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Is calling the Cambodian genocide a genocide correct?

Posted: Sat Aug 02, 2014 6:23 pm
by giblet
I've seen the world 'genocide' being thrown around a lot on Facebook lately, and it made me think about why what happened during the Khmer Rouge era in Cambodia is commonly referred to as a genocide. My understanding about a genocide is that one group must do it to another, different group. As such, Cambodians killing Cambodians wouldn't be considered a genocide regardless of how many people were murdered. Maybe it would be a democide. What do you think?

Re: Is calling the Cambodian genocide a genocide correct?

Posted: Sat Aug 02, 2014 6:34 pm
by OrangeDragon
The International definition of Genocide is covered under Articles II and III of the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide. Highlights that would relate:
Article II: In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
So the question then would be, did the division between the controlling class and controlled class of Cambodians in that era really constitute a separate national or ethnic group. I would say in part it could be considered a genocide, simply be the attempted eradication of buddhism (under the religious group clause) and the ethnic vietnamese (under the racial group clause). But this would not extend to the whole of their brutality.

Re: Is calling the Cambodian genocide a genocide correct?

Posted: Sat Aug 02, 2014 6:40 pm
by Soi Dog
Many people don't understand the correct usage of "genocide". The word seems to have become synonymous with mass killing, which is not the full definition. I suppose genocide could be applied to the KR trying to completely wipe out the Chams or Vietnamese-Khmers or any other minority group, IF that was ever their intent. I don't believe that was the case.

Re: Is calling the Cambodian genocide a genocide correct?

Posted: Sat Aug 02, 2014 6:43 pm
by OrangeDragon
Soi Dog wrote:Many people don't understand the correct usage of "genocide". The word seems to have become synonymous with mass killing, which is not the full definition. I suppose genocide could be applied to the KR trying to completely wipe out the Chams or Vietnamese-Khmers or any other minority group, IF that was ever their intent. I don't believe that was the case.
I think they did have intent to wipe out the ethnic Vietnamese. And they certainly had the intent to wipe out Buddhism. As for the rest of their acts I don't think it would carry as anything more than mass democide.

Re: Is calling the Cambodian genocide a genocide correct?

Posted: Sat Aug 02, 2014 6:46 pm
by giblet
Although they wanted to wipe out Buddhism, the majority of those killed were not killed because they were Buddhist, so I don't think it would qualify. The Vietnamese, maybe (paging JBTrain).

I think saying mass killing doesn't convey the enormity of the situation (it's the same word you'd use to describe the deaths of three people in a fast food restaurant) so people use the word genocide, even though it's probably not correct.

Re: Is calling the Cambodian genocide a genocide correct?

Posted: Sat Aug 02, 2014 6:48 pm
by kiwiincambodia
I think it is defined as "genocide". What makes it worse in my opinion is they did it to there own.

In recent history, in my limited knowledge, the scale of "murder" that took place against their own race / religion had never happened before.

I would be happy to be proven wrong on this as I never followed history that much.

Re: Is calling the Cambodian genocide a genocide correct?

Posted: Sat Aug 02, 2014 6:58 pm
by OrangeDragon
giblet wrote:Although they wanted to wipe out Buddhism, the majority of those killed were not killed because they were Buddhist, so I don't think it would qualify. The Vietnamese, maybe (paging JBTrain).

I think saying mass killing doesn't convey the enormity of the situation (it's the same word you'd use to describe the deaths of three people in a fast food restaurant) so people use the word genocide, even though it's probably not correct.
The whole would be "Democide"...

As for the buddhists, it would match up with the international legal definition. Democide can consist of many parts, including genocide, as usually a wave of Democide will not be limited to ONLY the genocide of a single group. Even Germany/Hitler would have overall been a democide, as many of those killed were not of any minority group. The minority groups just made up the bulk of it. Political opponents, sympathisers and the like.

Rummel, the guy who coined the term Democide, has a nice paper on the subject:
http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/GENOCIDE.HTM" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Genocide, however, is a confused and confusing concept. It may or may not include government murder, refer to wholly or partially eliminating some group, or involve psychological damage. If it includes government murder, it may mean all such murder or just some. Boiling all this down, genocide can have three different meanings.
[...]
In some usage and especially among some students of genocide, the concept has been redefined to fill a void. What about government murdering people for other reasons than their indelible group membership? What about government organized death squads eliminating communist sympathizers, assassinating political opponents, or cleansing the population of antirevolutionaries. What about simply fulfilling a government death quota (as in the Soviet Union under Stalin). None of such murders are genocide according the legal and common meanings. Therefore, some students of genocide have stretched its meaning to include all government murder, whether or not because of group membership. This may be aptly named the generalized meaning of genocide.
He coined the word Democide to replace that 3rd meaning, for which no word existed and so genocide was commonly (and confusingly) used.

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Re: Is calling the Cambodian genocide a genocide correct?

Posted: Sat Aug 02, 2014 7:03 pm
by Soi Dog
Although many ethnic Vietnamese were killed during that time, I don't believe there was a concerted KR effort to round them up and eliminate them all, including babies.

Re: Is calling the Cambodian genocide a genocide correct?

Posted: Sat Aug 02, 2014 7:07 pm
by OrangeDragon
Soi Dog wrote:Although many ethnic Vietnamese were killed during that time, I don't believe there was a concerted KR effort to round them up and eliminate them all, including babies.
It should be noted that the legal definition doesn't need intent to eliminate all:
Perpetrators need not intend to destroy the entire group. Destruction of only part of a group (such as its educated members, or members living in one region) is also genocide. Most authorities require intent to destroy a substantial number of group members – mass murder.
From the Wiki:
The Khmer Rouge explicitly targeted the Chinese, Vietnamese, and even their partially Khmer offspring for extinction; although the Cham Muslims were treated unfavorably, they were encouraged to "mix flesh and blood", to intermarry and assimilate. Some people with partial Chinese or Vietnamese ancestry were present in the Khmer Rouge leadership; they either were purged or participated in the ethnic cleansing campaigns.
Sourced to: Weitz, Eric D. (2005). "Racial Communism: Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge". A Century of Genocide: Utopias of Race and Nation.

Re: Is calling the Cambodian genocide a genocide correct?

Posted: Sat Aug 02, 2014 7:12 pm
by giblet
But just because the majority of people killed were Buddhist doesn't mean that they were killed because they Buddhist, which is what would be required for it to be considered genocide.

This article in The Economist is interesting:
When does a massacre become a genocide?

CAMBODIA's United Nations-backed war-crimes court formally indicted four former Khmer Rouge leaders on September 16th. Their trial, set to begin next year, will be the second of its kind. In July Comrade Duch, the commandant of an infamous prison, was handed a 35-year sentence for war crimes and crimes against humanity, reduced to 19 years against time served and a period of illegal detention. Next in the dock are the Khmers Rouges' chief ideologue, Nuon Chea, their former head of state, Khieu Samphan, and Ieng Sary and his wife, Ieng Thirith, both ministers in their government. The four stand charged, like Duch, with war crimes and crimes against humanity—and also with genocide. The court's new charge should prove most contentious yet.

The term genocide has been used freely by Cambodians and foreign observers alike in reference to the atrocities committed during the Khmers Rouges' ultra-Maoist revolution. In the mid- to late 1970s it cost the lives of nearly one in four Cambodians; all told, at least 1.7m people died. But the tribunal, started in 2007, only introduced this monumental charge at the end of last year. Investigating judges and prosecutors proposed adding it on the basis of their research into the defendants' alleged role in the slaughter of Cambodia's ethnic Vietnamese and Cham Muslims.

In 1999, UN experts concluded that there was strong evidence pointing to genocide by the Khmer Rouge. Ben Kiernan, a scholar of the Khmer Rouge and founder of Yale University's Cambodian Genocide Project, for one, is adamant that the mass killing in Cambodia constitutes a genocide. In his research Mr Kiernan cites the disproportionate death toll inflicted on those two non-Khmer ethnic groups. He argues further that the regime called officially for the elimination of both minorities.

Many advocates contend that the symbolic weight carried by the charge of genocide will prove to the Cambodian public that the Western-backed tribunal—known officially as the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia—acknowledges the gravity of their country's loss. Theary Seng, a survivor who works as a rights advocate in Phnom Penh, believes there is a strong legal basis for prosecuting the regime's leaders for genocide. Moreover, she says, it can be an effective means of bringing "gravitas to the tribunal”.

“Genocide” is increasingly being used as a generic label for all the world's most serious mass crimes. “As a result, the absence of the term ‘genocide' can be interpreted by survivors as meaning they didn't suffer as much as others”—ie those who have been deemed survivors of genocide—says John Ciorciari, a lawyer and assistant professor at University of Michigan's School of Public Policy. He has been tracking the tribunal's genesis and operations for 11 years in his capacity as a legal adviser to the Documentation Centre of Cambodia, which conducts research for the court.

Despite its growing popularity, the concept of genocide maintains a narrow legal definition which hinges on specific intent. This makes it especially hard to prove. Few dispute that the Khmer Rouge led a campaign to annihilate groups of people whom were considered to be incompatible with its revolutionary aims. The question is whether these groups were targeted first and foremost because of their ethnic or religious type, or rather because they represented perceived political and economic enemies. Somewhat perversely, victims belonging to the latter lot fall outside the crime's definition.

Not everyone involved with the trial is eager to see the charge introduced. Some have argued that introducing genocide will further entangle a process already beset by delays and confusion. The “Extraordinary Chambers” have already suffered extraordinarily complex internal disputes and accusations of various improprieties, political interference and even outright corruption. One sharply pointed criticism sees the charge of genocide as a cynical move foisted on the proceedings by foreign jurists who want to enhance the profile of the court's work and their role in it—thereby distracting attention from the Western powers' history of wrongdoing in Cambodia. “This tribunal has from the beginning been muddled by political objectives,” says Philip Short, who wrote a biography of the late Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge's paramount leader.

Many scholars of the Vietnam war blame the American bombing of eastern Cambodia for having driven much of the peasantry into the hands of the Khmer Rouge. America's role in Cambodia became even grimmer during the 1980s, after the Khmer Rouge were driven from power by a Vietnamese invasion force. In a terrible exercise of cold-war realpolitik, American agents supported the Khmer Rouge in exile as a means of resisting the regime installed by Vietnam.

Or, perhaps, the court is simply following through on its mandate. “The purpose of the tribunal is to adjudicate the most serious crimes,” as Mr Ciorciari says. “To the extent that genocide is distinct from war crimes and crimes against humanity, it's productive to consider this specific charge.” There is, after all, evidence to support it.