Many of us in the West have heard of the Khmer Rouge; however, most of us have not heard the extent of the crimes against humanity inflicted on the Cambodian people during the Khmer Rouge's four-year hold on the country. The Khmer Rouge leader, Pol Pot, attempted to create a program named after the French Revolution's "Year One" and inspired by Stalinist and Moaist ideals. He called his plan "Year Zero," which commenced in 1975. In just four years, a fourth to a third of the country's population, between 2 and 3 million people, had died from starvation, disease, exhaustion, or execution .
After the Khmer Rouge was overthrown, the country continued to suffer as an international embargo restricted inflow of necessary supplies to the country. Even after this embargo was lifted and Cambodia held elections for a new government, public services such as education, health care, and social development fell through the cracks . The lack of these public services, as well as public security and law enforcement, combined with the lack of laws protecting the rights of women and girls often has tragic outcomes which affect all of Cambodian society .
Lower standards of living, social well-being, and public security can exponentially increase one's vulnerability to cycles of poverty, inequality, and many forms of exploitation, including sex trafficking .
Above: Mass grave of 450 victims, Cheong Ek.
Below: Poor area in Phnom Penh.
Cambodia's Recent History and Development
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Sex trafficking is one of the largest source of illegal income in the world. South East Asia, including Cambodia, is many times referred to as a main hub for sex-trafficking. The reasons why require a little background history and information on social issues.