On March 21, 2005, Philip Short, former foreign correspondent for The Times (London), The Economist, the BBC, and author of Mao: A Life and Pol Pot: The History of a Nightmare, presented a talk on the complex factors that led to the horrific brutality of the Pol Pot years in Cambodia during which more than a million Cambodians were executed or died from starvation.
Mr. Short examined the fusion of Marxism and Buddhism in the context of Cambodian culture that, he argues, informed the worldview of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge and that in part accounts for their rise to power. The talk included analyses of the influence of French colonialism as well as Cambodia's relationship with the United States, China, and Vietnam. Mr. Short discussed the roles of key figures including Pol Pot, Norodom Sihanouk, and Richard Nixon. Mr. Short traced the journey of thought and action that led from a utopian ideal for purity and egalitarianism and an appreciation for a cultural heritage enshrined in the temples of Angkor Wat to a sordid history of cultural paranoia, the abolition of money, the forced evacuation of huge numbers of people from the cities, and a three and a half year reign of unimaginable brutality. Pol Pot left behind, Mr. Short argued, the unenviable legacy of the creation of the first slave state in modern times.
This talk was co-sponsored by the Center for Vietnamese Philosophy, Culture, and Society and the Center for Force and Diplomacy at Temple University.