high school, 12,273 people were tortured and executed by the Red Khmer here. Many of its victims were children who did not wanted to betray their parents to Angkar. Many were tortured with the same brutality as adults were. Before they were executed, a picture was taken of them for the archives! 

In 1977, Pol Pot decided to show the world who was leading Democratic Kampuchea. He told the Khmer people that Angkar was the Communist Party of Kampuchea and that Pol Pot was Saloth Sar. Now the world knew who ruled Cambodia. But the Stalinist; Socialist Republic of Vietnam was not happy. Since 1975, Red Khmer forces were attacking Vietnamese villages. Vietnam attacked the Red Khmer but never invaded Cambodia. But as the attacks went on so did Hanoi's patience with Pol Pot. Internationally Democratic Kampuchea was supported by the People's Republic of China, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam was supported by the Soviet-Union. Both China and the USSR were cold war enemies and hated each other. Vietnam and Cambodia stood against each other in this conflict between two Stalinist ideologies.    

After more skirmishes with Red Khmer forces, Vietnam decided to invade Cambodia. This happen in December 1978. After two weeks of fighting the army of Democratic Kampuchea was defeated. Pol Pot had purged the army of officers and many soldiers were killed too by the Red Khmer between 1975 and 1979. The 68.000 men of the army could not stand against the veteran Vietnamese soldiers, who were very experienced after fighting the Americans and South Vietnamese!

Pol Pot and his CPK fled into the jungle. Khmer supporters of Hanoi established the People's Republic of Kampuchea. In 1981 they created the Kampuchean People's Revolutionary Party. This reformed Stalinist party is still in power as of 2013. But there have been major changes to Cambodia since the removal of Pol Pot. 

The international community refused to recognize the People's Republic of Kampuchea. Western nations like the USA and Great Britain supported Pol Pot's government. Until 1991 the flag of Democratic Kampuchea flew at the UN building. The People's Republic of Kampuchea was isolated and only supported by Vietnam and the Soviet-Union. In 1989 the nation was renamed into State of Cambodia, but that did not brought any recognition. So after the collapse of stalinism and the USSR, the reformed stalinists surrendered to capitalism. The Kampuchean People's Revolutionary Party became the Cambodian People's Party!

Pol Pot also changed. He abandoned his radical maoist principals and changed the name of his Communist Party of Kampuchea into the Party of Democratic Kampuchea. Pol Pot also made alliances with monarchist anti-Vietnamese nationalists. For ten years he fought against the Vietnamese and their Khmer allies. In 1991 the monarchists supported the UN plan for peace. The Red Khmer refused to allow UN control over Cambodia in order to clear the way for free elections!

In 1993 the Kingdom of Cambodia was restored. The monarchists and the new ''socialists'' of the Cambodian People's Party again created an monarchy in Cambodia. But the king was to have no political power, he is only a figurehead. As the former stalinists controlled the media they were able to win the elections. In 1995 the Cambodian People's Party started with massive privatizations, the market became the new god. Corruption and inequality rose very sharp in the next 15 years. Today Cambodia is a capitalist paradise for western businesses. Khmer workers are even more cheaper then Chinese workers or Vietnamese workers. Profits are high for the new ruling class, who pay politicians good money for low taxes and business friendly atmosphere. Trade unions are now free but face harassment and intimidation by government supported criminals. Also most workers do not join a union because their capitalist bosses forbid them to join!

Pol Pot died in 1998. With his death the Red Khmer and the Party of Democratic Kampuchea also disappeared. The Kingdom of Cambodia is trying to put the former Red Khmer leaders on trail. But because of corruption and government inefficiency nobody has yet been sentenced. Most former Red Khmer leaders are now old and will die in the next five to ten years. If Cambodia wants some justice, they must act fast!

The skulls of many victims remain 
A grim reminder of the criminal Pol Pot regime!

Struggle, Solidarity, Socialism

Struggle, Solidarity, Socialism