MURDER OF A GENTLE LAND: The Untold Story of Communist Genocide in Cambodia by John & Anthony Paul Barron

MURDER OF A GENTLE LAND: The Untold Story of Communist Genocide in Cambodia

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Cambodia has been effectively sealed off from the outside world since the April 1975 victory of the Khmer Rouge. In such circumstances it is difficult to fault the authors of this impassioned cri de coeur for relying on the words of the traumatized refugees who have streamed into Thailand. Glimpses of the chaotic initial evacuation of Pnom Penh were reported by the press; here the refugees, many of whom witnessed the mass executions of Lon Nol's soldiers, recount the horror of bayoneting, garroting, and dubbing to death--mass murders that left rivers and roadsides clogged with corpses. The rationale of the Angka Loue (The Organization on High) was the need to ""purify"" the populace by eradicating cities, burning books (including medical books, technical manuals, and dictionaries), and dismantling the technology and culture of the ""imperialists."" Escapees testify that not only army officers but their families were targeted, as well as students, teachers and all ""intellectuals."" The authors estimate that upwards of 1,200,000 persons have perished by execution, famine, and disease since April of '75. Less convincing are the thumbnail sketches of the Angka Loue leaders--as uniformly sinister as Post Office mug shots of the Ten Most Wanted. Occasionally the authors, two Reader's Digest editors, are able to call upon the scattered reports of French journalists who generally endorse their view that the ""totality and barbarity"" of the coerced ""psychological atomization"" have rarely been matched anywhere. Nor has the terror abated since resettlement into ""New Villages."" Refugees, still arriving in Thailand, testify that the ""cleansing"" continues with people executed for ""memory sickness"" (nostalgia for the old life) and such transgressions as illicit ""holding hands."" An uninflected portrait of maniacal totalitarianism, hard to believe and harder to stomach.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1977
Publisher: Reader's Digest--dist. by T. Y. Crowell