Among the nearly two million people who perished during the Cambodian genocide, were members of Cambodia’s ethnic minorities. In other instances of genocide, it is clear that those in power performed horrific acts of racial discrimination against minority groups. During the Holocaust, for example, Nazi antisemitism resulted in the German government’s implementation of discriminatory policies, which targeted millions of Jews for execution. In comparison to the Holocaust, it is more difficult to determine whether the Democratic Kampuchea government practiced racially discriminatory policies towards ethnic minorities during the Cambodian Genocide of 1975-79, because of the complexity of delineating what constitutes racial discrimination. Some scholars have disputed the existence of discriminatory policies towards ethnic minorities and have even argued that the ruling Khmer Rouge regime was innocent of genocide. This paper will examine whether the Khmer Rouge implemented racially discriminatory policies towards Cambodia’s minority groups. Although Cambodia is composed of many ethnic groups, over 80% of its people are Khmer; only the larger minority groups with the most extensive documentation will be discussed in this paper: the Vietnamese, Chams, and Chinese.
It will be argued that in the experience of all three minority groups, the Khmer Rouge’s policies betrayed traces of racial discrimination; however, the severity and type of racial discrimination varied.