The History of the Khmer Rouge Scopic Regime in Cambodia
It has been estimated that, between 1975 and 1979, the Khmer Rouge killed 1.5 million people, many of them women and children, making this one of the bloodiest periods of time in the 20thcentury.
One of the places that were used as killing sites was Tuol Sleng Prison, also known by its code name S- 2 , in the heart of Phnom Penh which, until 1975, had actually been a high school. Unfortunately, the Khmer Rouge had it remodelled and established it as a “re-education camp” where 14,000 people were interrogated and eventually tortured to death.
One anthropologist remarked when she entered the building “Over time, one begins to see in details. On stairway landings, for example, holes have been knocked in the wall so the stairs could be cleaned by sloshing water down the staircases. Below each of these openings on the building exteriors one can still see stains of the blood that ran down the sides, as though the buildings themselves had bled”.
The Khmer Rouge Scopic Regime began in 1975, a model of social control for the dictator Pol Pot. It was designed to control the population, a “scopic regime that enforced visual surveillance on its victims and deliberately traumatized and destroyed its victims’ vision”. The leaders of this regime tried to hide their identities and tried to change the country’s political reforms by keeping their victims in a state of perpetual shock.
The Khmer Rouge regime infiltrated everywhere in the country and the consciousness of the people. The ‘Ten Security Regulations’ were posted up on buildings such as Tuol Sleng Prison which reads:
“1. You must answer accordingly to my questions. Don’t turn them away. 2. Don’t try to hide the facts by making pretexts about this and that. You are strictly prohibited to contest me. 3. Don’t be a fool, for you are a man who dares to thwart the revolution. 4. You must immediately answer my questions without wasting time to reflect. 5. Don’t tell me about either your immoralities or the essence of the Revolution. 6. While getting lashes or electrification you must not cry at all. 7. Do nothing, sit still, and wait for my orders. If there is no order, keep quiet. When I ask you to do something, you must do it right away without protesting.8. Don’t tell us how much you hate people from Kampuchea Krom [literally, “lower Cambodia,” bordering Vietnam] in order to hide your Vietnamese ancestry.9. If you don’t follow all the above rules, you shall get many lashes of the electric wire. 10. If you disobey any point of my regulations, you will get either ten or five electrical shocks”.
In 1979, the Khmer Rouge regime was thankfully stopped after Vietnam invaded Cambodia. However, the legacy of Pol Pot and his infamous Khmer Rouge regime still lives on for the people, like feeling the terror of a nightmare the first few moments upon waking.
Ly, Boreath (2003) Devastated Vision(s): The Khmer Rouge Scopic Regime in Cambodia, Art Journal, College Art Association.