Letter: Genocide: Rwanda and Cambodia

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The Independent Online
Sir: With reference to the killings in Cambodia between 1975 and 1979 ('The worst killing since Cambodia', 24 May), it is not true to say that those of Chinese descent were especially singled out by Pol Pot. In fact, alone among the minority groups in Cambodia, the Cambodian Chinese (Sino-Khmer) enjoyed some fitful protection due to the close relationship between the Pol Pot regime and Mao's China. Certainly, many Cambodian Chinese died, mainly of starvation and maltreatment. But, in proportion to their overall numbers, and given the fact that most were urban (the group that suffered most from Pol Pot's forcible evacuation of the cities), the 200,000 Sino-Khmer who died are not out of line with the wider mortality rate of the majority Cambodian (Khmer) community, who lost some 1.5 million out of a pre-1975 population of about seven million (300,000 by execution).

The really striking thing about Pol Pot's Cambodia - unlike the current ethnic/tribal conflict between the Tutsi and Hutu in Rwanda - was that it was an 'auto-genocide': namely, ethnic Khmer murdering fellow ethnic Khmer. Many of the latter were themselves Khmer Rouge cadres who were suspected of disloyalty to Pol Pot. Today in Cambodia, despite a USdollars 3bn UN peacekeeping operation (1991-93), which facilitated nationwide elections in May last year, the killings among ethnic Khmer continue, and, in the ongoing civil war, the Khmer Rouge (still led by Pol Pot) have won their largest battlefield gains since 1989. If such a massive UN effort has failed to solve Cambodia's problems, what hope is there for Rwanda?

Yours sincerely,


Trinity College