Why Was the Khmer Rouge Formed

The term ‘Khmer Rouge’ refers to the communist political party formed in Cambodia in 1975 and remained in action up to the year 1979, and the regime so constituted came to be known as the Democratic Kampuchea.

By manifesto it was a totalitarian ruling party formed on the pattern of Communist Party of Kampuchea. The key figures who worked as the guiding force for the party included Pol Pot, Son Sen, Leng Sary and Khieu Samphan.

Khmer Rouge is predominantly remembered for its stern policies of social engineering and the genocides it committed. All the attempts it made at agricultural reforms instead turned into famines.

Khmer Rouge Why Was the Khmer Rouge Formed

Similarly, Khmer’s adamant insistence on self sufficiency in every matter, how critical even it may be there, such as supply of medicine, led to the death of thousands of people. The party has been actively involved in brutal and arbitrary executions of non-conformists during 1976-78, so much so that the mass executions constituted genocide.

Formerly Cambodia has been a French colony and from that reference the term Khmer Rouge is a French word which means “Red Khmer”. Khmer people are the major ethnic group in Cambodia. Prince Norodom Sihanouk, the Cambodian Head of State between 1955 and 1970, first coined the term while describing the Cambodian left.

Enemy becomes an ally:

The territory Pol Pot and most of the central committee moved to was tenanted by tribal minorities, the Khmer Loeu, whose mal-treatment, including forced resettlement, by the central government helped them make their mind to willingly recruit for guerrilla warfare. In 1965, Pol Pot visited North Vietnam and China and studied the system of governance there for several months.

Pol Pot underwent some orientation training in China for some time, with the result he yielded to the liberal ideas of WPK; this considerably enhanced his reputation. In spite of friendly terms between Sihanouk and the Chinese, the latter never disclosed Pol Pot’s visit to Sihanouk. The political party renamed itself as the Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK) by September 1966.

The alteration of name of the party was very closely monitored. Lower hierarchical members of the party and Vietnamese even were not informed of it but after great many years. Led by Sihanouk, the party leadership assumed armed struggle against the government. In the year 1967, the CPK tried to stop insurgency at tactic level but it didn’t work.

Before their 1975 victory, the original title of Khmer Rouge guerrilla forces was ‘Cambodian People’s National Liberation Armed Forces’ abb. CPNLAF. With the fall of Phnom Penh, CPNLAF were renamed “Revolutionary Army of Kampuchea”, abb. RAK.

The covert Communist Party of Kampuchea itself fostered the under cover leadership of the Khmer Rouge, as its original name was known only to a few core members; it proclaimed itself the Angkar, meaning ‘the organization’, and acknowledged its official existence in 1977, about two years after the inception of Democratic Kampuchea.

With the dissolution of the Khmer Rouge regime, the rest of the organization’s guerrilla forces assumed the title National Army of Democratic Kampuchea. Finally, the year 1981 witnessed the substitution of the Party of Democratic Kampuchea.

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