Family of about 130 Austroasiatic languages, spoken by more than 80 million people in South and Southeast Asia. Vietnamese has far more speakers than all other Austroasiatic languages combined. Other languages with many speakers are Muong, with about a million speakers in northern Vietnam; Khmer; Kuay (Kuy), with perhaps 800,000 speakers; and Mon, spoken by more than 800,000 people in southern Myanmar and parts of Thailand. Of all the Mon-Khmer languages, only Mon, Khmer, and Vietnamese have written traditions dating earlier than the 19th century. Old Mon, which is attested from the 7th century, was written in a script of South Asian origin that was later adapted by the Burmese (see Mon kingdom; Indic writing systems). Typical phonetic features of Mon-Khmer languages are a large vowel inventory and lack of tone distinctions.
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Radical communist movement that ruled Cambodia from 1975 to 1979. The Khmer Rouge, under the leadership of Pol Pot, opposed the government of the popular Norodom Sihanouk. They gained support after Sihanouk was toppled by Lon Nol (1970) and after U.S. forces bombed the countryside in the early 1970s. In 1975 the Khmer Rouge ousted Lon Nol. Their extraordinarily brutal regime led to the deaths (from starvation, hardship, and execution) of one to two million people. Overthrown in 1979 by the Vietnamese, they retreated to remote areas and continued their struggle for power in Cambodia. The last Khmer Rouge guerrillas surrendered in 1998.
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