Transnational Networks of Dharma and Development: International Aid by Japanese Buddhists and the Revival of Buddhism in Post-Khmer Rouge Cambodia

  • Ranjana Mukhopadhyaya
Part of the Contemporary Anthropology of Religion book series (CAR)


Cambodian society is still recovering from the upheavals—wars, mass population dislocation, refugee crises, political executions, foreign occupation, destruction of traditional culture—of the 1970s and 1980s. Cambodian Buddhism and the Buddhist sangha also suffered during this period. The darkest period in the history of Cambodia was the era of the communist regime of Khmer Rouge (1975–1979), led by dictator Pol Pot, when the state apparatus was used to identify and eliminate “antisocialist” elements, resulting in the annihilation of almost one-fourth of Cambodia’s population. The Khmer Rouge policy of agrarian socialism led to widespread persecution of Buddhism in Cambodia.1 Buddhist monks were perceived as antisocialists and laypeople were discouraged from supporting economically unproductive monks, leading to the uprooting of the traditional monastic economy. An estimated 12,500 monks, around 19 percent of the 65,062 individuals who were officially recorded as being in robes in 1969, were subjected to violent deaths. Approximately 60,000 monks and novices were sent for reeducation, forced to disrobe, and enter into marriage or military service. Numerous copies of the Buddhist scriptures, including almost all copies of the Khmer Pali Tipitaka, were destroyed.


Picture Book Refugee Camp Khmer Rouge Official Development Assistance Japan International Cooperation Agency 
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© Hiroko Kawanami and Geoffrey Samuel 2013

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  • Ranjana Mukhopadhyaya

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