In the wake of Mao’s Communist victory in China, communist ideology would be at the forefront of the push to liberate the countries of Indochina.

In 1975, all three countries would fall to communist governments and suffer the accompanying social cleansing as the communist leaders sought to ‘re-educate’ their populations who had been ‘perverted’ by foreign rule and the 'poisons' of imperialist capitalism and religion..

Extreme as this process could often be, in the case of Cambodia, this overhauling of cultural identity was total and took place virtually overnight, plunging the populace into an immediate living hell.

The concept was enshrined in the notion of year zero, an ideology that still exists today in radical Islam, whereby everything from the past is rendered null and void, with a total reset of all values and practices.

After their takeover, the Khmer Rouge, under the leadership of Brother Number 1, Pol Pot, immediately carried out a ruthlessly brutal re-organisation of Cambodian society.

Money was banned overnight and banks, businesses, schools, factories and hospitals were closed with immediate effect. All and any private property was completely outlawed and confiscated and all religious discussion and practice abolished.

The extolled ideal was to return Kampuchea, as the country was swiftly renamed, to an agrarian utopia, with the people working the land for the benefit of all.

To this end, the cities of Cambodia were immediately emptied of their citizenry, who were told to leave behind their possessions on the pretext that they were being evacuated to protect the public from immanent American bombing, and would soon be allowed to return. The cities were then pounded with munitions in an attempt to destroy the past.

The entirety of the city dwelling population, including children, the elderly and the sick, were force-marched into the countryside, during which many who struggled to keep pace would either die or be murdered by Khmer Rouge troops.

The people were then allocated to communal agricultural labour camps, under armed supervision, and forced to wear plain uniform clothing, where despite their lack of any agrarian experience, they were instructed to collectively produce three tons of rice per hectare, a wholly unrealistic target in an industry which had, even for experienced farmers, historically only produced a third of these ambitious plans for crop yield.

Under the new reality, non-revolutionary books were banned and burnt, privacy abolished, family relations outlawed, with family ties deliberately broken through relocation to other communes. With postal and telephone services shut down, it became virtually impossible for family members to communicate with one another, for which the penalty, in any case, was death, as all loyalties became the exclusive preserve of the party.

Assemblies of more than two persons were disallowed, and even minor infractions would result in death. Aside from the camp leaders, who were given favoured treatment, all occupants were expected to work from 4 am until 10 pm, with two officially sanctioned breaks, in periods of 10 continuous days following which a day of rest was granted, during which the party would provide propagandist films, ‘education’ and entertainment.

Inevitably, the unrealisable farming quotas were not achieved, to which the party’s response was to further violently bully the people and accuse them of treason. Famine was widespread and many exhausted workers became unable to continue with their work and were coldly killed, under the auspices of the party slogan “to spare you is no profit, to destroy you is no loss”. Personal food rations were restricted to between 250 - 500 grams of rice per person per day.

Workers were forbidden to eat any of their own produce, which was immediately driven away by Khmer Rouge trucks following harvesting, nor to collect food from the wild, the instrument of enforcement for both ‘crimes’ being death. Incalculable fatalities through starvation followed. With no medicine, death was also often the inevitable result of illness.

Running parallel to the wide scale abuses of the population at large, was the process of weeding out persons who resented the new regime or were considered to harbour ‘unwholesome hankerings’ for the past.

As a matter of course, as also seen in other communist takeovers elsewhere, previous government officials, intellectuals, religious figures, policemen, doctors, teachers and lawyers among many others were targeted for torture and execution, which often included their extended families.

Summary execution was everywhere rife and often carried out for the most spurious of reasons. As Cambodia’s decent into paranoiac hell continued, even members of the ruling elite would be crudely bludgeoned to death if suspected of disloyalty.

Many Cambodians who wore glasses quickly learned to do without them, as even wearing spectacles could engender the stereotypical association with intellectualism. Torture for suspects was crude and routine, with continual beatings supplemented by techniques which included the application of waterboarding, electric shocks, hot metal instruments, fingernail removal, skin cutting and applying acid and alcohol to the resultant wounds, together with other inhuman practices such as organ removal, being hung by the mouth on hooks, and being skinned alive.

When the inevitable confessions were extracted, to ameliorate the increasing loss of precious bullets, the hapless victims were executed with whatever instruments were at hand, such as machetes, pick axes, iron bars and the like. Numerous non-Cambodians were also murdered, simply for existing.

The regime of the Khmer Rouge behaved untrammelled in this fashion for four years, until Vietnam, which also bears much of the responsibility for helping to bring the regime to power, finally brought their neighbours rule to an end, though the sheer damage to the agricultural and industrial economy, severe impoverishment and famine would persist for a great many years to come.

Pol Pot escaped with the remnants of his army into the border area with neighbouring Thailand and eventually into Thailand itself, and continued to wage guerrilla warfare on Cambodia for 17 years, until the eventual collapse of his power structure.

In 1997, just before he was due to be handed over to Cambodian authorities for trail, Pol Pot died, ostensibly from a heart attack, though it is widely believed that he committed suicide.