Khmer Rouge Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Diane Sieverson

Diane has taught all subjects at the elementary level, was the principal of a K-8 private school and has a master's degree in Measurement and Evaluation.

The Khmer Rouge were members of a political party that took over the country of Cambodia in the 1970s. Come learn about this violent political party and how it was eventually kicked out of Cambodia.

Who Were the Khmer Rouge?

Yesterday was a regular school day, so you hung out with your friends during recess and rode your bike when you got home. But today, you discover that your school has been closed permanently. The government is forcing you and everyone in your town to leave your homes and move to the countryside immediately. You'll have to farm and work in the fields all day, every day. You won't be able to wear what you want or talk to other people in groups. And if you break the rules, you could go to prison or worse.

Though this may sound like a terrible nightmare you can't wait to wake up from, this actually happened to the people of Cambodia when a political party called the Khmer Rouge took over the country. The Khmer Rouge (pronounced kuh-MARE-rooj) were members of a violent communist political party led by a ruthless man named Pol Pot (pronounced pole pot) that took over the country of Cambodia. Though they came to power in the 1970s, they had secretly been around for a long time. The Khmer Rouge soldiers fought against the Cambodian military during a civil war and eventually won, taking over in 1975.

Khmer Rouge prison
Khmer Rouge prison

Almost overnight, around two million people were forced to move out of their homes in the cities and walk on foot into the country to work the fields. Thousands of people died during this move, and that was only the beginning of the country's nightmare.

What Did the Khmer Rouge Do?

Because the Khmer Rouge leaders were communist (pronounced COM-you-nists), they believed that the government should own and control everything. They got rid of money and healthcare and closed schools and businesses; they also didn't allow people to practice their religion.

People had to live in farming colonies and couldn't leave. Many worked 12 hours a day every day, and they couldn't hang out in groups and just talk because they might be killed if someone suspected they were enemies of the government.

Mass grave where many Khmer Rouge victims are buried
Mass grave where many Khmer Rouge victims are buried

The government didn't think families were important, and parents were no longer in charge of their children. The leaders of the Khmer Rouge considered themselves the ''mothers and fathers'' of everyone in Cambodia.

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