The Khmer Rouge

You will see that there is the core or main article but then there are later, dated, insertions and addititions.
The latest article added today – December 13 2011 – titled ‘The effects of the Khmer Rouge Trubunal on our villages” is added at the current end – after an article added on September 6 about a wikileaks article. (two later articles were added on May 2 2015.
There are 2, 250,000 search results on Google for “Khmer Rouge”….But I think we need 5 minutes of background and then relevance to our situation….two million people were killed….. but millions of people have been and are killed in wars and conflicts across the globe….SO, what is different about CAMBODIA?
I have been here in our Prey Veng villages for seven years and building schools for four years and wanting this website for three years. I now know a number of politicians at all levels of government – local elders who lived through the Khmer Rouge (KR) years and are here now as I write in April 2011 awaiting the trial of “Brother Number 2’, Pol Pot’s deputy. So these are my notes on the Khmer Rouge regime and its impact for us.
1974. This was how it was in 1974. Cambodia had only officially lost the entire area of South Vietnam, including Saigon, to Vietnam in 1949. It was all asked for by Hanoi and given to Vietnam in the very last throes of French colonial rule. To this day in 2011, most Khmers (Cambodians) quietly call South Vietnam, Kampuchea Krom which means southern Cambodia. South Vietnam is currently very similar culturally to rural Cambodia particularly the most southern rich farming and fishing areas of the Mekong Delta.
The Vietnam War had been raging but was now officially ended. Before and during the Vietnam War the USA mistakenly thought that North Vietnam was attacking the South as part of the Communist ‘domino theory’…and the US got involved in it….big time. It is now widely accepted, even in Washington, that it had little or nothing to do with Communism – it was a civil war between two cultures.

 ADDED on MAY 02 2015

 two links and comments from me. The links are from Very recent news articles
For much of the past 45 years, the US has tried to deny that it invaded Cambodia – has tried to deny that the USA killed 500,000 Cambodian civilians. In fact the US NOW understands that North Vietnam invading South Vietnam had NOTHING to do with the spread of Communism – it was the North trying to unite its very different halves – basically, South Vietnam was only recently part of Cambodia and a very different sort of place to the North. Indeed the USA’s invasion of Cambodia rather than halt any spread of Communism, contributed in a very big way to the rapid rise of the Khmer Rouge – John
The US invasion of Cambodia  inadvertently encouraged the rise of the Khmer Rouge – the US then went on to mistakenly BACK THE WRONG SIDE. This article helps to explain how. In fact, the US hated Vietnam so much that they invited Pol Pot to address the UN!! It was a case of ‘any enemy of Vietnam is our friend’. (all Vietnam was trying to do was explain to the world what this mad man Pol Pot was doing next door). The world, or rather the US, refused to believe Vietnam. John
So -this war didn’’t accidentally spill over into Cambodia. It is estimated that 500,000…half a million… Cambodian civilians were killed in US air strikes. It was Nixon and Kissengers ‘secret war’. Between 1969 and 1973 the Us dropped more bombs on Cambodia than they dropped on Japan throughout World War Two. The air strikes were supposedly targeting Viet Cong (N Vietnamese soldiers)..Almost throughout the Vietnam War the US government denied that they ever attacked any part of Cambodia. Cambodians knew the truth and were angry.


I added this photo on November 3 2011. It shows in red the areas bombed by US aircraft. (more bombs on Cambodia than on Japan during WW2 (see above)
So, by combining the Kampuchea Krom issue with the US attacks along with rampant corruption of the Cambodian Government and greed of protected private enterprise…..REVOLUTION was looming…A communist or RED (ROUGE) revolution.
What we have to understand is that to begin with the Khmer Rouge was very popular; a great many surviving older Cambodians were either actually in the KR or supporting it. Many current politicians in 2011 were ONCE supporters of the Khmer Rouge. This does not make them bad. They had once wanted to fight common enemies – The Vietnamese, the USA and corrupt capitalism.
Brother Number One was Pol Pot. Pol Pot’s hero was Chairman Mao Tse-tung of China. Pol Pot wanted an agrarian revolution. Mao told Pol Pot to try to re-educate everyone about the evils of ownership and all foreign corrupt knowledge. Pol Pot quickly decided that he didn’t have time to re-educate ANYONE – so anyone who fitted any of these evil pictures would be ‘destroyed’…although this actually meant killing someone’s entire family he denied he was killing people, he was destroying evil. – – so the list of ‘crimes’ punishable by death increased rapidly….from all politicians, businessmen, leaders to all teachers, doctors, nurses, all speakers of foreign languages and eventually anyone who wore glasses – because one could assume that ‘glasses’ meant the wearer could read.
Of the 12,000 to be imprisoned and tortured at S21, Toul Sleng, only 7 survived. The 7 discovered still alive on the day it all ended. One of the 7 could paint and he has painted a number of heart wrenching and sickening pictures of life inside. This one is of sleeping conditions.
(The paragraph above about 12,000 prisoners was written in July 2011 when the artist – Vann Nath was still alive. Sadly Vann Nath died in Sptember 2011.. There is an article from the Phnom Penh Post below written at the time of his death below. There is also an extract from “Lonely Planet” {with acknowledgement} below written 14 months before his death)
This Killing Field is just north of Phnom Penh. There are many other sites around Cambodia, with twelve main ones. After 1979, the finds were so gruesome with many headless bodies and most of the women were naked prior to execution (with later confessions about rape before execution)
All the Cambodian authorities could think of doing was a massive stupa of skulls.
Almost as soon as the holding and torture centers started and the Killing Fields started the mass of popular support for KR fell away but it wasn’t for some time that people strongly believed Pol Pot to be dangerously deranged..BUT no one in the outside world would accept the stories leaking out of Cambodia as true. Indeed when Vietnam told the UN what was happening next door to them, the UN responded by inviting Pol Pot to address the UN on ‘The Kampuchea model Government’. The reason behind the UN ‘mistake’ is that the USA had only just been humiliated by Vietnam and any enemy of Vietnam was a friend of the USA.
Hun Sen, the current Prime Minister of Cambodia and four KR soldier friends sneaked into Vietnam to tell the Hanoi Government what was happening (our boss is crazy) and Hun Sen warned Vietnam that within three months KR guerrillas would be in the streets of Saigon with the intent of taking back South Vietnam. The Vietnamese imprisoned the five soldiers because their story seemed outrageous. When the KR guerrillas did in fact appear in the streets of Saigon, the five were released but this time Vietnam didn’t bother with the UN, the Vietnamese air force and army invaded Cambodia. The KR was weaker than it had been by now; after all many leading soldiers had been killed by their very own policies and questioning. The Khmer Rouge was pushed into the remote jungles of north west Cambodia where unfortunately they simmered on until the mid to late 1990s! Two million were now dead (in addition to the 500,000 victims of US bombing) and it was 1979.
In 2011 many villages in NW Cambodia, tucked away in small villages, a few Cambodians have KR longings. On the two issues of South Vietnam and a border problem around Preah Vehear Temple ( clearly Cambodian and accepted so to be by the UN)
With a politically delicate Thailand, SOME Cambodians quietly wish for the vicious strength of those Khmer Rouge days.
(The historic hay day of the Khmer Empire was around Siem Reap in NW Cambodia at Angkor Wat between the 10th and 15th centuries. Pol Pot dreamt of that sort of power. The Khmer Empire had dominated much of Thailand, much of Vietnam and all of Malaysia.)
This period of time from 1975 to 1979 and the political outcomes has left Cambodia with peace and stability but some ignored issues. Hun Sen has been there since the beginning and wants no more strife in Cambodia. Vietnam is a good and close ally of Cambodia and to call South Vietnam or Kampuchea Krom an issue at all is regarded as completely impractical. In fact he is probably right unless Cambodia were to fight a completely unwinnable war.
Most Cambodian people like Hun Sens strength over the Thai border issue over Preah Vehear. Cambodia is stable now.
BUT BUT BUT in 1979 every one in Cambodia woke up to the end of the terror of the KR years but with only a very tiny handful of teachers, doctors, leaders, actors, scientists, engineers…….
The effect of Pol Pot’s four years was and is utterly devastating. It wasn’t just any two million. Pol Pot had taken Cambodia’s “brain” and left a nation of desperately lost people.
I’ll give you just one example of the millions of examples of the problems that still exist after 32 years:-
Dr. Dins story:
Chuor Ph’av is our main village; it’s where I live. The doctor is Dr. Din he had been the village doctor since 1979…30 years. I brushed over the fact that seriously ill people simply died and that my neighbour NANGs epilepsy was treated or rather untreated as insanity until I saw her ‘insanity’….it was obvious to me that she had epilepsy so I took her and her family to Phnom Penh for diagnosis and the start of treatment…I ignored that fact that now knowing of Nang’s ILLNESS, Din refused to take part in her treatment.
(Nang was considered ‘crazy’ and ignored until we arrived. Her epilepsy was completely unrecognized until our arrival. Eventually I gave her away at her wedding and she is with her baby, Peery, in this photo. I have a great many photos of Nang’s progress and may well add them to the website at a later date. Nang of course had no schooling since there wasn’t one and was simply ‘The crazy girl to be avoided.)
I ignored the fact that all apparent illnesses were treated the same, with IV salts and vitamins..But when he gave himself two 500 ampicillin (penicillin capsules) in total for what was clearly a serious chest infection and on the same day the same total dosage was given to a 12 year old boy with what was probable pneumonia – I questioned, nicely, Dins knowledge. He eagerly told me his story;
He started Medical School in the city of Prey Veng in 1974..It was to be a seven year course as in the west and as it now is in Cambodia..In 1975 the KR took over and started killing all the doctors and their teachers. He spent the next 4 years rice growing back in his village denying he could even read. In 1979 the KR was gone so he returned to the building that had been a medical school in Prey Veng to find no teachers, and no doctors or course. The new interim government told him he’d studied for a year so he was Dr. Din. Sadly he hadn’t reached penicillin in his studies and I suspect that 100s if not thousands have died in that village alone through lack of health care. ,(the first post KR government was Vietnam controlled, then influenced, then after 10 years supported by UN peacekeepers…until slowly slowly – eventually – stability)
Anyway, the moment Din finished telling me his story; I told him we could help with books and part time education. In his particular case it was too late, he thought he was too old to help. Din moved on last year so now we are left even without one seventh of a doctor. At the moment we refer what we don’t understand to the small hospital in Prey Veng. We are building a clinic in the village to cover several neighbouring villages. It will be run by nurses who will double as nutrition, hygiene, sanitation advisors.
Soon there will be a new section (I am writing this paragraph in September 2011) entitled ‘Nang’s Story’. There is reference to Nang in the BLOG section. Without our constant intervention Nang would have died MANY times…but our interention, which is constantly needed, is far less than anyone gets in a western country. OUR help has excited Calmette Hostpital enough for them to ask me to write her ‘story’ and the villagers are now very aware that for many of them, death is not an inevitable end for illness. (Much more of this later).. Meanwhile here’s a photo of Nang, two year old Peery (her daughter) her mother Cheng and younger sister, Mab.
(There are also photos of Nang and Peery in the ‘village life’ section’
Added may 4 2015 -. There is a page entitled Nang’s Story’ – see the index to the left of screen. There are many photos of Nang and her daughter Peery and the full ‘story’ – Very  sadly on  February 01 2015 Nang died. Peery is supported.)
So…back to the small boy with probable pneumonia; I gave $10 to a boy and told him to go by motor bike to a market in Prey Veng and come back with as many 500mg ampicillin capsules that $10 could buy. He returned with a plastic carrier bag packed full. I suggested to Din that the boy should live close by and that I would dispense four per day for ten days. Din though it was an incredible waste of resources, but agreed. The boy, Ying, got better and now works in the timber industry near the Thai border and sends some money home.. He earns $2 a day.
There are a lot of tragic stories now told, not only within Cambodia, but in Lowell, Mass in the USA and Long Beach California, Australia and New Zealand and everywhere the refugees of those four years settled.
Just an incidental comment (but obviously I think it’s important), many of the refugees have done well and some go back to help but many don’t go back to help. For some it is that they want to forget and can’t forget and want a brand new life for their children; some even deny that they are Cambodian. For some, they “would help but I hate the prime minister.”…To that reason I would say even indirectly we are not helping the prime minister, we are helping the people left behind. They are the real Cambodia…Please Help.
With hands clasped together we are asking, “Som Loi”? – please give money.
This photo and article are taken from The Phnom
Penh Post of September 6 2011.
In this photo taken on Aug. 9, 2010, a Cambodian
survivors, Vann Nath, 66, is seen at Tuol Sleng genocide museum, formerly Khmer
Rouge’s notorious S-21 prison in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Nath lapsed into a coma
in late August, 2011, after developing breathing difficulties, and his daughter
Vann Chan Simen says he passed away on Monday, Sept. 5.
“I very much regret losing Vann Nath.”
Vann Nath, a Khmer Rouge
prisoner who survived by painting portraits of Pol Pot, died in Phnom Penh on
Monday, following an 11-day coma brought on by a heart attack, family members
and health officials said.
Vann Nath, who was born in 1946
into a poor family in Battambang province, survived the Khmer Rouge’s notorious
Tuol Sleng prison and had been an ardent supporter of victims’ justice at the
UN-backed tribunal.
He served as a witness in Case
001 at the tribunal, which put Kaing Kek Iev, the supervisor of Tuol Sleng
prison better known as Duch, on trial for atrocity crimes.
More than 12,000 Cambodians
were tortured and sent to their deaths at the prison, known to the Khmer Rouge
as S-21. Vann Nath was among seven known Tuol Sleng survivors. He said later he
had been spared in order to paint portraits of Pol Pot, and he went on to pen a
memoir about his time at the prison.
When Duch was given a commuted
sentence of 19 years—a decision that is still under consideration at the tribunal’s
Supreme Court Chamber—Vann Nath said he could “accept” the court’s decision.
He died at a local private
clinic at 12:45 pm, according to family members. His body was prepared at the
clinic and transported to his home in Prampimakara district, Phnom Penh, where
it was to be prepared for a seven-day Buddhist ceremony.
His wife, Kit Eng, 62, said she
regretted the loss of a “good husband.”
“We always appeared together at
the [tribunal] to find justice for victims,” said fellow prison survivor Chhum
Mey. “I very much regret losing Vann Nath.”
In peacetime, Vann Nath created
indelible images came to characterize the terror of the Khmer Rouge and its
policies of torture and imprisonment. His death was deeply felt across the
diplomatic and civic community.
In a joint statement, the
embassies of France and Japan called him a “tireless freedom fighter” who had
preserved the reality of the Khmer Rouge period through his painting and
Huy Vannak, a spokesman for the
tribunal, said he personally regretted the passing of Vann Nath before the
court was able to reach a final verdict for his captor, Duch. That decision,
which includes appeals for his release and for more jail time, is expected
later this year.
Lath Ky, a tribunal monitor for
the rights group Adhoc, said he felt “very sorry” for Vann Nath’s death, and he
urged to court to take it as a message to speed its work, including finding a
final verdict for Duch.
“I think Vann Nath’s family, as
well as all of the other civil parties and other survivors, want to see a final
resolution to the Duch [trial] as very soon as possible,” said Clair Duffy, a
court observer for the Open Society Justice Initiative.
This article was written by Nick Ray for the 2010 Edtion of Lonely Planet’s Cambodia. It appears on page 95 and is written here with acknowledgement to Nick Ray and Lonely Planet . The Edtion appeared just 14 months before the death of Vann Nath.
Cambodian artist Vann Nath is famous the world over for his depictions of Khmer Rouge torture scenes at S21 Security Prison in Phnom Penh. He was one of only seven survivors to emerge from the experience alive and, together with fellow prisoners Chum Mey and Bou Meng, there are just three men alive today to tell their tale.
Vann Nath was born in Battambang in 1946 and took up painting as a teenager, finding work as a sign painter and artist for cinema posters. Like many Cambodians, his life was tuirned upside down by the Khmer Rouge takeover and he found himself evacuated to the countryside along with other urban Cambodians. On 7 January 1978 he was taken to S-21 prison, aged 32 years, and spent the next year living in hellish surrounds, as thousands preished around him.
As one of the only survivors of the notorious prison, the Vietnamese brought him back to S-21 from 1980 to 1982 to paint the famous images we see today. He spent much of the subsequent decade enlisted in the Cambodian Army, battling his former tormentors along the Thai border region.
‘I only started to paint again after the 1993 election, as I felt more free to speak openly,’ he says.
‘This is when I was discovered by the world and became famous for my museum paintings.’
I ask what it feels like to see Tuol Sleng as a tourist attraction today. ‘We must think of the souls who died there,’ he laments. ‘These souls died without hope, without light, without a future. They had no life,’ he continues, ‘so I paint my scenes to tell the world the stories of those who did not survive.’
He remembers a pledge he made back in 1978 when first incarcerated: ‘We were taken up to a holding room on the first floor,’ he tells me, ‘We agreed that whoever survives would need to tell the families of the victims how they met their fate.’ As one of the only survivors he is duty-bound to tell the world what happened.
So how does it feel to return to the scene of such personal horrors? ‘The first time I went back was a real struggle, as everything looked the same as before,’ he recalls, ‘I could hardly speak or move.’
We finish by talking about the Khmer Rouge tribunal for surviving leaders. Vann Nath has learnt about Human Rights in the years since his imprisonment, but it’s hard to accept as a victim. ‘As a person who represents thousands of dead preisoners, I am not sure the tribunal will deliver enough justice for the dead,’ he muses. Based on human rights it may be fair, but the Khmer Rouge was about human wrongs as well.’ He says with an ironic smile.
‘If we talk about human feeling, then we must want more than this, but we must ask ourselves what is fair’? he considers. ‘If we demand too much justice then it becomes revenge. I just hope the court will deliver justice fairly.’ He says with dignity.”
Vann Nath painted the scenes of torture and brutality of The Khmer Rouge regime, which are on display at Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. “
Vann Nath was also the author of ‘A Cambodia Prison Portrait: One Year in the Khmer Rouge’s S-21.’
related WikiLeaks:
“The United States proposed
sending Khmer Rouge leaders including
Pol Pot, Ieng Sary and Ta Mok to China to prevent their return to
power, according to a 1989 diplomatic cable found in the trove of more
than 250,000 dispatches released last week by WikiLeaks.
The full cache of cables that WikiLeaks began releasing last November
– as part of the largest leak in diplomatic history – is now
available online without redactions.
Of the 251,287 US diplomatic cables WikiLeaks claimed in its
possession, just 777 were posted from diplomats in Phnom Penh. Those
were made public in July, yet a total of 2,447 dispatches from the US
State Department and embassies around the world catalogue developments
related to Cambodia.
A confidential cable from the office of then-US Secretary of State
Lawrence Eagleburger in September, 1989, laid out US policy toward
Cambodia as peace talks stalled and the Vietnamese began their
withdrawal after a decade in the Kingdom.
Eagleburger took a harsh view of the Vietnam-backed Hun Sen regime:
“The main obstacle to progress, of course, was the totally
intransigent attitude which Hanoi and the Phnom Penh regime adopted”
regarding a proposed interim government headed by King Father Norodom
In talking points for countries involved in the peace negotiat-ions,
Eagleburger instructed diplomats to ask China to “restrict the
movement of arms to the Khmer Rouge” and make way for their political
“The continued presence in Cambodia of senior Khmer Rouge leaders
like Pol Pot, Ieng Sary and Ta Mok is particularly troublesome. It
would be helpful to efforts to find a solution to this conflict, if
your government would strongly encourage these unacceptable Khmer
Rouge leaders to relocate to China,” the cable states.
A more recent cable details Chinese reaction to US criticism of
Cambodia’s deportation of 20 Uighur asylum-seekers on December 19,
Zheng Zeguang, director general of the North American and Oceania
affairs department in the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs,
reportedly told Robert Goldberg, charge d’affaires at the US embassy
in Beijing, on December 23 that the US had “chosen to stand on the
wrong side of history” on the issue.
The day before the deportat-ion, a representative from the UN High
Commissioner for Refugees in Beijing reportedly said in a different
cable from the Beijing embassy she was “concerned” the Cambodians
would cave in to Chinese pressure during the visit of Vice President
Xi Jinping “as he would almost certainly bring up the Uighurs”.
Xi Jinping announced US$1.2 billion in loans and grants to Cambodia
two days after police raided a Phnom Penh safe house and deported the
The oldest dispatch that mentions Cambodia at length is an
unclassified report from the embassy in Bangkok on a trip by Prime
Minister Hun Sen – then premier of the People’s Republic of
Kampuchea – in January, 1989, to discuss peace negotiations with his
Thai counterparts.
Hun Sen’s “22-member entourage” included his wife, Bun Rany, as
well as a number of members of the current government who held
prominent roles in the PRK: Defence Minister Tea Banh (then a
general), Supreme Court President Dith Munty (then minister of foreign
affairs) and Commerce Minister Cham Prasidh (then deputy prime
The US embassy has declined to comment on the cables released by
The effects of the Khmer Rouge War Crimes Tribunal on our villages in Kamchay Mear. … by John Mann December 13 2011
The photo is of Ming  (Auntie) who is around 90 years of age and has excellent mental faculties. The village and Auntie open up about the Khmer Rouge and the Vietnam War
I first arrived in Cambodia as a tourist in 2004 and visited Chuor Ph’av village in early 2005. Since that time no one has ever mentioned either the US bombing of much of Eastern Cambodia during the Vietnam War or even the Khmer Rouge until one week ago. (I am publishing this on December 13 2011) Indeed I was initially told a half truth – “You are the first white man anyone has met in this village in anyones memory.” said to me by Auntie in 2004. Auntie is around 90 years old now and blind (referred to frequently through this website.).. She now tells me – she doesn’t count angry soldiers with guns as people she has ‘met’.
Khmer Rouge Tribunal
The people of the villages listen to the news on radios. I now know that they have been fully aware of all the preparations and arguments and now the Khmer Rouge trials themselves –
First of all there was Comrade Duch the beaurocratic psychopath who ran the S21 torture and interroagtion prison from which, nightly, inmates were taken to the Killing Fields. In all Duch oversaw the murder of some 16,000 people during the KR four year reign. He admitted guilt but he repeatedly claimed that he was following strict orders from the leaders on pain of death if he refused. He was found guilty and is in prison…… SO,  then everyone waited for the trial of the ‘leaders’ – the obviously guilty ones.
Over the years many ‘leaders’ have of course died of old age – effectively leaving four of the most senior to stand trial. Recently the ‘First Lady’ of the regime, Ieng Thirith has been found to have what is probably Alzheimer’s disease and has been released.

(She is probably as guilty as the others and was Minister of Social Action in the Government of ‘Democratic Kampuchea’) EDIT DEC 14: MANY ARE RELIEVED THAT SHE REMAINS IN CUSTODY>
That leaves three men.
Nuon Chea – Brother number two (Pol Pot was number one). He was regarded as Pol Pot’s deputy.
Kheu Samphan – President (although Pol Pot was above him)
Iieng Sery – Foreign Minister with the government of Democratic Kampuchea.
Our villagers and people across the country have listened intently as the three men have been accused. Brother number two first – accused of everything imaginable. and that he oversaw and demanded all the crimes we know of. Many are ready to testify that it was all done on the orders of the regime leaders.
So everyone waited for the initial defence responses from these three….. One by one the three old men simply angrily accused everyone else of committing the crimes they are accused of. They demanded apologies and asked to be released.
Brother number 2, Nuon Chea, claims he is COMPLETELY innocent and that it was ‘the Vietnamese and a few rogue elements in the Khmer Rouge who committed atrocities.’ He went on to claim that he loved Cambodia and that in fact he was a hero… As if to ‘ice the cake’ he added that monks would be his witness that he loved Cambodia…….
….. {several international commentators pointed out that it would be difficult to find any monks who survived the Khmer Rouge since most of them were murdered on the orders of these very men!!}
All three are saying the same sorts of things and saying that they new nothing of torture, rapes and forced marriages to soldiers, not to mention 2 million deaths.
Soon the forced evacuation of all cities will be addressed and surely they can’t deny that they ordered this (it was right at the beginning). Some of the worst things happened on these marches to the rural areas.. All hospitals had been emptied so of course, a great many died en route. It is probable that 1000s died in those first days and then as crops failed and the regime got harsher and harsher, 1000s died of starvation.
There have now been three weeks of initial statements from both prosecution and defence – leaving the nation, first in shock at their claims of innocence but now there is anger and some confusion.
The feeling of Khmer people seems to be, ‘how can they obviously believe that they are innocent?’
In Chuor Ph’av village

In the Kamchay Mear District of Prey Veng in South Eastern Cambodia, the older men and women – people over 40 – are TALKING for the first time since 1979.
Three weeks ago in our villages it was rice cutting time (harvesting) – hard work – all the daylight hours -. In the evening, people gathered and ate and drank rice wine – and talked and talked and talked.
The Khmer Rouge was supposedly all about an ‘Agrarian Revolution’ – a return to absolute farming basics… basically the Stone Age….. SO you might expect that dirt poor rice farmers in Prey Veng would be spared or even applauded… remember the Khmer Rouge were evacuating everyone to rural areas and were killing ALL ‘educated’ people.- but no – the villages suffered too. Firstly the soldiers AND the leaders  took everything they needed and wanted. Rape was the norm and forced marriage to KR soldiers, universal.
The house in which I stay was built in 1980 and is a poor replacemnt for the family home that the KR  dimantled, stole and took away along with ALL the family’s possessions. the soldiers ordered AUNTIE (photo) and Chanthou’s mother and 5 brothers and sisters of Chanthou (she was born in 1979) outside. Chanthou’s father (died in 2000) protested about now having no home, so the Khmer Rouge punished him by burying him up to his neck where his house once stood.
His wife and children were not allowed to approach him. Luckily that brigade was called away after one week and the family dug him out alive.
The brigade returned and were on their usual food hunt…. this meant they took ALL food and stock – all animals – leaving the village with nothing.. Chanthou’s mother hid three eggs in the mouths of three children. The soldiers were looking everywhere – the boy, Mao (now a policeman) started to choke and coughed up an egg. His mother (still alive today) was very lucky – she was taken away to prison but only for one week. People throughout Cambodia were routinely killed for similar offences.
BUT for the villages, particularly of Eastern Cambodia, this hadn’t been the beginning of their problems:
Vietnam War
In a straight line (by plane) the Vietnam border is 18 kilometres away; it’s rough terrain and at the time, jungle; no one normally crossed over.
During the Vietnam War (immediately prior to the KR years) the US government denied it ever made incursions into Cambodia and certainly strongly denied the US was dropping any bombs on Cambodian soil. Cambodia was not an enemy. Cambodia was a FRIEND.
HOWEVER, US action in Cambodia soon became known as Kissenger and Nixon’s ‘Secret War’.
The USA was to drop more bombs on Cambodia than they had dropped on Japan during the whole of World War 2.
Being so close to the border and fairly close to Saigon, Kamchay Mear suffered badly.
The people of Chuor Ph’av, led by Auntie,  told me, ‘The American soldiers came often and were looking for Vitnamese. Soon we had to hide pale skinned Cambodians because the Americans killed people with pale skin in our villages incase they were Vietnamese.” Auntie didn’t know how many were killed “because we had to keep moving but it must have been many’.
If that’s not bad enough, US bombs alone killed 500,000 innocent Cambodian civillians. Mao, the poliemen in the egg incident (above) showed me three places in two fields right by the house – one minute walk away – where bombs were dropped. (there is a map showing bomb sites in the Khmer Rouge section of the website).
Future of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal
There is much concern in local and international media that more people should be tried for the Khmer Rouge atrocities – but it is looking unlikely.
So far, the effect of the tribunal, especially the opening salvos with the three leaders, is I think of great value already. People are talking and sharing and SOME justice will be done. As legal observers have suggested, Cambodia cannot help but learn something of good law and justice. The Cambodian justice system is well used to political influence in some legal decisions – there may be some element of that, but without doubt these three men are guilty and the fact that they are denying it is leading to very healthy discussions.
I’ve said it before, but it can be repeated -The Khmer Rouge methods resulted in the most successful selctive mass murder in the world’s history by selecting educated people to kill. You see, it had occurred to these leaders of the Khmer Rouge, quite rightly, that the greatest enemy of their political system was ‘opposition’ – and since they also wanted to return the nation to what was in essence, The Stone Age, killing educated people would solve all problems. The tribunal continues.
John 13th December 2011