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Poorly written, untenable explanation of Khmer Rouge.
on 16 July 1999
This much heralded history by the Australian historian Kiernan has turned out to be a big disappointment. Despite his access to enormous amounts of information, he shows no talent for organizing the material, nor being able to discern what is important from what is trivial. His prose style is extremely dull. And as many reviewers have pointed out (e.g. New York Review of Books, Washington Post) his explanation of the Khmer Rouge (misnamed the Pol Pot regime) as being primarily motivated by racism, doesn't hold water. The overwhelming majority of the Khmer Rouge victims -- some of whom included many of my relatives -- were from the ethnic Khmer majority, not from Cambodia's ethnic minorities. Kiernan, as a former supporter of Pol Pot (until 1978) who is now a supporter of the current Hun Sen regime in Cambodia, seems determined to protect what he considers the "good" idea of communism from the bad reputation of Pol Pot. As an Australian educated Cambodian, who has studied the history of communism, I find Kiernan's perspective quite bizarre, not to say morally repugnant. A far better written and more reliable account of the topic is Elizabeth Becker's When The War Was Over. The most reliable academic history is David Chandler's Tragedy of Cambodian History and the relevant sections of his briefer History of Cambodia.