Formerly classified 1978 US diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks show that the US government essentially supported the Khmer Rouge, in order to maintain “stability” in Cambodia and weaken the Vietnamese communists.
The US sent a cable to six US embassies in Asia on 11 October 1978 claiming “We believe a national Cambodia must exist even though we believe the Pol Pot regime is the world’s worst violator of human rights.”
The documents also indicated that the Chinese government—a capitalist regime at this point, headed by Deng Xiaoping—supported the Khmer Rouge as well, going so far as to claim that the “reports of mass killings in Cambodia were untrue.” The Phnom Penh Post reports that “Chinese support for Cambodia was driven by fear of Vietnamese expansionism in the region.”
The Phnom Penh Post continues:
Yet while the US government was aware of the horrific actions of the Pol Pot regime, with a July 21 cable from the US Embassy in Laos estimating 2 million people had died at its hands, it refused overtures from the country’s previous leadership to challenge the Pol Pot government’s right to represent Cambodia at the United Nations.
A 16 December State Department cable to the UN insisted that, “If the Pol Pot regime was toppled, this could result in indefinite guerrilla warfare in Cambodia.”
The US government insisted that, in spite of the roughly 1 to 2 million people killed by the Khmer Rouge, Pol Pot maintained “stability” in Cambodia, and that was most important.
Those who follow Middle Eastern politics may notice that the US policy toward the Khmer Rouge sounds a lot like the US policy in Middle East today (see: Egypt under Sisi, Syria under Assad, and the theocratic Gulf absolute monarchies).