Chilling Photographs of the Cambodian War
Chilling Photographs of the Cambodian War

Chilling Photographs of the Cambodian War

Jacob Miller - August 5, 2018

The Cambodian genocide was perpetrated by the Khmer Rouge regime, the Communist Party of Kampuchea, led by Pol Pot from 1975-1979. The Khmer Rouge wanted to transform Cambodia into a socialist agrarian republic based on the policies of Maoism.

In order to bring these goals to fruition, the Khmer Rouge forced Cambodians from cities all over the country to relocate to labor camps and farms in the countryside. The mass executions, forced labor physical abuse, starvation, and spread of disease that ensued resulted in the deaths of an estimated 3 million people, about 25 percent of Cambodia’s total population.

Those who were seen as enemies of the Khmer Rouge were taken to the Killing Fields, where they were executed, often with pickaxes in order to save bullets, and buried in mass graves.

Many people were also take to Tuol Sleng Prison (Tuol Sleng translates to ‘Hill of the Poisonous Trees’), a former high school that was converted into a Security Prison. Tuol Sleng was one of 150 death camps established by the Khmer Rouge. It is estimated that 20,000 people were imprisoned at Tuol Sleng, where they were tortured for information, and then killed. The Documentation Center of Cambodia estimates that only about 180 prisoners survived imprisonment.

The Khmer Rouge targeted anyone suspected of having connections to the former Cambodian government or other foreign governments, professionals, intelligentsia, journalists, doctors, lawyers, Buddhist monks, and ethnic minorities such as Vietnamese, Thai, Chinese, Cham Muslims, and Cambodian Christians. The Khmer Rouge banned more than 20 minority groups, constituting 15% of the population, and banned the use of minority languages.

The Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia ended the genocide by defeating the Khmer Rouge in 1979.

Chilling Photographs of the Cambodian War
Khmer Rouge soldiers drive through the capital. Phnom Penh. 1975. SJOBERG: AFP: Getty Images
Chilling Photographs of the Cambodian War
A young girl and her baby, inside of Tuol Sleng Prison. Phnom Penh. Wikimedia Commons
Chilling Photographs of the Cambodian War
A child soldier stands over a blindfolded soldier. Though the atrocities of the killing fields were unjustifiably horrible, this photo shows a more complex version of the story. Here, the child soldier is fighting for the Khmer Republic – and his prisoner is a member of the Khmer Rouge. Angkor Chey, Cambodia. 1973. Bettmann/Getty Images
Chilling Photographs of the Cambodian War
A child soldier with a human skull resting on the tip of his rifle. Dei Kraham, Cambodia. 1973. Bettmann: Getty Images
Chilling Photographs of the Cambodian War
A family of starving refugees struggle to make their way across the border to Thailand. Phnom Penh. 1979. Roland Neveu: Light Rocket via Getty Images
Chilling Photographs of the Cambodian War
A group of women huddle together. 1975. Romano Cagnoni: Hulton Archive:Getty Images
Chilling Photographs of the Cambodian War
A line of a thousand Cambodian refugees makes it into Thailand. Klong Kwang, Thailand. 1979. Bettmann: Getty Images
Chilling Photographs of the Cambodian War
A terrified prisoner is photographed inside the Tuol Sleng prison. Of the nearly 20,000 people locked in Tuol Sleng, only 180 survived. Phnom Penh. Wikimedia Commons
Chilling Photographs of the Cambodian War
A woman rides a bicycle by a stack of destroyed cars, cast aside by the Khmer Rouge as of symbol of the bourgeoisie. Phnom Penh. 1979. John Bryson:The LIFE Images Collection:Getty Images
Chilling Photographs of the Cambodian War
An employee at the French Embassy offers a cigarette to a Khmer Rouge soldier. The gate to the embassy, by this time, had been barricaded off with barbed wire. Phnom Penh. 1975. Express:Archive Photos:Getty Images
Chilling Photographs of the Cambodian War
As the Khmer Rouge moves into the capital, thousands of people abandon their country in fear of what’s to come. Phnom Penh. 1975. Roland Neveu: Light Rocket via Getty Images
Chilling Photographs of the Cambodian War
At the twilight of the Cambodian Civil War, the people of Phnom Penh start to evacuate, as the burning gasoline depot behind them signals the arrival of the Khmer Rouge. Phnom Penh. 1975. CLAUDE JUVENAL:AFP:Getty Images
Chilling Photographs of the Cambodian War
Cambodian soldiers who fought against the Khmer Rouge in the Olympic Stadium, the place the Khmer Rouge used for their executions. Phnom Penh. 1975. Roland Neveu:Light Rocket via Getty Images
Chilling Photographs of the Cambodian War
Cambodians climb over a fence, trying to escape to the French Embassy. Phnom Penh. 1975. SJOBERG:AFP:Getty Images
Chilling Photographs of the Cambodian War
Child soldiers working for the Khmer Rouge show off their machine guns. Galaw, Cambodia. Circa 1979. Bettmann: Getty Images
Chilling Photographs of the Cambodian War
Injured people hide out in the hospital, before the capital was under complete Khmer Rouge control. Phnom Penh. 1975. Roland Neveu: Light Rocket via Getty Images

Chilling Photographs of the Cambodian War
Refugees peer through the gate to the French Embassy, begging to get in. Phnom Penh. 1975. Roland Neveu: Light Rocket via Getty Images
Chilling Photographs of the Cambodian War
The French Embassy in Phnom Penh struggles to handle the hordes of people begging for protection. 1975. Roland Neveu: Light Rocket via Getty Images
Chilling Photographs of the Cambodian War
Thousands of refugees prepare to evacuate the capital, fleeing from the Khmer Rouge. Phnom Penh. 1975. AFP: AFP: Getty Images
Chilling Photographs of the Cambodian War
A Cambodian soldier fighting against the Khmer Rouge is captured in Thailand. Aranyaprathet, Thailand. 1985. Alex Bowie:Getty Images
Chilling Photographs of the Cambodian War
A young boy picks up a soldier’s helmet as the victorious Khmer Rouge parades through the streets of his city. Phnom Penh. 1975. SJOBERG: AFP: Getty Images
Chilling Photographs of the Cambodian War
Pol Pot, leading soldiers of the Khmer Rouge through the Cambodian Jungles: AP
Chilling Photographs of the Cambodian War
In 1965, Prince Norodom Sihanouk, Cambodia’s head of state, asserted the nation’s opposition to the U.S.-backed government in South Vietnam by allowing North Vietnamese guerrillas to set up bases within Cambodia’s borders. The North Vietnamese had an alliance with a Cambodian Marxist insurgency group, the Khmer Rouge, whose top brass Sihanouk is pictured here with in 1973. Time
Chilling Photographs of the Cambodian War
A Cambodian soldier holds a .45 to the head of a Khmer Rouge suspect in 1973. When Sihanouk was forced out of power in a coup, the new Prime Minister, General Lon Nol, sent the army to fight the North Vietnamese and the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. Fighting two enemies proved to be too much for Cambodia’s army. As Civil War raged from 1970 to 1975, the army gradually lost territory as Khmer Rouge increased its control in the countryside. Time
Chilling Photographs of the Cambodian War
Survivors sift through rubble after the Khmer Rouge bombed Phnom Penh, the capital city, on January 1, 1975. Four months later, the party took the city, on April 17, 1975, and began their mission of returning Cambodia to an agrarian society, emptying the cities and forcing their countrymen into agricultural labor. Time
Chilling Photographs of the Cambodian War
Khmer Rouge fighters celebrate as they enter Phnom Penh on April 17, 1975. Prince Sihanouk, the party’s early ally, resigned in 1976, paving the way for the now notorious Khmer Rouge founder and leader, Pol Pot, to become prime minister. The country was renamed Kampuchea, and it was the start Year Zero — the beginning of a new history for Cambodia written by Pol Pot. Getty Images
Chilling Photographs of the Cambodian War
Days before the occupation of the capital, thousands of Cambodians gather behind a school perimeter fence near the American embassy to watch the final evacuation of U.S. and foreign nationals. Roland Neveu : ONASIA
Chilling Photographs of the Cambodian War
A prisoner gets her mug shot taken. At prisons like Phnom Penh’s infamous Tuol Sleng, prisoners were painstakingly documented before being sent to their deaths in mass graves later to become known as the “killing fields.” Hundreds of thousands of intellectuals were tortured and executed under the Khmer Rouge; others starved or died from disease or exhaustion. In total, an estimated 1.7 million Cambodians died between 1975 and 1979. GAMMA / EYEDEA PRESSE
Chilling Photographs of the Cambodian War
An undated photograph shows forced laborers digging canals in Kampong Cham province, part of the massive agrarian infrastructure the Khmer Rouge planned for the country. Getty Images
Chilling Photographs of the Cambodian War
Fed up with cross-border raids by Khmer Rouge, Vietnam invaded Cambodia on Dec. 25, 1978. By Jan. 7, shown here, Vietnamese troops had occupied Phnom Penh. The Vietnamese occupation of Cambodia lasted for 10 years. Bettmann : Corbis
Chilling Photographs of the Cambodian War
Khmer Rouge guerrillas in the jungle of western Cambodia as they attempt to halt advancing Vietnamese forces on Feb. 15, 1981. Getty Images
Chilling Photographs of the Cambodian War
Cambodian refugees, pictured in January 1985, at a refugee camp, near the Thai-Cambodian Border. Some 60,000 people fled to the south as fighting increased between Khmer-Vietnamese troops and the FNLPK (Khmer People’s National Liberation Front), one of the three groups making up the anti-communist resistance. CORBIS SYGMA
Chilling Photographs of the Cambodian War
Without backing from the Soviet Union, Vietnam could no longer afford to keep its troops in a state of indefinite occupation in Cambodia. In September 1989, Vietnamese troops withdrew from Phnom Penh. CORBIS SYGMA
Chilling Photographs of the Cambodian War
A family greets each other in August 1989 after being separated during years of war and occupation. CORBIS
Chilling Photographs of the Cambodian War
The 1991 Paris Peace Accord that followed Vietnam’s withdrawal mandated democratic elections and a ceasefire, but was not fully respected by Khmer Rouge guerrillas. U.N. transitional authority shared power with representatives of various factions, and Prince Sihanouk, shown here at center making his way back the Royal Palace in November 1991, was reinstated as Head of State. CORBIS SYGMA
Chilling Photographs of the Cambodian War
U.N.-run elections in May 1993 resulted in a shaky coalition between Sihanouk’s son, Prince Norodom Ranariddh, and Hun Sen, a former Khmer Rouge guerrilla pictured here at a political rally before the elections. The country was once again named the Kingdom of Cambodia. Hun Sen remains Prime Minister today. Getty Images
Chilling Photographs of the Cambodian War
Finally agreeing to abandon their fight, the remaining Khmer Rouge soldiers fighters surrendered on Feb. 9, 1999, and donned new uniforms of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces during an integration ceremony in Anlong Veng near the Thai-Cambodian border. AP
Chilling Photographs of the Cambodian War
Contact sheets showing pictures of what is believed to be former prisoners of the S-21 prison, also known as Tuol Sleng, where over 15,000 people lost their lives. Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Duch, was detained for his role as chief of the torture center in 1999. Getty Images

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