The rise to power of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia unleashed one of the profoundest revolutions in world history. The upheavals were huge and resulted in misery and suffering for millions of people. One outcome was persecution of ethnic Vietnamese who had been living in Cambodia.
Migration of many peoples throughout Southeast Asia has been a feature of history. This has resulted in a great deal of ethnic diversity. While most people are generally able to rub along together tolerably well, there are some exceptions and the treatment of the ethnic Vietnamese is one of these. The Vietnamese had traditionally been considered with some suspicion because of economic success wherever they had settled and because of the large numbers of the Vietnamese and, hence, the perceived threat they represented to other peoples. This situation was exacerbated in the wake of WWII when attempts to throw off European colonialism were led by the Vietnamese both in terms of success and in terms of a sustainable ideology. Communism appeared to many to be the only realistic alternative to colonial rule, since religious ideology and monarchism appealed only to minorities of people. As a result, the Vietnamese took an older brother position with respect to communism in mainland Southeast Asia. Intentionally or not, advisors and political experts quickly came to dominate thought and practice in both Cambodia and Laos. Vietnamese communism provided a real alternative to Chinese or Soviet forms and there seemed to be a real sense of an indigenous political ideology which would be able to unite the peoples of mainland Southeast Asia in independent autonomy.
The Khmer Rouge victory destroyed whatever fraternal feelings were really involved in this movement. In their unleashed and unrestrained zeal, Khmer Rouge cadres turned against ethnic Vietnamese as bourgeois traitors to the revolution and undesirables. The turmoil to which this led on the border with Vietnam, as well as the instability...
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