The Cambodian genocide was perpetrated by the Khmer Rouge regime, the Communist Party of Kampuchea, led by Pol Pot from 1975-1979. The Khmer Rouge wanted to transform Cambodia into a socialist agrarian republic based on the policies of Maoism.
In order to bring these goals to fruition, the Khmer Rouge forced Cambodians from cities all over the country to relocate to labor camps and farms in the countryside. The mass executions, forced labor physical abuse, starvation, and spread of disease that ensued resulted in the deaths of an estimated 3 million people, about 25 percent of Cambodia’s total population.
Those who were seen as enemies of the Khmer Rouge were taken to the Killing Fields, where they were executed, often with pickaxes in order to save bullets, and buried in mass graves.
Many people were also take to Tuol Sleng Prison (Tuol Sleng translates to ‘Hill of the Poisonous Trees’), a former high school that was converted into a Security Prison. Tuol Sleng was one of 150 death camps established by the Khmer Rouge. It is estimated that 20,000 people were imprisoned at Tuol Sleng, where they were tortured for information, and then killed. The Documentation Center of Cambodia estimates that only about 180 prisoners survived imprisonment.
The Khmer Rouge targeted anyone suspected of having connections to the former Cambodian government or other foreign governments, professionals, intelligentsia, journalists, doctors, lawyers, Buddhist monks, and ethnic minorities such as Vietnamese, Thai, Chinese, Cham Muslims, and Cambodian Christians. The Khmer Rouge banned more than 20 minority groups, constituting 15% of the population, and banned the use of minority languages.
The Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia ended the genocide by defeating the Khmer Rouge in 1979.