cambodia was the last nation of the former french indochina to successfully declare its independence, in 1953. by the 1960s, a group of privileged, paris-educated khmer students known as the khmer rouge returned to cambodia and came to control pockets of the countryside. they espoused a form of agrarian, xenophobic nationalism that rejected books, money and medicine. by 1975, they won a three-way civil war that erupted in 1970 and renamed the nation democratic kampuchea.
under saloth sar (better known as pol pot) and nuon chea (aka 'brother number two' or 'pol pot's shadow') the khmer rouge implemented policies of de-urbanization and a process of cleansing the population of its educated citizens. pol pot, nuon chea and the khmer rouge are considered responsible for up to 1.5 million of a possible 2.1 million deaths in cambodia between 1970 and 1979. by 1979, all of cambodia's previous urban population were living as internally displaced persons in the countryside and one third of cambodia's population had perished by starvation, execution, or forced labor including most of its educated inhabitants.
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