Inside the Khmer Rouge’s Killing Fields

Amid the devastation of war, Pol Pot's genocidal regime came to power and led to the death of over a million Cambodians. Its roots didn't lie in its "utopianism," but in imperialist war and authoritarianism.

The Communist Party of Cambodia (CPK), better known as the Khmer Rouge, was the last self-declared Communist Party to seize power in the twentieth century. Ruling for less than four years, from April 1975 to early 1979, the party’s reign became infamous for violence and cruelty, its name synonymous with murder and repression. Some scholars hold the Cambodian Communists and their leader, Pol Pot, responsible for the death of almost a quarter of the country’s population.

But what really happened in Democratic Kampuchea (DK), as the Khmer Rouge renamed the country, is often shrouded in myths. From Rice Fields to Killing Fields: Nature, Life, and Labor Under the Khmer Rouge is geographer James A. Tyner’s attempt to explain the roots of Pol Pot’s genocidal regime.

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