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Cambodia 1975-1982 [Paperback]

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Item description for Cambodia 1975-1982 by Michael Vickery...

"Cambodia 1975-1982" presents a unique and carefully researched analysis of the Democratic Kampuchea regime of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge (1975-79) and the early years of the People's Republic of Kampuchea (1979-89). When it was first published in 1984, the book provided one of the few balanced and reasoned voices in a world shocked by media reports of incredible brutality. Now, 15 years later, the book remains unsurpassed as an original historical document bringing a new interpretation based on the earliest primary sources - interviews with the Khmer people themselves. "The most comprehensive and definitive political history to date of the Pol Pot regime in Cambodia...Overall a balanced, judicious account." - "Choice"

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Item Specifications...

Studio: University of Washington Press
Pages   432
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 0.75" Width: 5.75" Height: 8.5"
Weight:   1.1 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Publisher   University of Washington Press
ISBN  9747100819  
ISBN13  9789747100815  

Availability  0 units.

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Reviews - What do customers think about Cambodia 1975-1982?

flawed but necessary to understand Cambodia  Apr 3, 2004
Vickery's book has been frequently characterised as a 'denial literature' by the right yet the book contains an extensive records of the barbarity of the Khmer Rouge - particularly the Eastern zone massacres of 1978 which left the now well-known mounds of human bones in their wake. Similarly, Vickery praises the overthrow of the Khmer Rouge and argues that the Vietnamese-backed regime which replaced it was a vast improvement for the Cambodian people. This is hardly consistant with the argument that he is a Cambodian 'holocaust denier', and in stark contrast to the US and other western governments (and China) which supported the Khmer Rouge after their overthrow, as chronicled by Vickery in the book's two last chapters.
However, the casualty count of 700'000 - based on CIA data - is too low. Neither does the thesis of a 'peasant revolution' explain the nature of the Khmer Rouge regime. The Pol Pot government was led by a new ruling class drawn from the party, and were fundamentally an urban regime exploiting the Cambodian workers and peasants. This is consistent with other Stalinist regimes but not with Marxism, which states that peasants would be allowed to retain their land until they choose to join co-operatives voluntarily (see Engels' writing on the peasant question). However, all these arguments are within the realm of honest debate without the need for hysterical accusations of holocaust denial.
Where Vickery is right is in characterising the eastern zone as relatively more benign area of Cambodian and as the centre of opposition to Pol Pot. Ben Kiernan in his 1994 history argues the same and praises Vickery's work on this subject (if not others). Also - and part of the book mainly ignored by those on the right - is the book's situation of the Khmer Rouge directly in the history of Cambodia with it's attendent social discontent ,oppression and revolts, in the first chapter, and the vicious US-backed war and bombing in the second (in which more bombs were dropped on Cambodia in six months of 1973 than Japan during all of WW2). This is in contrast to the conservative interpretation that locates the crimes of the Pol Pot solely in Marxism-Leninism.
Vickery's book is a useful antioote to Cold War propaganda but should be read with some caution and alongside more recent works.
Denial Literature  May 30, 2003
If there is ever a study of all the shameful efforts to belittle the crimes of communism, this book will occupy a prominent place. Vickery claims that there were only 740,000 deaths under the Khmer Rouge during 1975-9. How does he reach this number, which is half the size of other estimates and only a third of the true figure? He combines a low population count of 7.1 million in 1975 with a massively inflated sum of 6.7 million in 1979, producing a demographic decline of only 400,000. No credible source has given such a drastic underestimate.

In the 15 years since this book was first published, Vickery has made no effort to include the demographic studies which refute his conclusions. He has nothing to say about Marek Sliwinski's analysis, which calculates a death toll of 1.84-1.87 million ("Le Génocide Khmer Rouge: Une Analyse Démographique," p57). He has nothing to say about the Documentation Center of Cambodia, which has shown that 1.5 million were massacred and 2-3 million killed overall (Craig Etcheson, "Quantifying Crimes Against Humanity in Cambodia," online). In short, this new edition contains nothing to inform the reader that Vickery's claims are indefensible.

Vickery derides what he calls the "Standard Total View" of Cambodia, namely the assumption that the Khmer Rouge carried out a systematic campaign of genocide in pursuance of their fanatical Marxist ideology. In place of the Standard Total View, he claims that the Khmer Rouge leadership "did not foresee, let alone plan," the bloodbath which they inflicted: "They were petty bourgeois radicals overcome by peasantist romanticism" (p287). His conclusion is based on oral testimony gathered from 92 Cambodian refugees in a Thai refugee camp during 1980. Only nine of these interviewees are women and just one is a peasant. Given that the book purports to explain the motives and conduct of the Cambodian peasants, this is a shocking lapse from accepted standards of scholarship.

Unfortunately for Vickery's position, the Standard Total View is clearly correct. Had Vickery devoted space to Lenin's misnamed policy of War Communism, he would have been able to cite the research of numerous economic historians who agree that it was a conscious effort to eliminate the market economy, resulting in a famine which killed 5 million people. Had Vickery explored other examples - such as Mao's Great Leap Forward, in which 30 million died - he could have explained why the Khmer Rouge described their plan as the "Super Great Leap Forward." He might have seen that the division of the population into class categories - some of which are targeted for destruction - is consistent with other Marxist revolutions and cannot be attributed to peasant populism. But research of this kind can hardly be expected in a work of political dogma.

Vickery is so determined to absolve communism that he even considers it "fortunate" that "those who predicted a predominance of agrarian nationalism over Marxism in China and Vietnam were mistaken" (p290). He does not mention that the good fortune of the Chinese people includes the slaughter of tens of millions through massacre, slavery and forced famine (Washington Post, July 17-18, 1994). Nor does he inform his readers that North Vietnam massacred 50,000-100,000 before reunification, with over 300,000 starved to death (Robert F. Turner, "Vietnamese Communism: Its Origins and Development," pp142-4); or that its post-war crimes included the massacre of perhaps 200,000 South Vietnamese (Al Santoli, ed., "To Bear Any Burden," pp272, 292-3); and the mass expulsions that drowned at least 200,000 boat people (San Diego Union, July 20, 1986). The facts being inconvenient, Vickery simply deletes them from history.

Those who wish to read a discussion of the Khmer Rouge period by responsible experts should consult Craig Etcheson, "The Rise and Demise of Democratic Kampuchea;" Karl D Jackson, ed., "Cambodia, 1975-1978: Rendezvous With Death" or Jean-Louis Margolin, "Cambodia: The Country of Disconcerting Crimes" in Stephane Courtois, ed., "The Black Book of Communism" (pp577-636). The history of scholarly apologetics on this subject is discussed in Sophal Ear's online thesis, "The Khmer Rouge Canon: 1975-1979 - The Standard Total Academic View on Cambodia."
The only book about Pol Pot that made any sense to me  Dec 25, 2001
I read a number of books, trying to understand what Pol Pot was all about. Most make him out to be satan incarnate, or otherwise incomprehensible. This is the one book that made the history of his regime reasonably comprehensible to me. Highest recommendation.
Argumentative, but deserves study by all Cambodia lovers.  Sep 3, 2001
Michael Vickery, always ready and perhaps even ever-anxious to attack anyone else who has studied Cambodia, shares some unique insights and valuable experience gained in Cambodia in the 1960s. While most of the arguments about the goings on inside Cambodia during the DK and PRK eras are now dated, readers can still learn much from "Cambodia 1975-1982". Early into this book, Vickery very cleverly uses passages from Bun Chan Mol's excellent book "Chareut Khmer" to catch off guard those readers who assume crimes against humanity in Cambodia began in the DK era. That passage alone makes the book worthwhile.
Insightful view  Dec 20, 2000
A carefully researched and balanced account of this tragic time. Well written and detailed, Vickery provides the definitive document of the early years of the People's Republic of Kampuchea. Any serious student of Cambodia should read this book.

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