New Light on Cambodia’s Darkest Years: A Reappraisal of the Khmer-Rouge Death Toll

Patrick Heuveline, University of California, Los Angeles

Extant estimates of the number of deaths that resulted from the Khmer-Rouge ruling of Cambodia range from half a million to over three million excess deaths—a huge range considering that the country’s total population size was about 8 million at the outset of the Khmer-Rouge regime. This paper investigates this unsatisfactory range and whether it can be refined with either new data or new methodologies. It considers in particular the demographic reconstruction method—an approach several researchers have already applied to this estimation problem and which can always benefit newer or better data. This paper is the first to make full use of three new sources of data for the purpose of refining the death-toll estimates. The paper’s second innovation is to explore the uncertainty inherent to these estimates. Namely, it develops a stochastic approach to generate a distribution of 1,000 estimates, which then allows for various confidence intervals.

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Presented in Session 148: Demographic Determinants and Consequences of War, Conflict, and Terrorism