A Look at the Khmer Rouge: Background information when reading In the Shadow of the Banyan

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Discuss |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

In the Shadow of the Banyan

A Novel

by Vaddey Ratner

In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner X
In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Jul 2012, 336 pages
    Paperback:
    Jun 2013, 320 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Poornima Apte

Buy This Book

A Look at the Khmer Rouge

This article relates to In the Shadow of the Banyan

Print Review

Before the Khmer Rouge (pronounced ki-mer roouze, effectively translating as Red Cambodians) wreaked havoc all over Cambodia and killed approximately one quarter of the country's seven million people, they were mostly a fringe communist guerrilla group operating in the jungles in the north of the country. Early in the 70s, then-Prince Norodom Sihanouk was deposed in a coup and, to retain support, he decided to seek the Khmer Rouge's help. This one move granted the group legitimacy and soon the Khmer Rouge, under the leadership of Pol Pot, became fairly popular in the villages and then slowly made their way into the cities.

Pol Pot Pol Pot had grand plans - he decided that Cambodians didn't require education or religion. All the country needed was an agrarian model of society so everyone could eat and survive. This meant of course that many had to be forced into agriculture. The Khmer Rouge achieved this by displacing millions of Cambodians from cities and moving them into forced labor camps in the countryside. Families were split asunder, each person serving a basic function in the overall chain of command. Those who were seen as a threat or who resisted were killed, while many others died from starvation and exhaustion under extreme conditions.

Soon the organization decided that Democratic Kampuchea (as Cambodia was renamed under the Khmer Rouge) needed to be cleansed of "polluting elements." As a result, professionals, foreigners (or anybody who looked even remotely "foreign"), the intelligentsia, and those considered unfaithful to the cause, were summarily executed in the country's "killing fields." (Today, some of these killing fields serve as memorials to those who died, and Buddhist shrines called stupas house the bones of the dead.) A commemorative stupa filled with the skulls of the victims at the Killing Field of Choeung Ek During the 70s, neighboring Vietnam was undergoing turmoil of its own, but this did not prevent the two countries from clashing repeatedly. Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge were eventually displaced in 1979 when Vietnam invaded from the North. In 1998, Pol Pot died in hiding - never having been brought to trial for his atrocities.

Other members of the Khmer Rouge were only recently (circa 2011) brought to trial through a special tribunal set up under the auspices of the United Nations. Even if these leaders were sentenced to prison, many Cambodians believed justice had not been adequately served in response to one of history's most horrific genocides.

Today, Cambodia has a multiparty democratic system under a constitutional monarchy.

For more information, watch PBS's excellent documentary on the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot, below (begins at 1 minute 20 seconds). Or look at Time's photo gallery entitled "The Legacy of Pol Pot: A Photographic Record of Mass Murder."



You can also watch a video of author Vaddey Ratner discussing why she chose to write the book, click on the video below:

This "beyond the book article" relates to In the Shadow of the Banyan. It originally ran in September 2012 and has been updated for the June 2013 paperback edition.

This article is available to non-members for a limited time. You can also read these articles for free. For full access, become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Beauty in the Broken Places
    Beauty in the Broken Places
    by Allison Pataki
    Ernest Hemingway wrote that we are "strong at the broken places," and Allison Pataki found that to ...
  • Book Jacket
    Love and Other Consolation Prizes
    by Jamie Ford
    Love and Other Consolation Prizes was read and reviewed by 22 BookBrowse members for First ...
  • Book Jacket: The Judge Hunter
    The Judge Hunter
    by Christopher Buckley
    In London 1664, Balthasar de St. Michel or "Balty" has no discernable skills besides pestering his ...
  • Book Jacket: Star of the North
    Star of the North
    by D.B. John
    It's summertime. You're looking for an absorbing thriller while you flop at the beach. ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Twelve-Mile Straight by Eleanor Henderson

An audacious American epic set in rural Georgia during the years of the Depression and Prohibition.

About the book
Join the discussion!

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Summer Wives
    by Beatriz Williams

    An electrifying postwar fable of love, class, power and redemption set on an island off the New England coast.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    The Family Tabor
    by Cherise Wolas

    Wolas's gorgeously rendered sophomore novel reckons with the nature of the stories we tell ourselves.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win A Place for Us

A Place For Us

A deeply moving story of love, identity and belonging--the first novel from Sarah Jessica Parker's new imprint.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

H, W H A Problem

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.