The Black Era Of Cambodian History

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The period between April 17th 1975 and July 7th 1979 has been known as a black era of Cambodian history. The Khmer Rouge period from1975 to 1979 refers to the rule of Pol Pot, Noun Chea, Eng Sary, Son Sen, Khieu Samphan and the Khme Rouge Communist Party over, which the Khmer Rouge renamed as Democratic Kampuchea(Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, Article I of DK's constitution). Ayres 2000, the Victoria troops of Communist, came to Phnom Penh on the 17th, April 1975, did not return the smile as people hoped. They started evacuating the people (Dan Fletcher, 2009, more than 2.5 million people) from the city to the countryside. They controlled everything, everyone. Ayres stated that the four years of DK were an era of almost incomprehensible social innovation, where view of Khmer culture and economic life, which has developed over century, was totally damaged. Traditional leader were eliminated and the bottom of the society rose to the top of the revolutionary structure (Carl D. Jackson, 1989)

According to the Cambodia Genocide Program (CGP1994-2010), Approximately over 1.7 million people, about 21% of the country's population, died from starvation, execution, malnutrition, disease, and over-work during the Cambodian genocide, that took place between 1975 and 1979. That era was one of the worst human tragedies of the last century. Base on George Chigas and Dmitri Mosyakov, the Khmer Rouge targeted particular groups of people, among Buddhist monks, ethnic minorities, and educated elites, that those were treated as new people. In contrast to base people, who participated in revolution prior to 1975, the new people did not involve in the struggle to overcome the US-backed Lon Nol regime. The article Khmer Rouge Rule of Cambodia (KRRC)indicates that, the Legislature was to be popularly elected for a five-year term that its first and only election took place on March 20, 1976, did not allow the "New people" to participate. Their commitments to the party were considered suspect. They added that, a group of new people provided an easy targeted and were increasingly found out as traitors and intentionally harming the goals of Angkar (George Chigas and Dmitri Mosyakov). Both scholars showed that the new people tried to hide their group identity in order to not be targeted. People did not wear glasses, no one dared speak French and reading a novel was considered a capital offense. The scholars have concluded that the Khmer Rouge were against education and strived to control the literate people. After the fall of Phnom Penh, teacher were executed and those who had been educators prior to 1975 survived by hiding their identities (The Khmer Rouge Rule of Cambodia)

Ayres (2000) mentioned that, both Pol Pot and Khieu Samphan rejected the former education system in both structure and content. If Pol Pot strived to eliminate heritage of former education and was against the education, why Pol Pot and his elites tried to propose the Four-Year-Plan, a one hundred and ten pages typewritten document, in between July 21 and August 2, 1976, which demonstrated the literacy training for general population? What is the purpose of the four-year plan? What was it like?

The ideology and education policy

Building the ideology

The Searching for the Truth (Khmer Version) number 17 issue in May 2001, show the statement of Noun Chea, a member of Communist Party Kampuchea(CPK), to the communist worker's party Denmark, July 1978. One of his statement points was emphasizing on building the party's ideology. Chea stated that, ideological party building, was done in two ways, one is destroying the incorrect ideological standpoints and the other is building the correct ideological standpoints. The correct ideological standpoints had to be built were:

working class consciousness: Armed the cadres ideologically the viewpoints of working class

Revolutionary Patriotism and revolutionary internationalism: struggling against imperialism revisionism in own country

Constantly maintaining revolutionary ardor

Concept of the mass out look and mass line

Instructing the cadres in revolutionary vigilance

Armed the cadres with the understanding of dialectical materialism

Chea added in his statement that, these standpoints building was not done by reading out of document, but by everyday activities. Point of view of Base on George Chigas and Dmitri Mosyakov supports and explains more about party's Proletarian Standpoints:

To destroying the incorrect ideological standpoint, they continued the struggle to abolish, uproot, and disperse the cultural, literary, and artistic remnants of the imperialists, colonialists, and all of the other oppressor classes. This will be implemented strongly, deeply and continuously one after the other from 1977 onwards.

To building the correct ideological standpoints, they continued to strengthen and extend the building of revolutionary culture, literature and art of the worker-peasant class in accordance with the Party's proletarian standpoint. To do this they chose with backgrounds that support the revolutionary movement and have capacity to absorb the educational line and could do it correctly.

The existing of the Four Year Plan

Samphan stated clearly that the Democratic Kampuchea denied the former educational system both structure and content. Samphan declared that, the former students of previous regime did not know the true natural science, he added " everything was done relied on foreign text books, foreign standard that education in old regime was useless and fail to serve the needs of people or help in building the country"(Ayres,2000). Base on Ayres(2000) and James A. Tyner (2011), Pol Pot later on, reinforce the Samphan's assertion, declared "There are no schools, faculties or universities in the traditional sense, although they did exist in our country prior to liberation, because we wish to do away with all vestiges of the past". In addition, in the conference on May 20, 1976 in Phnom Penh, there is no mentioning about school or education. Moreover, the new constitution of Cambodia, first officially proclaimed on January 5, 1976, further indicated that, nothing would be done by the new regime related to education. Later after gaining almost total control, the standing committee began the process to build Socialism in all fields in Cambodia between July 21 and August 2, 1976. The centre met to formulate and consider a proposed Four-Year Plan.

The existing of education in Democratic Kampuchea

The educational statistic was never certainly complied, but what emerged at certain times in certain places throughout DK, in a quite primitive and pathetic from, was an alternative educational system. The educational system was characterized by massive qualitative deficiency and by a disorder curriculum support to DK's revolution agendas (Ayres). Base on James A. Tyner ( January2011), Khmer Rouge did produced school texts. Text-books for the CPK imparted an authority to which students were expected to respect without question, and thus complemented the role performed by the secretive 'Angkar'. In Democratic Kampuchea, the Khmer Rouge was known to have published at least three text-books, including two books on geography. In 1977 the Ministry of Education published a second-grade text entitled "Political Geography of Democratic Kampuchea." Numbering 72 pages in length, the text is composed of twelve 'lessons' or chapters.

The situation of education in Democratic Kampuchea

Children were exposed to a view of the world which reflect the ideology of Angkar: Mastery and Self Reliance. Children were self reliance, the mastery of their education, not depend on foreign model or foreign text books. The children must create own learning materials. They were adopted study work routine, taught under the tree in the former house or in the buffalo stable at twelve am by poor educated teachers. They learned only rudimentary numeracy and literacy. Children were doctrine to the ideology of Angkar by learning to love Angkar, to love the revolution, to love peasants worker, to hate American, to opposed Vietnams, to protect the revolutionary via revolutionary song and slogan. They were told to work hard, to report about their parents, relatives (Ayres). One purpose of school was to teach the population the correct way to read and write. The correct way to read was to read as a peasant, one should read in an uncritical and passive way taking at face value and not questioning the meaning, or source of the text. The objective of ideology is wiping the slate clean and then writing on the slate, so the Khmer Rouge eliminate all those who could read incorrectly and then educating the population on how to read correctly being with the children and base people(George Chigas and Dmitri Mosyakov)

The four Year Plan

The meeting held between July 21 and August 2nd 1976, by the standing committees of the Communist Party o Kampuchea (CPK), produced The Four-Year plan, a one hundred and ten pages typewritten document, demonstrated the literacy training. The meeting was attended by nine men and women, including Pol Pot, Nuon Chea, Ieng Sary and Khieu Samphan (George Chigas and Dmitri Mosyakov)

The scholars further showed that first eighty-five pages of the Plan is focused on goals for rice production, agriculture in general, and industry and the last twenty pages of the document were about the Party's objectives for culture, education, social action and health. It means that the plan did not go further detail about the education system, how it implement its plan related to education. The opening school throughout the country and the technical school in Phnom Penh revealed the attempting of the regime to implement the educational outline in the Four Year Plan (Ayres).

Education System

Primary education: general subjects-three years

Secondary education

General subjects - three years

Technical subjects - three years

Tertiary education in technical subjects is also three years

The technical part began to some extent form 1977. The General Subjects are reading, writing, arithmetic geography, natural sciences, physics, chemistry, History of the revolution struggle for people, struggle for the nation, struggle for democracy, struggle for socialist, struggle to build socialism and finally the party politics, consciousness and organizatio (Ayres, 2000 & George Chigas and Dmitri Mosyakov)

Technical schools at primary and secondary level in important traders such as:

rice and other cereals

rubber and other industrial crops

Forestry and fruit trees

Animal breeding

Fresh and salt-water fish

River and sea water


Medical knowledge, etc.

(George Chigas and Dmitri Mosyakov)


To rebuild one country to be developed in the competing world is not an easy thing to do. It requires more resources to support such human resources, foundation…etc the period between 1975 and 1979 and pre 1975 are conflict time both in the country local and in the world, to seek the power. No matter how Pol Pot tried to rebuild the country, it was the impediment for Pol Pot in rebuilding. But how he tried to rebuild the country? He walked against the education and oppositely to the scientific approach in building the country. He used the unrealistic goal for agriculture: three tones of rice per hectare to support the Self-reliance and Autonomy agenda, he tried to control both mental and physical of all the people by the theory: "wiping the slate clean and then writing on the slate". Everything, which was the vestige of the old regime, was eliminated, religion, culture relation even literacy. Then rewrote and equipped with the new thought, new concept, new education, new activities. All of those new things were viewed to reflect the ideology of Angkar: Mastery and self- reliance, loving Angkar, loving peasants, loving working class, no individualism, no relation. Though the DK was against the education, as the revolution growth, it requires the standing committee of DK to propose the Four Year Plan which the rest part of it contained of education system. The revolution took control in 1975 and the Four Year Plan was proposed in 1976 so gradually it applied the system as the growing needs of the revolution. During that time, the country was surrounded by enemies, the occurring the internal conflicts. Thus, applying the educational system would face with obstacles. Schools did exist in DK but in certain time and at certain place with no learning materials, poor educated teacher under the tree, or in the buffalo stable or in a former house at twelve pm. One purpose of the school was to teach the correct way to read and write. The educational system was organized by massive qualitative deficiency and by a disorder curriculum in order to support DK's revolution agendas.


Name: Neat Thirith Date: March 4th, 2011

I prepared the following assignment done by myself and only with the help of the literature mentioned in the references. I did not use other literature to write my assignment. I know that plagiarism is a serious crime and I am aware of the negative affects.


Neat Thirith