Declaring that the nation would start again at “Year Zero”, Pol Pot isolated his people from the rest of the world and set about emptying the cities, abolishing money, private property and religion, and setting up rural collectives.
Anyone thought to be an intellectual of any sort was killed. Often people were condemned for wearing glasses or knowing a foreign language.
Ethnic Vietnamese and Cham Muslims in Cambodia were also targeted.
Hundreds of thousands of the educated middle-classes were tortured and executed in special centres.
The most notorious of these centres was the S-21 jail in Phnom Penh, Tuol Sleng, where as many as 17,000 men, women and children were imprisoned during the regime’s four years in power.
Hundreds of thousands of others died from disease, starvation or exhaustion as members of the Khmer Rouge – often just teenagers themselves – forced people to do back-breaking work.