Chronology of the Khmer Rouge Movement
Timeline of the Khmer Rouge’s Rise and Fall From Power
Khmer Timeline (pdf)
Significant portions of the following historical overview were contributed by DC-Cam from Khamboly Dy’s “A History of Democratic Kampuchea (1975-1979).”
1940s: Cambodian communist movement emerged from the country’s struggle against French colonization.
1960s: King Norodom Sihanouk named his communist opponents the “Khmer Rouge.” Their official name was the Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK).
1963: Pol Pot became the party secretary and leader of the CPK.
March 1970: Cambodian Civil War. Marshal Lon Nol and his pro-American associates staged a successful coup to depose Prince Sihanouk as head of state.
1973: The Khmer Rouge became a major player in the civil war and gained members because many people resented Lon Nol. At this time, 85 percent of Cambodian territory was controlled by the Khmer Rouge.
April 17, 1975: The Khmer Rouge took full control of the city of Phnom Penh in Cambodia. A few days later, they forced approximately two million people in Phnom Penh and other cities into the countryside to undertake agricultural work. Thousands of people died during the evacuations. Because of this and other policies, nearly two million people died during the Khmer Rouge regime from 1975-1979.
1976: The CPK created the state of Democratic Kampuchea and wrote the first “Four-Year Plan,” which called for the collectivization of all private property and placed high national priority on the cultivation of rice. All Cambodians were required to bring their private possessions to be used collectively. Cambodian families were split up and people were assigned to work groups. The goal of the Four-Year plan was to achieve an average national yield of three tons of rice per hectare throughout the country. To achieve that goal, most Cambodians were forced to work harvesting rice more than 12 hours a day without rest or adequate food.
Late 1977: Clashes broke out between Cambodia and Vietnam. Tens of thousands of people were sent to fight and thousands were killed.
December 1978: Vietnamese troops and the forces of the United Front for the National Salvation of Kampuchea fought their way into Cambodia.
January 7, 1979: Vietnamese troops captured Phnom Penh. Khmer Rouge leaders fled west and reestablished their forces in Thai territory.
1979-1990: The United Nations recognized the Khmer Rouge as the only legitimate representative of Cambodia.
1982: Khmer Rouge formed the Triparty Coalition Government. At the same time, in Phnom Penh, Vietnam helped to create a new government regime called the People’s Republic of Kampuchea (PRK), which governed Cambodia for a decade.
1990: Vietnamese troops withdrew from Cambodia.
October 23, 1991: All Cambodian parties signed a peace agreement in Paris and agreed to organize a national election under the supervision of the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC). The Khmer Rouge boycotted the UN-organized election and refused to demobilize their forces.
1993: A newly elected government came to power called the Royal Government of Cambodia. For several years, Khmer Rouge soldiers continued to fight against these troops.
1998: Pol Pot died. Other senior Khmer Rouge leaders defected in 1998.
March 1999: The last surviving leader of the Khmer Rouge who refused to join the Royal Government of Cambodia, Ta Mok, was captured.
1999: The Khmer Rouge movement totally collapsed. All of its leaders had either defected to the Royal Government of Cambodia, been arrested or died.