ECCC Reparations

This blog is designed to serve as a repository of analyses, news reports and press releases related to the issue of RERAPATIONS within the framework of the Extraordinary Chambers in Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), a.k.a. the Khmer Rouge Tribunal.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Chandler on Evacuation of the Cities

"To transform the country thoroughly and at once, Communist cadres ordered everyone out of the cities and towns. In the week after April 17, 1975, over two million Cambodians were pushed into the countryside towards an uncertain fate. Only the family of top CPK officials and a few hundred Khmer Rouge soldiers were allowed to stay behind. This brutal order, never thoroughly explained, added several thousand deaths to what may have been five hundred thousand inflicted by the civil war. Reporting reaching the West spoke of hospital patients driven from their beds, random executions, and sick and elderly people as well as small children dead or abandoned along the roads. The evacuation shocked its victims as well as observers in other countries, who had hoped that the new regime would try to govern through reconciliation. But these men and women have not forgotten the ferocity with which the civil war was fought by both sides. Still other observers, more sympathetic to the idea of revolution, saw the evacuation of the cities as the only Cambodia could grow enough food to survive, break down entrenched and supposedly backward-looking social hierarchies, loyalties and arrangements and set its Utopian strategies in motion.

The decision to evacuate the cities was made by the CPK leadership shortly before the liberation of Phnom Penh, but it was a closely kept secret and took some Communist commanders by surprise. One reason for the decision was that the capital was genuinely short of food. Another difficulty was administering several million people who had failed to support the revolution. A third was that the CPK leaders were fearful for their own security. Perhaps, the overriding reason, however, was the desire to assert the victory of the CPK, the dominance of the countryside over the cities, and the empowerment of the poor. Saloth Sar and his colleagues had not spent seven years in the forest and five years after that fighting a civil war to take office as city councilors. They saw cities as breeding grounds for counterrevolution. Their economic priorities were based on transformation of Cambodian agriculture, especially on increasing the national production of rice. By exporting the surplus, it was hoped that the government would earn hard currency with which to pay for imports, and, eventually, to finance industrialization. To achieve this surplus, the CPK needed all the agricultural workers it could find.

For the next six months, the people who had been driven out of the cities -- known to the regime as “new people” or “April 17 people” – busied themselves with growing rice and other crops under the supervision of soldiers and CPK cadres. Conditions were severe, particularly for those unaccustomed to physical labor, but because in most districts there was enough to eat, many survivors of DK who had been evacuated from Phnom Penh came to look back on these months as a comparative golden age. For the first time in many years, Cambodia was not at war, and many so-called new people were eager to help to reconstruct their battered country. Perhaps, after all, Cambodia’s problems were indeed so severe as to require revolutionary solutions."
David Chandler 
A History of Cambodia            


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home