The Khmer Rouge killed about 25% of the Cambodian people. They become aware that only an external force could change the power structure, and this happened with the Cambodian–Vietnamese War.

If they continued killing people, then less people would produce food (they used low tech for farming). Starvation would increase, and the cycle continue.

Is there a study about what would have happened if Khmer Rouge remained in power in Cambodia? Would the country have descended into chaos, and become a failed state?

  • Yes, a chaotic failed state would have been so much worse...
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Aug 28, 2012 at 13:43
  • Have you ever read 1984? The book describes a political system bent on producing without benefiting and not creating a surplus through war. Orwell, the author, writes that without a surplus, nothing can change. (I am abbreviating about 20 pages) Based on his distopian, since the Khmer Rouge followed the story exactly, other than collapsing because of war, I'd guess nothing would ever change, the population would dwindle until there was no one left to feed the rulers, who would then die.
    – Russell
    Commented Aug 29, 2012 at 11:21
  • @T.E.D. A totalitarian powerful state would have been much worse... :)
    – Russell
    Commented Aug 29, 2012 at 11:22
  • 4
    This question appears to be off-topic because it is about a resource request for counterfactuals. Commented Nov 12, 2013 at 4:24
  • As long as the people with guns were happy and had food everything the killings would have continued. But at some point the people with guns would realize that the food would run out for them to if things continued like this. Two things can then happen: The leadership reverts its policies, and the state becomes a pragmatic dictatorship only interested in keeping power, and we would have essentially a second North Korea, or the state would have likely descended into complete chaos. At which point Vietnam would have invaded anyway. Commented Nov 12, 2013 at 8:48

1 Answer 1


I don't think such a study has ever been conducted; in general, "what if" studies are not done for "low impact" scenarios, and "Khmer Rouge in power" is certainly a low impact event for those with spare resources to undertake abstract research (i.e., the "rich countries").

However, I agree with the commenters that a typical failed state (starvation, population decline/collapse) would have persisted until either a coup by an establishment insider or a foreign invasion (as actually happened) upset the balance. A popular uprising is unlikely because of the lack of leadership, potential leaders being the first to be eliminated by a terrorist regime.

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