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In 1975 about 10% of the population in Cambodia, about 600,000 had already died as a result of US actions during the Vietnam War (1). The US invaded Cambodia several times looking for Vietcong bases of operation. This “searching” in practise was a steady bombing campaign of the Cambodian countryside.
It was US President Richard Nixon who ordered the bombings and then lied about it, turning the tide of public opinion of the war around against it. Hypocritically, most of the people who complained about Pol Pot supported the bombings of Cambodia.
The US bombing not only killed 2 or 3 million people, but it also created abut 2 million refugees who fled the country side and went into the cities. As the US was destroying the Cambodian countryside the country became dependent on U.S. food aid. Even this was horribly mismanaged because of the inefficiency of the right-wing Lon Nol regime.
What this means that when the Khmer Rouge came into power during the worst possible condition: Mass starvation. Cambodia was poorest country in the world and one-third of the population were refugees.
In the mass starvation that was taking place, it was absolutely necessary to get food production going again as fast as possible. If it didn’t then possibly the entire country could have gone through an even greater famine killing millions. In this emergency situation Pol Pot order people Phnom Penh and move to the countryside in order to begin farming again. The country’s economy was absolutely crushed and unable to function (2).
The anti-communists whine that this was fascism, forcing people to farm was terrible. They don’t have a problem with a right-wing anti-communist pro-capitalist regime killing millions in the country causing that starvation. Pol Pot did the only thing he could have done to stop the starvation from getting worse. Anti-communists don’t mind killing millions, but get angry if someone who might appear to be communist tries to clean up the mess.