The Khmer Rouge

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STAGE 3 - DEHUMANIZATION

Historically, genocidaires have dehumanized targeted groups by depicting them as animals, vermin, insects, diseases, or tumors. This rhetoric constructs a narrative which justifies the "cleansing" of society. The mass murder of a people or peoples is facilitated through this process.

Dehumanization literally means to deprive a person or group of human qualities or attributes.

Courtesy of DCCam. Tuol Sleng Prison.

It should noted that classification, symbolization, and dehumanization all reinforce one another and are deeply intertwined. Racially or ideologically inspired hate speech inherently dehumanizes the "other", but is also simultaneously sharpens divisions within society and strengthens the power of hate symbols.

Dr. Alexender Hinton discusses how genocidal regimes "manufacture differences," creating dangerous dichotomies: us versus the enemy, workers versus exploiters, patriotic versus treasonous, etc.

Below is a passage from Hinton's Why Did They Kill?, which describes the process of dehumanization under the Khmer Rouge:

"If the crystallization of difference involves essentialization, the gmarking of difference,h a second dimension of manufacturing difference, is concerned with the processes through which the victim groups are stigmatized. This ideological marking, which follows the contours of the crystallized differences, further sets gthemh apart from the larger social community through devaluation. As less than fully human beings, these gothersh are depicted as legitimate targets of violence whose execution should not pose a moral dilemma. Killing them is not murder, but rather like the slaughter of a lowly animal. Haing Ngor captured this sense of dehumanization during DK when he explained why his commune leader, Comrade Chev, killed and ordered the execution of so many people: gWe werenft quite people. We were lower forms of life, because we were enemies. Killing us was like swatting flies, a way to get rid of undesirables.h

Khmer Rouge ideology demonized the goppressor classesh and its other genemies,h likening them to an impurity that threatened the wellbeing of the revolutionary society. In fact, the marking of difference is frequently characterized by metaphors of purity and contamination depicting gthemh as permeating the boundaries that have been envisioned and crystallized by the genocidal regime?as an invasion that infects gus.h Like the human body, which is endangered by gmicrobesh or spirits crossing within, the sociopolitical body is threatened by gthem.h Such beings are, to use Mary Douglasfs phrase, gmatter out of place,h a dangerous source of pollution that needs to be eliminated" (Hinton 284).

The Khmer Communist Party was established in Cambodia, 1951. Originally sponsored by Vietnam, Khmer Communist Party was dedicated to the formation of a Cambodian socialist state. The party planned to follow the Maoist approach of initiating widespread revolution through initial insurgent activities in the countryside. By 1960, Khmer Communist Party was moving beyond merely expressing Maoist philosophies; the group was now actively engaging the Cambodian government in battle. Utilizing terrorist tactics, the terrorist group would battle the Cambodian government from 1960 to 1975. During this time, Cambodia's long-time leader Norodom Sihanouk dubbed the guerilla organization the Khmer Rouge.

Genocides do not occur spontaneously; they are planned. Organization, the fourth stage, simply refers to how a genocide is organized. Stanton explains that organization does not presuppose formal organization. Indeed, many times organization is informal or decentralized.

During the Cambodia Civil War and Vietnamese War, the Khmer Rouge had time to prepare. Their organization involved plans to take control of the government as well as how to rid the country of Vietnamese, foreign...
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