In the calendar of fanaticism, this was Year Zero; as many as two million people, a fifth of Cambodia's population, were to die as a consequence. To mark the anniversary, the evil of Pol Pot will be recalled, almost as a ritual act for voyeurs of the politically dark and inexplicable. For the managers of western power, no true lessons will be drawn, because no connections will be made to them and to their predecessors, who were Pol Pot's Faustian partners. Yet, without the complicity of the west, Year Zero might never have happened, nor the threat of its return maintained for so long. Declassified United States government documents leave little doubt that the secret and illegal bombing of then neutral Cambodia by President Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger between and caused such widespread death and devastation that it was critical in Pol Pot's drive for power.
The Khmer Rouge presided over the world's worst mass killing in terms of a percentage of a nation's population. An estimated 1. The 1. Estimates of the number of people who perished under the Khmer Rouge vary tremendously.
In April , two weeks before the fall of Saigon in Vietnam, an army of ragged, thin and very young peasant men and women defeated the US-backed government in neighbouring Cambodia. In January , some 44 months later, this new regime was swept from power and scattered by invading Vietnamese soldiers. The briefness of this period is part of what makes it hard to understand. Further, there are no sweeping eye-witness accounts, and even some of the basic facts are in dispute among those who study Cambodia or Kampuchea, as it is called in the country's Khmer language. A major difficulty is that the Communist Party of Kampuchea CPK led by Pol Pot made a secret of its policies and goals and even its existence for most of its time in power, and since then none of its leaders have come forward to defend its line.
Today, in a half-day session, the Court starting hearing the testimony of witness Mr. Loeur, 63, is the third witness in the segment of trial related to the Kampong Chhnang Airport Construction Site. The crimes allegedly committed by the defendants at this worksite are detailed on this webpage of the ECCC. He said his current occupation was a rice farmer but his OCIJ interview lists his occupation as a Pagoda clergyman.