Cambodia: Year Zero by Francois Ponchaud

Senator George McGovern (remember him?) publicly called for international intervention in 1978 to save Cambodia from barbarism. But most on the left were ambiguous (the stories beggar belief...give the revolutionaries time...they will grow out of their wildness). Cambodia was invisible in the world consciousness at the time - the west wanted nothing but peace and quiet after the Vietnam tumult.

In the decades of films and commentary since, this book holds up extremely well. Considering the deadly walls of silence thrown up by the Khmer Rouge regime after 1975 (they even banned telephones as part of their total Maoist re-fit) the author penetrated with considerable accuracy and sure footedness into the operation of this most murderous regime. The factual accuracy with which the power structure is described is surprising. He gets the personnel right, the utopianism of the leading players, and their influences - Maoist in economics, Stalinist in rejecting any possibility of "re-education" in creating the new society. The author's clinical style of writing takes us through the establishment of the terror state, and disentangles the knottiest part of the story - how did the Khmer Rouge make their pitch so successfully to the peasantry even granted the US bombing from 1969? THere were other players and resistance groups. The author excells at showing the KR's usurpation of Sihanouk's authority following his overthrow by Lon Nol, and how his call for the "brothers and sisters" to go into the forest and resist lead the peasantry straight into the arms of Pol Pot, until then a deadly but marginal figure. The author's chilling treatise on how a peasantry who believed in forest spirits were sold on a crusade to re-start history and re-capture their long lost Angkorean glory is one of the most important stories of history. This is a superb telling and a powerful warning.


Book Details
Title: Cambodia: Year Zero
Author: Francois Ponchaud
ISBN-10: 0030403065
ISBN-13: 978-0030403064
Publisher: Henry Holt & Co
Length: 212 pages
Language: English
Dimensions: 5.7 x 8 x 0.60 inches
Weight: 8.5 ounces


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