"They Will Rot the Society, Rot the Party, and Rot the Army"*: Toxification as an Ideology and Motivation for Perpetrating Violence in the Khmer Rouge Genocide?

Timothy Williams, Rhiannon Neilsen

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    The genocide perpetrated by the Khmer Rouge between 1975 and 1979 appears as one of the most totalitarian manifestations of political violence in the 20th century. This article explores the ideological framework constructed by the Khmer Rouge, and looks into whether and how this influences and motivates individual low-level cadres in their participation. Our findings show that toxification as a genocidal ideology was present in the Khmer Rouge discourse, and provided a lens of legitimacy for individuals to engage in acts of violence. But such a genocidal ideology was not a motivating factor for individual perpetrators in the Cambodian genocide. This research forwards the comparative investigation of the Khmer Rouge genocide in Cambodia as an important case of genocide, both at the societal and individual levels, as well as the general study of toxification as a genocidal ideology.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)494-515
    JournalTerrorism and Political Violence
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 2019

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