Sunday, May 17, 2009

Follow up to "Just when I thought I'd seen it all"

Since I had already mentioned a bit of my disgust with regard to a website that glorifies the genocidal Pol Pot regime, I would be remiss if I did not make mention that this year marks the thirtieth anniversary of the overthrow of the Khmer Rouge regime:

On January 7, 1979, Vietnamese troops seized the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh, toppling the brutal regime of Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge.

The Khmer Rouge seized power in 1975 after years of guerrilla warfare and ruthlessly imposed an extremist programme to reconstruct Cambodia on the communist model of Mao’s China – creating “Year Zero”.

All political and civil rights had been abolished. Children were taken from their parents and placed in forced labour camps. Factories, schools and universities were shut down, as were hospitals. Lawyers, doctors, teachers, engineers, scientists and professional people in any field were murdered, together with their extended families.

Religion was banned, so were music and radio sets. It was possible for people to be shot simply for knowing a foreign language, wearing glasses, laughing, or crying. One Khmer slogan ran “To spare you is no profit, to destroy you is no loss.”

Civilian deaths in this period, from executions, disease, exhaustion and starvation, have been estimated at well over 2 million.

The good folks at the Holocaust Memorial Trust Fund have offered up some resources about the Cambodia genocide. Among other things, this jumped out at me:
Also targeted were minority groups, victims of the Khmer Rouge’s racism. These included ethnic Chinese, Vietnamese and Thai, and also Cambodians with Chinese, Vietnamese or Thai ancestry. Half the Cham Muslim population was murdered, as were 8,000 Christians. Buddhism was eliminated from the country and by 1977 there were no functioning monasteries left in Cambodia.
If Pol Pot were running the show today, all he'd have to do is refer to those who were Cham Muslim (and any intellectual who dared defend their right to worship as they choose) as "Islamist" or "Pro-Islamist". You should also read the accounts from eyewitnesses who were there for the atrocities - for example, Ranachith (Ronnie) Yimsut and Sophal Leng Stagg. As mentioned before, since I have had friends who immigrated from Cambodia to escape that particular holocaust, the stories have an air of familiarity to them for me. Of course that is not something that would stop me from reading these accounts or from listening to any other survivors whom I may yet encounter.

An estimated two million people died during Pol Pot's reign of terror. The slogan used by those who keep the memory of the Nazi Holocaust (or Shoah) alive applies with regard to the Khmer Rouge-induced genocide as well: never forget.

No comments:

Post a Comment