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"Genocide Went Beyond my Wildest Imagination"

CATEGORY: Genocide, War, Khmer Rouge

DIVISION: Modern Evil

EDITORIAL: The only thing worse than being in a war is living next door to one because war is a sloppy cesspool that always spills over. But one man's hell is another man's opportunity. So when the Vietnam War spilled over into Cambodia, Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge cleaned up the mess by creating their own. And genocide as a system of government gained a little more legitimacy.

Priest Tried to Warn of Cambodia's Insanity

By Erika Colin

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (CNN) -- Francois Ponchaud was a newly ordained Catholic priest when he arrived in Cambodia in 1965 from a small village in France.

He was sent to do missionary work. But within a decade he would become a crusader against the worst genocide since the Holocaust.

"I was staying by the Cambodian people's side," Ponchaud said, "through the good and the sadness and the suffering."

When he arrived at age 26, Cambodia was a peaceful place: a bucolic land of villages, peasants, rice paddies and Buddhist monks. Ponchaud studied Cambodian history and Buddhism, became fluent in Khmer, made friends and immersed himself in the culture -- falling in love with the country and its people.

But the peacefulness was short-lived.

By 1970, Cambodia was descending into chaos as the Vietnam War spilled across its borders. In the countryside, the Americans were carpet-bombing Vietcong outposts. In the capital, Phnom Penh, Washington was propping up a corrupt government.

From the jungles, a sinister and brutal communist rebel group called the Khmer Rouge was fighting to overthrow Cambodia's U.S.-backed regime.

On April 17, 1975, Phnom Penh fell to the Khmer Rouge. They began to reinvent Cambodia according to an insane blueprint. They emptied the cities, including some 3 million in the capital, forcing all the residents into the countryside -- and toward a dark future.

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