On Genocide: Cambodia, The World and Countries at Risk in 2012

We decided to visit the ‘Killing Fields’ and the ‘S.21 Genocide Museum’ in Phnom Penh to pay tribute to the 2 million victims of what truly is one of the darkest chapters in the history of humanity.

Too painful to write about the gruesome acts committed themselves (and about the even more disturbing motivations behind these acts), this post aims merely to honour the lives of those lost; provide an opportunity for those interested in learning more to identify some useful links for further reading; and to raise awareness of genocide generally so that such acts are not repeated in the future.

Evidence of crimes against humanity at Phnom Penh's 'Killing Fields' with skulls of victims displayed in a memorial (Note: I took a single picture when I was there, as I did feel uncomfortable photographing there)

Evidence of genocide at Phnom Penh’s ‘Killing Fields’ with skulls of victims displayed in a memorial (Note: I took a single picture when I was there, as I did feel uncomfortable photographing there)

What is Genocide?

Source: ‘What is Genocide?’ http://www.ushmm.org/genocide/take_action/genocide

“Genocide is a term created during the Holocaust and declared an international crime in the 1948 United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. The Convention defines genocide as any of the following acts committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

a. Killing members of the group;
b. Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
c. Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
d. Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
e. Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

The specific “intent to destroy” particular groups is unique to genocide. A closely related category of international law, crimes against humanity, is defined as widespread or systematic attacks against civilians.”

Quick Facts on Experience of Genocide in Cambodia:

  • Who? Led by Pol Pot, head of the Khmer Rouge regime, between 1975-1979
  • Deaths? Estimated at 2,000,000 – 25% of the Cambodian population
  • Why? To form a Communist peasant farming society, otherwise referred to as ‘agrarian socialism’
  • How? Starvation, executions, mass dispersements, torture, forced labour, to name a few
  • Where? Tortures and interrogations took place all around Cambodia, the most known being in a former high school now referred to as ‘S.21 The Genocide Museum’ in Phnom Penh. Though the ‘Killing Fields’ site in Phnom Penh has attracted the most international attention, there are mass graves located around the country (see below).
Mass grave sites around Cambodia (source: Killing Fields pamphlet)

Mass grave sites around Cambodia (source: Killing Fields pamphlet)

Further reading:

Other known instances of genocide:
Mao Ze-Dong (China, 1958-61 and 1966-69, Tibet 1949-50) 49-78,000,000
Jozef Stalin (USSR, 1932-39) 23,000,000 (the purges plus Ukraine’s famine)
Adolf Hitler (Germany, 1939-1945) 12,000,000 (concentration camps and civilians WWII)
Leopold II of Belgium (Congo, 1886-1908) 8,000,000
Hideki Tojo (Japan, 1941-44) 5,000,000 (civilians in WWII)
Ismail Enver (Turkey, 1915-20) 1,200,000 Armenians (1915) + 350,000 Greek Pontians and 480,000 Anatolian Greeks (1916-22) + 500,000 Assyrians (1915-20)
Pol Pot (Cambodia, 1975-79) 1,700,000
Kim Il Sung (North Korea, 1948-94) 1.6 million (purges and concentration camps)
Menghistu (Ethiopia, 1975-78) 1,500,000
Yakubu Gowon (Biafra, 1967-1970) 1,000,000
Leonid Brezhnev (Afghanistan, 1979-1982) 900,000
Jean Kambanda (Rwanda, 1994) 800,000
Saddam Hussein (Iran 1980-1990 and Kurdistan 1987-88) 600,000
Tito (Yugoslavia, 1945-1987) 570,000
Sukarno (Communists 1965-66) 500,000
Fumimaro Konoe (Japan, 1937-39) 500,000? (Chinese civilians)
Jonas Savimbi (Angola, 1975-2002) 400,000
Mullah Omar – Taliban (Afghanistan, 1986-2001) 400,000
Idi Amin (Uganda, 1969-1979) 300,000
Yahya Khan (Pakistan, 1970-71) 300,000 (Bangladesh)
Benito Mussolini (Ethiopia, 1936; Libya, 1934-45; Yugoslavia, WWII) 300,000
Mobutu Sese Seko (Zaire, 1965-97) ?
Charles Taylor (Liberia, 1989-1996) 220,000
Foday Sankoh (Sierra Leone, 1991-2000) 200,000
Suharto (Aceh, East Timor, New Guinea, 1975-98) 200,000
Ho Chi Min (Vietnam, 1953-56) 200,000
Michel Micombero (Burundi, 1972) 150,000
Slobodan Milosevic (Yugoslavia, 1992-99) 100,000
Hassan Turabi (Sudan, 1989-1999) 100,000
Jean-Bedel Bokassa (Centrafrica, 1966-79) ?
Richard Nixon (Vietnam, 1969-1974) 70,000 (Vietnamese and Cambodian civilians)
Efrain Rios Montt (Guatemala, 1982-83) 70,000
Papa Doc Duvalier (Haiti, 1957-71) 60,000
Rafael Trujillo (Dominican Republic, 1930-61) 50,000
Hissene Habre (Chad, 1982-1990) 40,000
Chiang Kai-shek (Taiwan, 1947) 30,000 (popular uprising)
Vladimir Ilich Lenin (USSR, 1917-20) 30,000 (dissidents executed)
Francisco Franco (Spain) 30,000 (dissidents executed after the civil war)
Fidel Castro (Cuba, 1959-1999) 30,000
Lyndon Johnson (Vietnam, 1963-1968) 30,000
Maximiliano Hernandez Martinez (El Salvador, 1932) 30,000
Hafez Al-Assad (Syria, 1980-2000) 25,000
Khomeini (Iran, 1979-89) 20,000
Robert Mugabe (Zimbabwe, 1982-87, Ndebele minority) 20,000
Rafael Videla (Argentina, 1976-83) 13,000
Guy Mollet (France, 1956-1957) 10,000 (war in Algeria)
Harold McMillans (Britain, 1952-56, Kenya’s Mau-Mau rebellion) 10,000
Paul Koroma (Sierra Leone, 1997) 6,000
Osama Bin Laden (worldwide, 1993-2001) 3,500
Augusto Pinochet (Chile, 1973) 3,000
Al Zarqawi (Iraq, 2004-06) 2,000
Note: The above list is taken from an outside source, and therefore, this blog will not take any responsibility for inaccuracies. Also, though it is an extensive list, it is not complete. Additionally, ‘Genocide’ and what constitutes ‘genocide’ is ridden with controversy. What is perceived as ‘genocide’ by one source, may not be perceived as such by another. (Source: ‘1900-2000: A century of Genocides, http://www.scaruffi.com/politics/dictat.html) 

Countries at Risk of Genocide, Politicide and mass atrocities in 2012:

(Note: This list is not exhaustive. Further information available at the source: http://www.genocidewatch.org)

  1. Democratic Republic of Congo
  2. Sudan
  3. Eastern Congo, Sudan, Uganda
  4. Syria
  5. Somalia
  6. Afghanistan
  7. Burma/ Myanmar
  8. Ethiopia
  9. Nigeria
  10. Libya
  11. Yemen
  12. People’s Republic of China
  13. Columbia
  14. Equatorial Guinea
  15. Republic Congo
  16. Chad
  17. Central African Republic
  18. Haiti
  19. Guinea-Bissau
Final words of the S.21 Genocide Museum pamphlet: Encouraging making public of atrocities committed to prevent a repeat of genocide in Cambodia, but also to raise awareness for it not to reoccur internationally in the future

Final words of the S.21 Genocide Museum pamphlet: Encouraging making public of atrocities committed to prevent a repeat of genocide in Cambodia, but also to raise awareness for it not to reoccur internationally in the future

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