Thursday, September 19, 2019

Devastation and Denial: Cambodia and the Academic Left

From Quillette:
The new regime tried to eliminate every vestige of the old government—and every vestige of society they considered a threat, including people who had committed no crime besides wearing reading glasses. The population was forced to wear a national uniform of all black, and absolute conformity with Khmer Rouge ideology was imposed on the people. According to the leaders of the Khmer Rouge, Cambodia had long been led astray by the Western world, its money, its profits, and its professionals. Now that the cities had been evacuated and emptied into the countryside, Cambodia would take a different path—an agrarian brotherhood dedicated to working the land. Cambodia was to return to ‘Year Zero,’ and recover its former glory, removed from the modern world and the unnecessary corruption of its influences. In order to facilitate the eradication of capitalism, the National Bank was blown apart and all forms of money were banned. Marriages were now arranged by the state, children were taught to obey the government instead of their parents, and every last trace of individuality was expunged from human life. To seal the transformation, the country was renamed Kampuchea.

Loung and her family were forced, along with the rest of the population, into communal agrarian labour camps, which also served as centres for extreme indoctrination. Loung’s sister Keav died of food poisoning. One day, two soldiers arrived at Loung’s hut and asked her father to assist them in getting a wagon unstuck. She never saw him again. Disturbed by the disappearance of her husband and the sounds of screaming at night, Loung’s mother ordered Loung and her surviving siblings to separate and pretend to be orphans. She feared the Khmer Rouge would eventually kill them too, just as they were killing the families of other executed ‘traitors.’ (Read more.)

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