Terms to know: Khmer Rouge: Followers of the Communist Party of Kampuchea that ruled Cambodia from 1975 to 1979. Nixon Doctrine

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The Killing Fields Film Guide
Terms to know:
Khmer Rouge: Followers of the Communist Party of Kampuchea that ruled Cambodia from 1975 to 1979.
Nixon Doctrine: Put on July 25, 1969 by U.S. President Richard Nixon. He stated that the United States henceforth expected its allies to take care of their own military defense, but that the U.S. would aid in defense only as requested. The Doctrine argued for the pursuit of peace through a partnership with American allies.
Sydney Schanberg: An award winning journalist who covered the genocide in Cambodia for the New York Times.
Dith Pran: Sydney Schanberg’s friend and guide through Cambodia during his coverage of the area at the time of the Vietnam War.
Communism: a political and economic system by which the needs of the state are placed ahead of the needs of the individual.
Embassy: An area used to house diplomats from another country. Entering a country’s embassy is considered being on that country’s soil.
Background (C.I.A. WORLD FACT BOOK):


Most Cambodians consider themselves to be Khmers, descendants of the Angkor Empire that extended over much of Southeast Asia and reached its zenith between the 10th and 13th centuries. Attacks by the Thai and Cham (from present-day Vietnam) weakened the empire, ushering in a long period of decline. The king placed the country under French protection in 1863 and it became part of French Indochina in 1887. Following Japanese occupation in World War II, Cambodia gained full independence from France in 1953. In April 1975, after a five-year struggle, Communist Khmer Rouge forces captured Phnom Penh and evacuated all cities and towns. At least 1.5 million Cambodians died from execution, forced hardships, or starvation during the Khmer Rouge regime under POL POT. A December 1978 Vietnamese invasion drove the Khmer Rouge into the countryside, began a 10-year Vietnamese occupation, and touched off almost 13 years of civil war. The 1991 Paris Peace Accords mandated democratic elections and a ceasefire, which was not fully respected by the Khmer Rouge. UN-sponsored elections in 1993 helped restore some semblance of normalcy under a coalition government. Factional fighting in 1997 ended the first coalition government, but a second round of national elections in 1998 led to the formation of another coalition government and renewed political stability. The remaining elements of the Khmer Rouge surrendered in early 1999. Some of the surviving Khmer Rouge leaders are awaiting trial for crimes against humanity by a hybrid UN-Cambodian tribunal supported by international assistance. Elections in July 2003 were relatively peaceful, but it took one year of negotiations between contending political parties before a coalition government was formed. In October 2004, King Norodom SIHANOUK abdicated the throne and his son, Prince Norodom SIHAMONI, was selected to succeed him. Local elections were held in Cambodia in April 2007, with little of the pre-election violence that preceded prior elections. National elections in July 2008 were relatively peaceful.


  1. Where is this film taking place?

  1. When is this film taking place?

  1. What languages are spoken at the restaurant?

  1. What did the journalists use to get on the military boat to the bombed village?

  1. During the visit to the bombed village (before the 1st execution scene) what Western Cultural influences were present?

  1. How did the Cambodian military deal with prisoners?

  1. What happened to the journalists after the execution scene?

  1. What does it mean to “sanitize the story?”

  1. What do you think a telex is?

  1. What kind of cars do they like in Cambodia?

  1. Where is the U.S. military set up in the war torn city?

  1. How did the Khmer Rouge rebels identify themselves?

  1. Where does Bob work and what does he tell Sydney is going to happen?

  1. What does Sydney try to do for his guide, Dith Pran?

  1. What does Dith Pran decide to do?

  2. Why did the rebels feign peace (fake their surrender)?

  1. What happened to the journalists after leaving the hospital?

  1. What did the journalists witness in captivity?

  1. What were the rebel captors drinking?

  1. Why do you think the rebels allowed the journalists to go free?

  1. Where did the journalists go?

  1. What other foreign dignitaries show up at the French Embassy?

  1. Who are forced to leave the French Embassy?

  1. How do the journalists try to help Dith Pran? Are they successful?

  1. What is Sydney watching a video of while back home in New York?

  1. Where is Dith Pran?

  1. Why does Dith Pran keep the lizard?

  1. Why did the Khmer Rouge encourage the school boy to cross out the stick figures on the chalk board?

  1. What is the goal of the Khmer Rouge regarding Cambodian culture? Give an example.

  1. Why does Dith Pran tell us, “only the silent survive?”

  1. As Dith Pran travels across the fields of Cambodia, of what crime does he find evidence?

  1. What are some of the cultural differences between Sydney’s home in New York and the home of the Cambodian family that takes in Dith Pran?

  1. How does the level of media technology in the United States at the time of the film compare to the level of media technology in Cambodia? Be specific.

  1. When does the film end? How long was Dith Pran’s ordeal?

  1. Give an example from the film of each of the following human geography concepts?

    1. Cultural diffusion:

    2. Globalization:

    3. Movement of ideas:

    4. Forced migration:

    5. Lingua franca:

    6. Folk culture:

    7. Popular culture:

    8. Genocide:

    9. Refugees:

Clinton Urges Prosecutions for Khmer Rouge Leaders

VOA News01 November 2010

US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton looks at a wall of faces of those killed by the Khmer Rouge regime, during a tour of the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, formerly the regime's notorious S-21 prison, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, 01 Nov 2010

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited a former Khmer Rouge torture center in the Cambodian capital Monday and called for the prosecution of those responsible. She made the visit before meetings with Prime Minister Hun Sen and other top leaders.

U.S. officials said the secretary will appeal to the government leaders to improve their respect for human rights.

Thousands of people were tortured and killed by Khmer Rouge officials at the Tuol Sleng prison, which has been turned into a museum. After her tour, Clinton wrote in a guest book, calling for those responsible to be prosecuted.

An international tribunal convicted the former warden of the prison in July and plans to hold trials for four more Khmer Rouge leaders. Hun Sen said last week he does not want the tribunal to try anyone else, prompting objections from U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

Clinton, who is on a multi-nation tour of Asia, spent Sunday in the Cambodian city of Siem Reap, where she visited a U.S.-funded rehabilitation center for victims of human trafficking. She also visited the nearby Angkor Wat temple.

In Phnom Penh, she was to see King Norodom Sihamoni and Foreign Minister Hor Namhong, as well as Hun Sen. Monday evening, she is scheduled to travel to Malaysia for meetings Tuesday with government and opposition leaders, including Anwar Ibrahim, who is on trial accused of sodomy.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.

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