The Khmer Rouge was the communist party of Cambodia, originally formed in 1968. The Khmer Rouge controlled Cambodia from 1975 to 1979 under the brutal dictatorship of Pol Pot. During this period, millions of Cambodian people were subject to genocide, an event best remembered in the film The Killing Fields. The Khmer Rouge was overthrown and the monarchy restored to Cambodia, but most of its leaders escaped justice.
“Khmers Rouge,” is the French term for “red Khmer,” with the Khmer being the predominant ethnic group in Cambodia. By combining Marxism with militant xenophobia, the Khmer Rogue emerged during the spillover from the war in neighboring Vietnam. The Khmer Rouge officially launched its terroristic insurgency in 1968, supported by North Vietnam. In April 1975, the Khmer Rouge captured the capital, Phnom Penh.
Until 1979, the Khmer Rouge ruled “Democratic Kampuchea,” as they renamed the country, through a committee under Pol Pot, including Ieng Sary, Son Sen, and Nuon Chea. This committed attempted to isolate the nation from all outside influences, and evacuated the cities, forcing residents into agricultural communes. People were overworked, starved, tortured, and murdered en masse for the next four years. Many Cambodians fled the Khmer Rouge regime. In 1978, Pol Pot ordered the invasion Vietnam, which in turn pushed the Khmer Rouge army back and toppled the government.