The Khmer Rouge fought a civil war in Cambodia, before taking Phnom Penh in 1975 and ruling until 1979. The regime’s attempt to force a Communist agrarian utopia on the country people left around 2 million dead.
Question: How did the Khmer Rouge start?
Answer: French-educated Cambodians, including Saloth Sar, later the movement leader known as Pol Pot, brought back communist ideals from their studies abroad.
Q: Where does the name come from?
A: The movement was formally titled the Communist Party of Kampuchea but was unofficially referred to as the Khmer Rouge.
Khmer refers to the dominant ethnic and language group in Cambodia, and Rouge means red in French, the former colonial language, and is a reference to the regime’s communist ideology.
The name was in widespread use, especially outside Cambodia, by the end of the 1960s, as the movement took territory in the provinces.
Q: When was the Khmer Rouge in power?
A: The movement fought a civil war against the government, mostly in the provinces, from 1967. In 1975, its fighters took Phnom Penh, and evacuated almost the entire city to the countryside.
The country was re-named Democratic Kampuchea.
In 1976 Khieu Samphan was made head of state and Pol Pot prime minister.
Q: What was the main ideology?
A: The aim was to transform Cambodia into a rural, classless society. To do this the regime abolished money, private property, religious practices and traditional Khmer culture.
Q: What were the main policies in practice?
A: Cities across Cambodia were emptied, forcing urban residents to become rural labourers. Intellectuals and minorities were among those tortured in special centres and executed.
Between 1.7 million and 2.2 million people died of execution, disease, starvation or exhaustion, according to Khmer Rouge tribunal estimates.
Q: How did the regime end?
A: Vietnamese troops backed by Cambodian rebels fought their way into Cambodia and captured Phnom Penh on January 7, 1979.
The Khmer Rouge leaders fled to the west of the country and maintained some of the movement, which collapsed in the late 1990s.