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Kampuchea people

As a leader of the Khmer Rouge during its days as an insurgent movement, Pol Pot came to admire the tribes in Cambodia’s rural northeast. These tribes were self-sufficient and lived on the goods they produced through subsistence farming.

The tribes, he felt, were like communes in that they worked together, shared in the spoils of their labor and were untainted by the evils of money, wealth and religion, the latter being the Buddhism common in Cambodia’s cities.

Once installed as the country’s leader by the Khmer Rouge, Pol Pot and the forces loyal to him quickly set about remaking Cambodia, which they had renamed Kampuchea, in the model of these rural tribes, with the hopes of creating a communist-style, agricultural utopia.

Declaring 1975 “Year Zero” in the country, Pol Pot isolated Kampuchea from the global community. He resettled hundreds of thousands of the country’s city-dwellers in rural farming communes and abolished the country’s currency. He also outlawed the ownership of private property and the practice of religion in the new nation.

text by: HISTORY.COM EDITORS

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