Photo of three young boys seated in a field, carrying weapons and one injured with a head bandage.

The Khmer Rouge used children as soldiers in its five-year-long civil war to establish a communist government in Cambodia.

Politically Motivated Mass Murder in Cambodia

During the Vietnam War, fighting spilled over into neighboring Cambodia. The North Vietnamese sent supplies through Cambodia to guerrilla forces in South Vietnam. In 1969, the United States bombed those routes and then briefly invaded Cambodia.

After the Americans left, Cambodian communist guerrillas, the Khmer Rouge (kuh MEHR roozh), gained ground and overthrew the government in 1975. Led by the brutal dictator Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge unleashed a reign of terror. To destroy all Western influences, they drove people from the cities and forced them to work in the fields. They slaughtered, starved, or worked to death more than one million Cambodians, about a third of the population.

In 1979, Vietnam invaded and occupied Cambodia, ending the genocide. Pol Pot and his forces retreated to remote areas. In 1993, UN peacekeepers supervised elections. Despite guerrillas who still terrorized parts of the country, a new government began to rebuild Cambodia.


  1. Draw Conclusions Why did the French withdraw from Indochina in the 1950s?
  2. Apply Concepts How was American involvement in Vietnam an extension of the Truman Doctrine?
  3. Compare Points of View What different opinions did Americans have about U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War?
  4. Synthesize When the text states that “dominoes fell” after the Vietnam War, what does this mean?
  5. Summarize How did the local struggle in Vietnam reflect the larger Cold War conflict?

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Table of Contents

World History Topic 1 Origins of Civilization (Prehistory–300 B.C.) Topic 2 The Ancient Middle East and Egypt (3200 B.C.–500 B.C.) Topic 3 Ancient India and China (2600 B.C.–A.D. 550) Topic 4 The Americas (Prehistory–A.D. 1570) Topic 5 Ancient Greece (1750 B.C.–133 B.C.) Topic 6 Ancient Rome and the Origins of Christianity (509 B.C.-A.D. 476) Topic 7 Medieval Christian Europe (330–1450) Topic 8 The Muslim World and Africa (730 B.C.-A.D. 1500) Topic 9 Civilizations of Asia (500–1650) Topic 10 The Renaissance and Reformation (1300–1650) Topic 11 New Global Connections (1415–1796) Topic 12 Absolutism and Revolution Topic 13 The Industrial Revolution Topic 14 Nationalism and the Spread of Democracy (1790–1914) Topic 15 The Age of Imperialism (1800–1914) Topic 16 World War I and the Russian Revolution (1914–1924) Topic 17 The World Between the Wars (1910–1939) Topic 18 World War II (1930–1945) Topic 19 The Cold War Era (1945–1991) Topic 20 New Nations Emerge (1945–Present) Topic 21 The World Today (1980-Present) United States Constitution Primary Sources 21st Century Skills Atlas Glossary Index Acknowledgments