Khun Anand Panyarachun and the Making of Modern Thailand


January 30,2019

Book Review:

Khun Anand Panyarachun and the Making of Modern Thailand

Dominic Faulder (Editions Didier Millet, Singapore, 2018)

 

The personal cost of Thailand’s political turbulence is often opaque to outsiders. It was surprising for this reader to discover that Anand Panyarachun, scion of the Thai establishment, was once himself caught in the swiftly changing tides of Thai power politics. In the bout of indigenous McCarthyism that followed the October 1976 anti-student thuggery at Thammasat University, scores were also settled amongst the elites. This saw Anand, then Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, investigated as a communist sympathiser.  Stood down from his position, Anand spent some weeks in limbo before being exonerated, by which time he had already decided that his career as a diplomat was over and business would be his next pursuit. It was not the last time that the outspoken public figure was to incur the wrath of powerful figures, including in military and judicial circles.

Dominic Faulder’s new biography is a very welcome addition to the rather sparse English-language offerings on former Thai political leaders. While Anand’s life was depicted in a 1999 biography in Thai, this is the first consolidated portrait in English, covering Anand’s career as diplomat, politician, businessman and philanthropist. As Faulder intends, the account of Anand’s life is also a very accessible and vivid account of Thai diplomatic and political history. Particularly well covered are two decades: the 1970s, as Thailand “separated” from the United States and its military bases, and the 1990s, when Anand as a two-term prime minister set in train what many mistakenly thought was to be a permanent democratic trajectory.

Born of a mother of Hokkien Chinese background, and a father of Mon ancestry, whose own forbears had held senior positions in the Siamese bureaucracy, Anand’s family name was bestowed by Rama VI. It drew on the Sanksrit-Pali for wisdom, panyaa and the name of the Ramayana hero, Arjuna. After growing up in Bangkok, including living through the Japanese occupation, Anand followed in his father’s footsteps with a British public school education.

Schooling in England at age 16 in 1948 brought with it a tough first year of “unrelenting cultural immersion”.  But by the time he graduated from Cambridge in 1955, after spending 7 continuous and formative years in England, he had become in his own words, “practically bicultural”.

Excellent English language and sharp critical thinking skills meant that after joining the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) in 1955 his career progression was rapid. Helped by a close relationship with foreign minister Thanat Khoman, Anand was appointed Ambassador to the United States at tender age of 39, a position he later held while concurrently representing Thailand at the United Nations.  Interestingly, at this time Anand and the Thais were elder mentors to the relatively inexperienced Singaporean diplomats, a situation that would be hard to imagine today.

Anand’s forthrightness and unwillingness to suffer fools were on display from early in his career, as was his strong belief that MOFA should lead on foreign policy. From time to time, both characteristics brought him into conflict with the Thai military, at no time more so than when he took a hard line on negotiating the terms of the exit of United States forces from Thailand under then Foreign Minister Chatichai Choonhaven. His willingness to insist on MOFA’s prerogatives on foreign policy made him enemies in the Thai military, who then sought his downfall following the 1976 violence. The account of this difficult period in Thailand’s alliance with the United States is one of the book’s highlights, as is the account of Anand’s visit to China accompanying Prime Minister Kukrit Pramoj in 1975, including meetings with the ailing Mao.

Many will also read with great interest the telling of Anand’s two formal forays into politics in the early 1990s. Never a member of any political party, Anand’s clean reputation lead to him being tapped twice for short stints as prime minister, each time as a way of circumventing political crises. The exact circumstances of Anand becoming an appointed, rather than elected, prime minister are given close attention in this book and are revealing of patterns of Thai politics, and in particular the role of the monarchy. The book also gives good accounts of key achievements of the Anand governments, including the ASEAN free trade agreement, the Cambodian peace process and the effective response to HIV/AIDs.

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Anand’s direct, confident manner led some to question his “Thainess”. Certainly he was sometimes warned by colleagues to soften his approach in debating his peers and disciplining his staff.  But to Tej Bunnag, a contemporary of MOFA who also ventured briefly into politics, “Anand is very Thai but of a certain kind”, with a personality reflecting his background as “the youngest son of a very distinguished family”.

While it is tempting to imagine that more politicians like Anand in Thailand’s leadership class might be the solution to Thailand’s struggles with democracy, it is probably also true that his uncompromising manner would be difficult to sustain over a longer period. And while it is true the man and his political record reveal few blemishes, one area where Anand might now admit he might have done more is with respect to unionism. As Prime Minister Anand presided over legislation that one activist called “the most crushing blow ever for the Thai labour movement”. Unfortunately as this review was written, Thailand had just claimed the unenviable title of world champion of income inequality, with 1% of the population possessing 66% of Thailand’s wealth.

In his post-prime ministerial career Anand continued to sit on numerous boards, including banks, as well as take an active role in his first choice of business, Saha Union. He also worked on several international and national inquiries and commissions, including for the United Nations. Probably his most significant contribution, with many recommendations yet to be implemented, is with respect to the troubled South. Anand took charge of a National Reconciliation Commission after the violence flared again after 2004, but the political division since the 2006 coup has stymied progress. Anand remains committed to decentralisation and devolution of power to Thailand’s outer regions, not only the southern border provinces but also the north. On this score, Anand remains more liberal than many of his colleagues in the ruling elite.

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A staunch monarchist, Anand has never served on the Privy Council and appears unlikely to do so. In the words of businessman Prida Tiasuwan, Anand is “pale yellow” in his approach to the monarchy. A massive reader, a gregarious and willing public speaker, with a sharp and analytical mind, Anand as a royalist democrat has been a significant contributor to Thailand’s public life and national development.

 

Faulder’s account of his life is highly readable. It is not without some flaws; the book sometimes gets into trouble when freelancing on history. For example, the claim that Thailand never joined the League of Nations is mistaken; while it was never member of the League Council, the executive body of the General Assembly, it was an active founding member of the League itself. Anand himself seems sketchy on Siamese history. For example, when he states that Thailand as an uncolonised country was left untutored on international relations, Anand seems to overlook the role of the several capable and trusted foreign legal advisers employed by Thai kings, such as the Belgian Gustav Rolin-Jaequemins employed by Chulalongkorn or the American Francis Sayre employed by Vajiravudh.

A book cannot be all things to all readers, but there were some questions I would have liked to have seen explored. What for example, are Anand’s attitudes to Buddhism, to modern China, to the future of US–China relations? Does Anand himself speak Chinese? Based on many interviews with Anand, the book in the end is a sympathetic biography. Faulder does seek to gently challenge Anand, seeking for example his reaction to Duncan McCargo’s “network monarchy” thesis and the suggestion that he is part of this network. But the additional interviewees are also somewhat biased towards the “yellow” royalist side of politics. It may have been interesting to know how some of the Red Shirt or Pheu Thai leadership or even Thaksin Shinawatra clan remember Anand. These are however, relatively small quibbles, and the book is highly recommended.

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Dr Greg Raymond is Research Fellow at the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre in the Australian National University’s Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs. He is currently writing a book on Thailand’s alliance with the United States, with John Blaxland. His book on Thai strategic culture, Thai Military Power: a Culture of Strategic Accommodation was published by NIAS Press in 2018. Before joining the ANU, he worked extensively in the Australian Government, including in strategic and defence international policy areas of the Department of Defence.

Know the Difference– Being Jewish and Being Zionist


January 28, 2019

Know the Difference– Being Jewish and Being Zionist

by Dr. Kua Kia Soong

www,freemalaysiatoday.com

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At the outset, let me make it clear that as far as the Palestinian cause is concerned, I am on the same page as Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, although I cannot vouch for his consistency on all the other non-Muslim liberation causes in the rest of the world.

What is disturbing is that through the years, we have witnessed Mahathir’s deliberate refusal to make any distinction between the Jewish people and the ideology of Zionism.

This has huge consequences for how our prime minister stands on racism and racial discrimination in our own country. Those who have followed his political career will note the continuity in his ethos and it was not unexpected that he should once again create a similar rumpus recently on the international stage by conflating Jews with Zionism.

Unashamedly racist paradigm

Mahathir’s first claim to fame (or rather, notoriety) was the publication of his “Malay Dilemma” after the May 13th 1969 racial riots in Kuala Lumpur.

It was banned by the then Tunku–led government when it first appeared and Mahathir was expelled from the ruling UMNO. Apart from being an academic embarrassment because of its unashamedly racist paradigm, it was clearly “seditious” by the definition of the government-of-the-day in its undermining of sacred constitutional provisions:

…the Malays are the rightful owners of Malaya…immigrants (read non-Malay Malaysians) are guests until properly absorbed…immigrants are not truly absorbed until they have abandoned the language and culture of their past.”–Dr.Mahathir Mohamad

Mahathir’s ‘Malay Dilemma’ was an instant hit among the emergent state capitalists in UMNO who were hungry for power since it provided the instant recipe for them to rally populist support for their bid for power just before May 13, 1969. It was the time-tested recipe for opportunistic politicians to use ‘race’ as the rallying cry for political support just as Hitler’s racist polemic, “Mein Kampf” had provided the model for such a political route.

Since the demise of Hitler and his race-steeped ideology and the price paid in blood by the freedom-loving peoples of the world, racism, racial discrimination and other forms of intolerance have been outlawed in the world community by the Universal Declaration on Human Rights 1948, the International Convention on the Eradication of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) 1965 and the World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance (WCAR) in 2001.

Although Malaysia has yet to ratify I-CERD, we are signatories to all these UN treaties.

Glad to be labelled anti-Semitic!

But why is Mahathir so recalcitrant about his blatantly racist attitude towards Jewish people as an ethnic community?

“I am glad to be labelled anti-Semitic,” Mahathir wrote in 2012 on his personal blog. “How can I be otherwise when the Jews who so often talk of the horrors they suffered during the Holocaust show the same Nazi cruelty and hard-heartedness.”

He wrote in his 1970 book “The Malay Dilemma” that “the Jews are not merely hook-nosed, but understand money instinctively.” He was not embarrassed about repeating this recently on international cable TV.

Not all Jews support Zionism

Much of Malaysians’ antipathy towards Israel can be attributed to our government’s longstanding support for the Palestinian cause. But Mahathir’s rancour extends far beyond geopolitics, spanning anti-Semitism of yesteryears including alleging international Jewish conspiracies to blaming the 1997 Asian financial crisis on a Jew, George Soros:

“The Jews rule this world by proxy,” he told the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation summit in 2003.

If Mahathir had studied abroad as I have, he would have come across many Jewish academics, students and politicians who are anti-Zionist activists.

 

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One of the most notable anti-Zionists and pro-Palestinian activists is, of course, Noam Chomsky.

One of the most notable anti-Zionists and pro-Palestinian activists is, of course, Noam Chomsky. There is even a Palestinian solidarity group called ‘Jews for Justice for Palestinians (JfJfP) based in Britain that advocates for human and civil rights, and economic and political freedom, for the Palestinian people. It opposes the current policy of Israel towards the Palestinian territories, particularly the territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and seeks a change in their political status. The membership of JfJfP is primarily made up of British Jews.

“Zionism is itself a racist nationalist movement that has had as its goal the creation and support of a Jewish national state in Palestine. Certainly, not all Jews support Zionism nor do they support Israel’s discriminatory and repressive actions against Palestinians. “–Dr.Kua Kia Soong.

More Jews live outside of Israel and not every inhabitant of Israel is Jewish; there are also many non-Jews living in Israel. Many Jews, both living in Israel and elsewhere support a Palestinian state alongside Israel as a possible solution to the conflict. In other words, not all Jews identify with Zionism and it is mischievous to conflate ‘Jews’ with ‘Israelis’ and ‘Zionists’ just as it is wrong to say that “all ethnic Chinese in Malaysia are rich” or that “all Chinese must be held responsible for the persecution of the Uighurs in Xinjiang, China”.

Likewise, Mahathir’s stereotyping of ethnic Chinese

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Much of Mahathir’s portrayal of Chinese Malaysians echoes his stereotypical anti-Semitic slurs. In his ‘Malay Dilemma’, Mahathir describes Malaysia’s Chinese as “predatory immigrants” who exhibit an “unlimited acquisitiveness” that threatens the “complete Sinicization of the economy.” They are mistrusted as disloyal and mercenary, enriching themselves at the expense of the country’s other communities. Has he ever shown remorse and rectified his racist thesis in the “Malay Dilemma”?

Ostensibly to “correct the racial imbalance”, the New Economic Policy has provided a carte blanche for the new Malay ruling class to amass wealth in the name of their “race”. Mahathir has justified this blatantly racist policy thus:

“The best way to keep the shares in bumiputera hands is to hand them over to the bumiputeras most capable of retaining them, which means the well-to-do.”

Today, race has been so deeply institutionalised that it is a key factor determining benefits from government development policies, bids for business contracts, education policy, social policy, cultural policy, entry into educational institutions, discounts for purchasing houses and other official policies. Practically every aspect of Malaysian life is permeated by the so-called “Bumiputera policy” based on Malay-centrism.

No wonder the time is not ripe to ratify I-CERD

In the decades since, Mahathir has continued to resort to racial chauvinism whenever popular support has ebbed, stirring anxiety about Chinese investment and immigration following disappointing electoral showings in 2008 and 2013. He castigated Najib for “giving too much to the Chinese” after the disastrous GE13 results.

The recent anti-ICERD rallies organised by UMNO and PAS have now given the prime minister the excuse to say the country is not yet ready to ratify ICERD. The real question is: Is Mahathir ready to eradicate racism, racial discrimination and related intolerances from his own mental paradigm?

As someone has said, “Wisdom doesn’t necessarily come with age. Sometimes age just shows up all by itself!”

Kua Kia Soong is the adviser to Suaram.

The views of the writer do not necessarily reflect those of FMT

 
 

Malaysia is in no position to lecture Israel


January 28, 2019

 

Malaysia is in no position to lecture Israel

Opinion  |
by S Thayaparan@ www. malaysiakini.com

Published:  |  Modified:

 

“The anti-Semites who called themselves patriots introduced that new species of national feeling which consists primarily in a complete whitewash of one’s own people and a sweeping condemnation of all others.”
– Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism

 

COMMENT | Let me get this out of the way. When people say they are not anti-Semitic but rather anti-Zionist, most of the time this is complete horse manure. The people who most often say this apply the Zionist label to all Jews, thus making the distinction irrelevant.

This is like claiming there is a difference between ketuanan Melayu and the Malay ‘race’, but ignoring the distinction and claiming that all Malays are racial and religious supremacists. Are all Malays racist? Are all Malays religious bigots just because they support politicians who pander to the lowest common denominator? Or is the situation a little more complex than that?

However, this is not the article for that conversation. This is another article – my second, I think – on mainstream anti-Semitism in our politics.

PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang back in 2012 proclaimed that his party would cooperate with the Jews, especially in the realm of trade, but rejected Zionism. He said: “Nevertheless, PAS rejects Zionism because it is a fanatical ideology of the Jew race.”

See what Hadi did there? He made a distinction, but then negated it with his insistence that race and ideology were not mutually exclusive.

I will give you another example. The organisation Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) Malaysia chairperson Nazari Ismail speaks for had a huge victory – at least the Palestine Chronicle thinks it is a huge victory – last year because it got Giant to withdraw jeans that were supposedly a product of Israel, but which the hypermarket chain claimed was made in China.

Two points from the Palestine Chronicle article are worth mulling over.

The first: “BDS Malaysia stated that an officer from the Giant branch in question reported that they had returned all the stock nationwide to the supplier. Following which a manager from Giant called Nazari and stated that the supplier of the product was from China and asking BDS to end its campaign against Giant.

“The professor refused, unless Giant could prove that the original company was not of Israeli origin. Upon checking various Giant supermarkets, BDS Malaysia members found that the product was still stocked.”

And the second: “A statement was received by BDS Malaysia from a Ms Roseta, corporate affairs, GCH Retail Sdn Bhd stating that thought the product was made and imported from China, and the management was willing to remove the product from all its outlets due to its sensitive nature. She also said that she would seek further clarification from the supplier.”

Both these examples demonstrate how the Malay ruling elite and intelligentsia manipulate the discourse, claiming victimhood while propagating racist or bigoted agendas.

Boycotting products because companies are enabling or propagating certain ideas is acceptable, but boycotting all products from a country and linking all companies, products and services to a Zionist agenda is not.

Why do we even have to have this conversation? The Prime Minister of this country, on the campaign trail in Cameron Highlands, claimed that people from Israel were “crooks,” and mainstream religious dogma have claimed that the Jews are the “enemies of Islam.”

Never mind that political operatives from the Malay right have invested in companies and have had dealings with the Jewish people for decades.

Who are the crooks?

What is needed is for the average Malay – who have not even met a Jew – to feel a sense of hatred towards Jews for a conflict in the Middle East, which has been used for decades to justify all sorts of malfeasance from Islamic regimes and extremists all over the world.

Does anyone actually believe that the Malay political elite and their mouthpieces make a distinction between Zionism and Jews? I have attended many rallies by the Malay right – and let me tell you something, there is only the Malay right and far right – and none of these people has made this distinction. All of them talk about how “evil” the Jews are and how they are not to be trusted. Some have gone so far as to cite religious texts and authority.

The Malay right hates liberals, but they make an exception for Jewish liberals who criticise Israel. A couple of years ago, I was talking to a scholar who opposes the Occupation, but who also said that there were similarities (“frighteningly so, Thaya”) between the ketuanan Melayu ideology and Zionism.

Both she argued centralised race as the determining factor for political and social action. Both relied on indoctrination to marginalise the other and both perpetrated injustice through a bureaucracy riddled with dubious personalities who were content to wallow in their petty power. Of course, this is not the kind of Jewish liberal who is embraced by the Malay right.

The Pakatan Harapan grand poobah, while campaigning, served up a large spoonful from the bigoted Kool-Aid that is served up to the Malays on a daily basis. He claimed that the Najib Abdul Razak regime had allowed crooks into this country and his administration, which was the principle behind not allowing these crooks into this country.

Who were these crooks? It was David Roet (photo) who was leading the Israeli delegation for a UN event. What did the progressives fighting against the “evil” BN say at the time? They accused the Najib regime of having an “affair” with Israel.

They claimed that the Najib regime was following in the footsteps of the Saudi regime which had close ties with Israel. They mocked Najib when he said this in 2015: “This dictum, known universally in all religions as the Golden Rule, could herald the dawn of a much-needed revised relationship between Muslims and Jews.”

Of the visit and its anti-Semitic reception by the then opposition, I wrote this: “This would have been a perfect opportunity for so-called moderate Islamic parties to change the discourse even a little by highlighting the fact that Islam from the Middle East, or at least that which was perverted by petrodollars, is changing.

“They could have taken the opportunity to learn from the Israeli experience of holding their leadership accountable like how Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu is facing possible criminal charges for corruption, by highlighting the fact that a supposed enemy of Islam holds their leaders accountable to graft allegations submitted by (mostly) independent institutions.”

Instead, then, like now, what the Malay right is doing is merely reinforcing anti-Semitic narratives in an effort to maintain hegemony, while ignoring the very real consequences of such actions.

Remember, blaming the Jews for the problems of Muslims is exactly like blaming the Chinese for the social, economic and political problems of the Malay community.

Which brings us to the non-Malay component of Harapan’s anti-Semitic discourse. You will never see a non-Malay political operative speaking out against the anti-Semitism which is part of mainstream Malay politics. Why? Because to do so would expose the truth in the Hannah Arendt quote which opens this piece.

I know I am going to get into trouble for saying this, but Malaysia has not earned the right to condemn Israel. Maybe if Harapan actually delivered on its promises and slowly did away with this corrupt, bigoted system, we could be on the road to being a credible voice in the Palestinian discourse.


S. THAYAPARAN is a commander (rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy. A retired barrister-at-law, he is one of the founding members of Persatuan Patriot Kebangsaan.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

 

Cambodia : New research to explore legacy of KR reparations


January 26, 2019

New research to explore legacy of KR reparations

by Andrew Nachemson

https://www.phnompenhpost.com/national/new-research-explore-legacy-kr-reparations?

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A researcher with Melbourne University has launched a new study that will seek to gauge recognised Khmer Rouge victims’ satisfaction with reparations projects ordered by the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, as well as the projects’ lasting effect on the national consciousness.

Dr Rachel Hughes explained her research in a public lecture on Thursday, saying it would seek to analyse the claim that a trial for perpetrators of crimes against humanity can strengthen rule of law and human rights, while also looking into the way reparations projects affect national reconciliation.

“I’m interested in the tribunal as something more than a legal process,” Hughes said, explaining that the reparations projects could influence the “dynamics of social memory”.

“What is the relationship between the legacies of hybrid criminal tribunals and political and social change in a post-conflict society?” she asked, explaining that as of now, little research has been done on the topic.

Hughes’s study will last two years, culminating in a full-length book and shorter publications periodically released along the way.

The UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights defines reparations as “restitution, compensation, rehabilitation, satisfaction, and guarantee of non-repetition”, but the ECCC’s mandate only provides for “collective and moral reparations”, mostly in the form of memorials and education.

Theresa de Langis, an expert on forced marriage during the Khmer Rouge, said that although the ECCC was “breaking new ground” with its reparations projects, there was still room for improvement on the part of the government, which could offer victims more tangible support.

“If the state government were more involved, the reparations could be expanded to include things that victims need like health care and psychosocial support,” de Langis said yesterday.

“The civil party lawyers have come a long way in developing the reparations scheme … to make sure that civil parties are part of the decision-making process,” she said.

According to the tribunal, reparations projects are dependent on “external funding which has already been secured”, and a proposal can only become an official reparation project if the accused party is convicted of the specific crime it addresses.

Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia, acknowledged the system of reparations was flawed, but praised the endeavour nonetheless, noting that “justice is defined by the survivors”.

“We must make all effort, knowing that it’s not going to be perfect,” he said.

POL POT: THE END by Nate Thayer


January 20, 2019

READ THIS: https://msuweb.montclair.edu/~furrg/pol/pilgerpolpotnus.pdf

POL POT: THE END By Nate Thayer

POL POT: THE END

COVER STORY

Far Eastern Economic Review

By Nate Thayer

August 7, 1997

In a stunning journalistic achievement, REVIEW correspondent Nate Thayer comes face-to-face with the elusive Pol Pot, architect of Cambodia’s killing fields. In a story packed with exclusive photos, Thayer describes Pol Pot’s jungle “trial,” and reveals the turmoil within the Khmer Rouge. Separate stories profile Pol Pot, introduce the new Khmer Rouge leadership, and shed new light on Cambodia’s deadly July coup and the suspected drug baron who financed

 

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24: On History’s Front Line

Pol Pot caused the deaths of more than a million Cambodians. But when he turned on his longtime military commander, Ta Mok, that was one Cambodian too many

By Nate Thayer in Anlong Veng, Cambodia

After a series of furtive rendezvous, using coded messages over mobile phones, I slipped into one of the most impenetrable, malarial-ridden and landmine-strewn jungles of the world: Khmer Rouge-controlled northern Cambodia. I was hoping to interview Pol Pot, one of the century’s most notorious and elusive mass murderers.

What I did not fathom, as I entered the Khmer Rouge stronghold of Anlong Veng at 12:12 p.m. on July 25, was that I was about to witness nothing less than history.

“Long live! Long live! Long live the new strategy!” hundreds of voices chanted in unison. The clenched fists of the crowds pumped toward the sky, as a smiling middle-aged Khmer Rouge cadre led me toward an open-air mass meeting hall. Old artillery pieces and a captured Russian tank stood nearby.

“Crush! Crush! Crush! Pol Pot and his clique!” shouted the crowd on cue as we approached, their fists striking down towards the ground.

There, slumped in a simple wooden chair, grasping a long bamboo cane and a rattan fan, an anguished old man,  frail and struggling to maintain his dignity, was watching his life vision crumble in utter, final defeat.

This was how the “people’s tribunal’ began for Pol Pot, reviled around the world for personally orchestrating a reign of terror that left more than a million human beings dead and shattered the lives of many millions more.

The crude podium held a microphone, and crackling loudspeakers—powered by a car battery lying on the earthen floor—began to spew humiliating public denunciations of the long-time Khmer Rouge leader.

A shocking number of participants stood on crude wooden stumps, sat in home-made wheelchairs, or were missing eyes—sacrifices to the revolutionary cause of Pol Pot. Others, their arms blown off by landmines, were unable to join the frequent clapping as speaker after speaker denounced the man once venerated as “Brother Number One.”

“Our ultimate goal today is that the international community should understand that we are no longer Khmer Rouge and we are not Pol Potists!,” roared Ta Neou, the governor of the approximately 60,000 civilians who live in the area, which was under Pol Pot’s control until weeks ago.

The carefully orchestrated performance evoked the image of a grainy, black-and-white film clip from China’s Cultural Revolution. But the message was starkly different. “Long live the emergence of the democracy movement!” shouted individuals in the crowd, periodically interrupting leaders offering carefully crafted speeches at the microphone. A chorus would repeat the slogan, followed by prolonged applause by the roughly 500 participants. “Crush! Crush! Crush! Pol Pot and his murderous clique!”

Pol Pot sat alone, near three other manacled loyalists. Many in the crowd of women, children, and uniformed guerrillas seemed more interested at gazing at the first Westerner they had ever seen than in watching the traumatized old man sitting alone in a chair.

Each speaker, seemingly chosen to represent a sector of society—a farmer, an intellectual, a soldier, a woman—got up to denounce and humiliate Pol Pot “and his clique.”

Pol Pot often seemed close to tears as the vitriol was unleashed. In contrast,  three  younger army commanders put on trial alongside him had menacing, almost arrogant expressions, staring coldly into the eyes of the speakers, the crowd and the visiting reporter.

“We have sacrificed everything for the sake of the movement,” Ta Neou continued, “Our parents and all of us are children of peasants and farmers, we have sacrificed everything for the sake of the movement, but at the end we kill each other.”

Pol Pot, who ruled Cambodia for more than three years and ruled the Khmer Rouge for more than three decades, is genuinely finished. He has been denounced and imprisoned by his own movement. Not for the 1975-1978 Cambodian genocide, but for turning on his own comrades in an attempted purge in June, according to speakers at his trial.

Those commanders, led by longtime military commander Ta Mok, struck back and took Pol Pot prisoner after the purge failed. The tribunal sentenced Pol Pot to life imprisonment, but ruled out turning him over to international courts, where he could face charges of crimes against humanity.

The Khmer Rouge of Anlong Veng have good reason to try and distance themselves from the notorious Pol Pot. They want to attract international support for their struggle to unseat Cambodian premier Hun Sen. That is why they let a foreign reporter witness the show trial, the first time a journalist had entered Anlong Veng and left alive.

Yet lengthy interviews with Khmer Rouge cadre left little doubt that his ouster was authentic. Still, the cadres clearly saw it as a tragedy, and continued to treat the 72-year-old Pol Pot with Gentle respect.

The fall of Pol Pot underlines the view that the Khmer Rouge movement that ruled Cambodia in the 1970’s essentially no longer exists. The original leaders have largely been replaced by younger ones less steeped in communist ideology, and the movement has fractured into numerous factions, many of whom are allied with the mainstream political parties contesting power in Phnom Penh.

“It no longer makes any sense whatsoever to call whatever remains a Khmer Rouge movement,” says Stephen Heder, a Cambodian Scholar at the University of London’s School of Advanced International Studies. “Because of the realignment of forces over the last several years, the concept of a Khmer Rouge movement as we know it no longer has any meaning.”

But that doesn’t mean the Khmer Rouge have become irrelevant in Cambodia. The aggressive courting of Khmer Rouge factions by Cambodia’s rival premiers, Hun Sen and Prince Norodom Ranariddh, was central to the July 5-6 coup in Phnom Penh. In fact, the REVIEW has learned, the Khmer Rouge finalized their alliance with Ranariddh’s Funcinpec party on July 4. Worried that the balance of power would be tipped in his rival’s favour, Hun Sen ousted Ranariddh the next day.

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Photo: Nate Thayer

 

Pol Pot also opposed those negotiations, and it led to his downfall, according to Khmer Rouge cadre interviewed in Anlong Veng. Virtually the entire leadership favoured a political deal with the royalist Funcinpec, but Pol Pot was opposed, said Gen. Khmer Nuon, who is now the Khmer Rouge’s army chief of staff.

“Domestically and internationally, Pol Pot has his own personal problems to take care of,” Khem Nuon said, referring to Pol Pot’s blood-soaked reputation. “He has no way out. That is why he keeps dragging this movement toward the darkness.”

The visit to Anlong Veng opened an unprecedented window into the inner workings of one of the world’s most secretive guerrilla movements. The Khmer Rouge have splintered dramatically since July 1996, when forces in western Cambodia, representing almost half the movement, broke with Pol Pot’s northern forces headquartered at Anlong Veng. The western split was headed by Ieng Sary, Pol Pot’s brother-in-law and longtime comrade-in-arms.

Khem Nuon said the western split was aimed against Pol Pot himself, but the 72-year-old leader blamed his top leaders—Ta Mok, Nuon Chea, and Son Sen—for losing the west by failing to heal the rift. “ So Pol Pot asked Mao—over there,” Khem Nuon explained, pointing to a young Khmer Rouge cadre standing listening to the interview,” to shoot Ta Mok and burn him—last October—to leave no evidence.”

The grim-faced young cadre, who looked capable of such a deed, nodded in agreement with his commander. But he didn’t carry out Pol Pot’s order. Because Ta Mok, who is known to the outside world as “The Butcher,” is immensely popular with the troops and civilians under his control. So Much so, Khem Nuon said, that Pol Pot saw him as a threat. “All the combatants here are under Ta Mok and they really like him a lot because he is so helpful to them in terms of standard of living. He built roads, bridges, dams within this area,” Khem Nuon said. “This is the reason Pol Pot wanted to get rid of Ta Mok.”

Pol Pot turned to two senior military field commanders, Gen. Sarouen and Gen. San, and attempted to consolidate power against Ta Mok. He called a mass meeting on February 25 of this year, and had them declared the new political and military leaders, replacing Ta Mok, Khem Nuon said. “What is the main cause that steered our people to rise up against Pol Pot? One, the leadership and the grip on power by Pol Pot was so long. All the power was within his hands,” Khem Nuon said. “Pol pot took decisions without even consulting the top leadership.”

About the same time, according to Cambodian government sources and diplomats, secret negotiations accelerated between envoys of Prince Ranariddh and elements of the Khmer Rouge in Anlong Veng. Most of these efforts were conducted by Ta Mok loyalists—often behind Pol Pot’s back—and the top royalist military commander, Gen. Nyek Bun Chhay. By May, the faction agreed in principle to join in alliance.

Increasingly isolated, Pol Pot launched a desperate attempt on June 9 to scuttle the peace deal by purging Ta Mok and other top leaders. That night, longtimeDefence Minister Son Sen and 14 of his relatives, including a five-year-old child, were shot dead by Sarouen’s men, according to both Khmer Rouge and intelligence sources. “On the 9th of June at 12:15 a.m., Pol Pot issued a direct order to take two Toyota pick-up trucks loaded with 20-30 soldiers to kill Mr. Son Sen,” said Khem Nuon.

The killings sparked several days of turmoil, with commanders fleeing into the jungle in disarray. But they rallied behind Ta Mok and trapped Pol Pot and his band of 300 remaining supporters on June 15, Khem Nuon said. Four days later, they had surrendered.

With Pol Pot neutralized, the remaining Khmer Rouge leadership moved rapidly forward to finalize a secret, tactical, political and military alliance with Ranariddh’s political faction. The two factions were allies against Hun Sen’s Phnom Penh government in a decade-long guerrilla war before Cambodia’s 1991 peace treaty.

The deal was closed July 4 in Anlong Veng. Hun Sen, learning about Funcinpec’s new alliance through his agents, launched his deadly coup the next morning, according to Cambodian political cadres and Asian intelligence sources. It has tipped Cambodia, which enjoyed four years of relative peace after 1993 United nations-sponsored elections, back into the throes of the warfare that seems to define this nation of 10 million people.

Hun Sen has claimed the entire tribunal was stage-managed by Pol Pot himself. Khem Nuon paints a very different picture, but he did say that Pol Pot had ‘consented’ to having a foreign reporter witness the mass meeting, as a way of acknowledging his guilt for moving against his comrades.

Pol Pot did himself confess to me clearly, after his arrest,” Khem Nuon said. “ When I met him the first time, he embraced me and burst into tears and said: ‘It is the right thing comrade that this has happened,’ and then he cried. It was on June 21, 1997, and he told me: ‘I am wrong, comrade, all the mistakes were made by me, alone,’ and then he cried.”

“ Pol Pot told me that this is the end of his life, he has nothing left, but he begged me to allow him to live,” Khem Nuon continued. “ I also want to make clear that if Pol Pot was vested with any credibility or respect, he would not have shown up and let you see him like you just did today.”

: I told him this morning that you were going to be here,” to witness his condemnation, Khem Nuon told the REVIEW. “ I told him that we want to prove to the world that we no longer want to associate ourselves with him. Then he consented.”

As the “People’s Tribunal of Anlong Veng” continued into its second hour, the new leaders somberly paced on the outskirts of the crowd, concerned by the deteriorating health of a now clearly weak and traumatized Pol Pot. Guerrilla officials acknowledged that Pol Pot suffered from serious heart disease and high blood pressure long before the events of recent days.

Khem Nuon said relatives and friends of those killed on June 9-10 wanted the blood of Pol Pot and his co-defendants San, Khon, and Sarouen—said to have carried out the murders on his orders. “ You notice that here today nobody was allowed to carry a weapon to this meeting, otherwise they would have been killed by the mob already,” Khem Nuon said.

But the cadre who overthrew Pol Pot seemed anguished as they watched the white-haired old man, who was dressed in loose cotton clothes with a blue-and-white Cambodian scarf looped around his neck. Confusion and sadness were etched on men who had spent their entire adult lives following Pol Pot from Cambodia’s jungles to its capital and back again.

“ We have put an end to the leadership which has betrayed our organization and the people,” Mak Ben, a bespectacled French-educated economist, dressed in a green Chinese-style military uniform, said from the podium. “ They are completely gone, as of right now, the Pol Pot regime has ended.”

“ Having acknowledged the betrayal of our group in recent months by Pol Pot and his clique,” the loudspeaker roared into the nearby forest, then Pol Pot’s crimes were read out. They included the murder of Son Sen, the attempted murder and ‘detention’ of Ta Mok and Nuon Chea, and “destroying the policy of national reconciliation,” a reference to the attempt to block the Funcinpec deal.

“These are the criminal acts—the betrayal by Pol Pot and his clique—against the people, the armed forces, and our cadre. In conclusion, we all decide to condemn and sentence this clique to life imprisonment.”

He immediately was helped up, unable to walk unassisted, by a guard in Chinese-style military fatigues. “ get someone under his other arm, get him more help,” Khem Nuon ordered. Patting his heart, Khem Nuon added: “ I am worried that he may die from the stress.”

Some people respectfully bowed, as if to royalty, as Pol Pot walked 25 meters to a waiting vehicle. “ I said what I said with a very heavy heart,” said Tep Kunnal, an emerging political leader, as he walked slowly away with his head bowed after denouncing Pol Pot. “ It is very, very difficult for me, but it had to be done. Before there were two dangers for Cambodia. Pol Pot and the Vietnamese puppet Hun Sen. Now there is only one.”

The cadres suggested that I ask Pol Pot questions while he was led away, but balked at translating when told the questions I wanted to pose. “ I cannot ask such a question to the leaders. You must ask them in Khmer yourself. It is better.”

Pol Pot, perhaps never to be seen alive again, was helped into a Toyota Landcruiser with tinted windows—captured booty from UN peacekeeping soldiers prior to the 1993 elections. Seconds after the trial ended, a torrential rain began.

 

POL POT UNMASKED: He was obsessed with secrecy and total control

By Nate Thayer in Bangkok, Thailand

Far Eastern Economic Review

August 7, 1997

Pol Pot, Aka Saloth Sar whose name is synonymous with the Cambodian genocide, exercized total control over the Khmer Rouge for more than three decades from behind a wall of impenetrable secrecy.

By putting him on trial, his former comrades-in-arms have unmasked a man who shunned exposure, even when he was premier of Cambodia. They have also broken the vice-like grip on the movement he retained through a combination of charisma and utter ruthlessness.

Born to a peasant family in Kampong Thom on May 18th, 1925, Saloth Sar—Pol Pot’s real name—was educated at a Buddhist monastery before entering technical school in Phnom Penh. His clandestine life began in his teens, when he joined the anti-French resistance movement in Indochina during World War ll.  By 1946, he was a member of the underground Indochinese Communist Party.

In 1949, he won a scholarship to study radio electronics in Paris, where he was active in radical student politics. His studies, apparently, took a back seat and he failed his exams three years in a row. He spent one summer picking grapes in Tito’s Yugoslavia, where he may have acquired his radical communism that challenged Soviet-style orthodoxy.

It was also during his sojourn in France that he charmed Khieu Ponnary, whose sister was married to Ieng Sary, another future Khmer Rouge leader.

Returning to Phnom Penh with no degree, Pol Pot taught at a private secondary school and wrote articles for left-wing publications that he signed, “The Original Khmer.” His underground activities went farther than that, however. He became a senior member of the Cambodian Communist Party at its founding congress in 1960, and was named secretary in 1963 after the mysterious death of Tou Samouth.

It was then that his secret life became his whole life. Prince Norodom Sihanouk, no longer content to belittle the Cambodian communists as “me Khmer Rouges”—“My Red Khmers”—was stepping up police pressure. Pol Pot and his comrades fled into the jungle, leaving no trace. “When a secret is kept secret, 50% of the battle is won,” Pol Pot once said.

Twelve years later, after fighting first Sihanouk’s army and then American-backed troops of Gen. Lon Nol, the battle was won. On April 17, 1975, Pol Pot’s army of peasants, clad in simple black-cotton uniforms, marched into Phnom Penh. Finally, Pol Pot could put his ideas into action.

The result was one of the most brutal and disastrous social experiments in history. After emptying the capital at gunpoint, Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge tried to transform Cambodia into a communal agrarian utopia, but instead turned the country into a vast slave-labour camp. More than one million Cambodians—out of a population of some 7 million—were executed, tortured, or starved to death under the Khmer Rouge reign of terror.

The educated were the first to be slain. But later, as the reign of terror turned on itself, waves of purges decimated the ranks of Khmer Rouge cadres. Anyone who could pose a threat to Pol Pot was killed.

Through it all, Pol Pot stayed behind his mask. When it was announced in 1976 that Pol Pot had been named premier of “Democratic Kampuchea,” as the country was renamed, American intelligence officials—who had been fighting the Khmer Rouge for years—could not figure out who he was.

“Secret work is fundamental,” Nuon Chea, the party’s number 2, told a visiting Danish delegation in 1977, the only time Nuon Chea was seen in public.

Nevertheless, a personality cult started to spring up around him in May 1978, pushed by cadres eager to show their loyalty as purges spiraled. Tens of thousands of Khmer Rouge cadres were executed as Pol Pot eliminated competition. His power was clearly growing,  David Chandler says: whereas he was addressed as ‘Elder Brother Pol” or “Brother Number One” soon after taking power, that gradually changed to “Uncle Secretary” or “party centre” to “Leading Apparatus” to, finally, the “High Organization.”

Pol Pot’s radical ideas were nourished by a five month sojourn in China in 1965-66, when the country was in ferment leading up to the Great proletarian Cultural Revolution. His admiration for the Gang of Four was mutual: Pol Pot went to China after his 1975 victory and met Mao Zedong, who congratulated him on his speedy revolution.

While Pol Pot’s thinking may have been influenced by his foreign experiences, at its root it is deeply Khmer. And in Pol Pot’s case, that means a visceral hatred of Vietnam, the much larger neighbor that seized the Mekong Delta from the medieval Khmer empire. Egged on by that HATRED, Khmer Rouge guerrillas carried out raids into southern Vietnam, triggering the December 1978 Vietnamese invasion.

Pol Pot again fled into the jungle, after ruling for three years, eight months, and 20 days. Reverting to form, he took the code name “81.” Until July 25, 1997, he hadn’t been seen by foreign journalists since 1979, when he was filmed by Naoki Mabuchi, a Japanese photographer with close ties to the Khmer Rouge.

Pol Pot officially retired from his official posts in 1985, but there was never any question that remained in total control of the movement. Cadres who have heard him speak say he is an amazing orator, making speeches so resonant in revolutionary and patriotic spirit that they bring his listeners to tears. Yet he refrained from appearing publicly.

Now, it appears Pol Pot has lost both his mask and his powers. That doesn’t auger well for the movement he helped found, and which is now in danger of segmenting further. As Nuon Chea said in his 1977 interview: “The leadership apparatus must be defended at any price…as long as the leadership is there, the party will not die.”

 

POL POT: THE END

COVER STORY

NEXT GENERATION: Khmer Rouge put on a new face

By Nate Thayer in Anlong Veng, Cambodia

Far Eastern Economic Review

August 7, 1997

A tiger, according to Gen. Khem Nuon, can indeed change its stripes. And if foreigners doubt that the Khmer Rouge movement has  done just that, he said, they should come and see for themselves in the jungles of Northern Cambodia.

That is the message that the movement’s new military chief-of-staff wanted to send in an unprecedented interview at his headquarters of Anlong Veng. “ From now on, we are going to open this area free for foreigners, so they can see the real facts about our movement,” he said.

Anyone who accepts that invitation will find a mixed picture. Clearly, the purge of Pol Pot and a generational transfer of leadership has profoundly changed the secretive movement. In the interview, Khem Nuon spoke with openness about the past “crimes” and future plans, and he showed no interest in communist ideology.

At the same time, however, the group continues to sound the drum of rabid anti-Vietnamese ultra nationalism, and remains bent on the overthrow of Cambodian premier Hun Sen. Some of the older leaders who orchestrated the 1975-78 Cambodian reign of terror still wield influence, and younger cadres talk of “democracy” rang hollow against the backdrop of a Cultural revolution-style show trial.

The movement is opening up for a reason: It wants to build alliances both within the country and overseas for its crusade against Hun Sen and the “Vietnamese aggressors” that it claims are still occupying the country. Specifically, it wants to join forces with Funcinpec—whose leader co-Premier Prince Norodom Ranariddh, was ousted by Hun Sen in a July 5-6 coup—as well as with other political parties opposed to Hun Sen.

But Khem Nuon and other new leaders are aware that if they’re going to have any hope of winning Western support, they have to break with the movement’s blood-soaked past. “ The reason we put an end to the Pol Pot regime is because we want the international community to see and help us in our struggle with other movements in order to fight against Hun Sen and the Vietnamese,” Khem Nuon said.

To an international community that equates the Khmer Rouge with genocide, it’s going to be a hard sell. But Khem Nuon says the Khmer Rouge—or, more precisely, Pol Pot’s Democratic Kampuchea Party—no longer exists. The movement is now called the National Solidarity Party.

“ If they still call me Khmer Rouge they haven’t seen what I have just done. I am the one who destroyed Pol Pot, who has been in power for many years,” he said after the group’s longtime leader was publicly denounced. “ Even the United States and the Vietnamese failed to get rid of him, but I can. So how can you call me the Khmer Rouge?”

In an unprecedented admission, he said that “crimes” had been committed during the Khmer Rouge’s nearly four year rule of Cambodia. But even when pressed, he would not go much farther, Blaming individuals rather than the group. “ We do condemn those who have committed crimes, which were not right,” Khem Nuon said. “ At the time I committed no crimes, only Pol Pot and some of his close people. Now they are gone, while Pol Pot is arrested. Some of them have defected to the Vietnamese side, and the rest I don’t know where they are.”

According to Khem Nuon and other Cadres, the movement is now led by a nine-member standing committee that includes only one member of the old guard: Khieu Samphan, the head of the committee, a diplomat who for years has been the public face of the Khmer Rouge. Khem Nuon, who’s aged about 50, is the second-ranking member, but his power is bolstered by his being the top military figure.

Yet Khem Nuon freely acknowledges that older leaders such as Gen. Ta Mok and Nuon Chea, who were key members of the murderous 1975-78 Khmer Rouge regime, still have a say in “all important matters.” Khem Nuon, who did military training in China, is the right-hand-man of the one-legged Ta Mok. “I’m the one who is in charge of the armed forces right now, but I keep consulting him all the time,” he said.

Once Hun Sen is driven out, the National Solidarity party would be happy to participate in democratic elections, Khem Nuon said. Tep Kunnal, another top-ranking standing committee figure, also spoke of liberal democracy as desirable. It seems that the new generation is driven less by communist ideology than by the ultra nationalism that has long under laid politics in a country squeezed between more powerful neighbors.

Khem Nuon claims there are 10,000 guerrillas and 60,000 civilians loyal to the movement around Anlong Veng. “Our movement is pure and clean,” he said. “ I hope the international community will help us.” For starters, he urged, “ Please ask them to stop calling us ‘Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge.’”

 

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POL POT: THE END

COVER STORY

 

By Nate Thayer in Samrong, Cambodia and Bangkok

Far Eastern Economic Review

August 7, 1997

 

At the jungle hide-out along the Thai-Cambodian border, Gen. Serei Kosal, stuttering and wide-eyed with fear, relates five-days of flight from Phnom Penh through the Cambodian countryside. He was one of the top military officers targeted for arrest by Hun Sen, Cambodia’s second prime minister, who deposed the first prime minister, Prince Norodom Ranariddh, in the July 5-6 coup.

Gen. Serei fled the capital on the morning of July 5 by commandeering a military aircraft to the western city of Battambang. From there, he travelled three days by foot with no food until he reached resistance-controlled zones along the Thai border. Claiming 700 troops under his command, he vowed to organize guerrilla war.

He was lucky to have escaped: The coup left scores dead, including two of his fellow generals, and hundreds arrested. Thousands of others are fleeing or in hiding.

“ We need a safe haven to protect our people from killing and arrest,” said Serei, dressed in borrowed shorts and shoeless. “ Hun Sen is hunting down our people, killing them, arresting them. Why hasn’t the world condemned the coup makers and acted in support of democracy and against the dictators?”

His bewilderment is shared by other Ranariddh loyalists who are flocking to north and northwest Cambodia to seek sanctuary and organize guerrilla resistance. They are joined daily in these jungles and remote villages near the Thai border by opposition-party members, journalists, and other civilians. Many relate harrowing tales of witnessing summary executions, atrocities, and the arrest of anyone suspected of affiliation with Ranariddh’s Funcinpec party.

From their accounts and evidence gathered by human rights officials, a grim picture is emerging of torture and summary execution by Hun Sen and his cohorts, many of whom are former Khmer Rouge soldiers who took part in the “killing fields” of the late 1970’s. Equally disturbing are allegations that foreign embassies refused help to Cambodians who feared for their lives in the first days after the coup when many of the killings occurred.

International human rights officials in Phnom Penh say they had confirmed 36 executions by mid-July and were verifying a dozen others. “ We have had many cases of bodies found, hands tied behind their back, with bullets in the head. But sometimes we arrive too late for the bodies and there are only ashes. They are literally incinerating the evidence,” said a senior Western human rights investigator in Phnom Penh. United Nations officials say they know of another 30 Funcinpec supporters who were tortured and forced to drink sewage.

Investigators say at least 617 people have been detained in Phnom Penh and another 271 are known to have been arrested outside the capital. They say the evidence beginning to trickle in is “only the tip of the iceberg,” but includes specific information linking Hun Sen’s top lieutenants to unspeakable acts of torture and murder.

Gen. Chau Sambath, a military advisor to Ranariddh, was captured while trying to flee the capital by motorcycle. According to human rights officials and Cambodian intelligence officers, Sambath was taken to Hun Sen’s personal compound on July 8 where he was tortured, then executed. The sources say his fingernails were pulled off and his tongue ripped out before he was killed by Gen. Him Bun Heang, chief of security for Hun Sen and head of his personal bodyguard. “ They wanted to know the military radio frequencies of Funcinpec leaders, so they tortured him at Hun Sen’s house,” said a senior Cambodian military intelligence officer. “ They pulled his tongue out of his head with pliers when he wouldn’t talk.”

Another Funcinpec general, secretary of state at the Ministry of Interior Ho Sok, was executed on the grounds of the ministry by the bodyguards of National Police Chief Gen. Hok Lundy, a loyalist of Hun Sen. According to Amnesty International, Ho Sok was arrested “ while attempting to find a country that would give him asylum.” He had taken refuge at the embassy of an ASEAN country, but was expelled at the request of Hun Sen’s aides and arrested as he drove to the luxury Cambodiana hotel, where many foreigners and Funcinpec officials had fled in the days after the coup. A Ministry of Interior spokesman confirmed the killing, saying it was done by “people who were angry with him.”

At least five bodyguards of Gen. Nyek Bun Chhay, the commander of Funcinpec forces, had their eyes gouged out while they were under interrogation, then executed, according to Western human rights officials and Cambodian military sources. After 14 days of flight through the countryside Nyek Bun Chhay has since arrived at the jungle headquarters and commands the resistance army.

Hundreds have already arrived in Thailand, including scores of Funcinpec officials, at least 24 members of parliament, journalists associated with independent newspapers, and officials of other political parties.

“The soldiers came to my house with rocket launchers looking for my steering committee members, putting their pictures on TV and posted in military offices,” said Sam Rainsy, Cambodia’s most prominent opposition politician and head of the Khmer Nation party. “ There is a campaign to destroy the KNP. The soldiers told people at my office ‘ We will not even let a baby asleep in a hammock stay alive.’ This is real Khmer Rouge language We cannot operate anymore. Democracy is finished.” More than 1000 of his party workers are now amassed at a jungle encampment along the Thai border under the protection of Funcinpec troops still loyal to Ranariddh.

“Killing and repression are going on on a very large scale. Hun Sen is a murderous Prime Minister,” Ranariddh told the REVIEW in Bangkok on July 20. “ I hope that the U.S. congress will call for a cessation of all aid to Hun Sen.”

But international condemnation of the coup has been decidedly muted, with the major donor countries still considering whether to support a government controlled by Hun Sen. If he maintains a credible coalition by co-opting ministers from Ranariddh’s Funcinpec party, he may win that support.

The ambivalence of major Western governments was foreshadowed by the reaction of their embassies in Phnom Penh during the coup—a response that has been criticized bitterly by Cambodian and human rights officials. They say the American and Australian embassies refused entry to Cambodian government officials who sought refuge on embassy grounds. The U.S. embassy also “flatly refused” requests of political asylum for some members of parliament or to issue them with emergency visas.

“We begged visas from Western embassies. We begged them to open their gates for people who were clearly targeted for persecution, and the Americans, the Australians, flatly said no,” said a foreign human rights official in Phnom Penh. “ These are the embassies who have pushed people to exercise their rights, have said they supported human rights and free expression and opposition politics, but when these very values are trampled upon and those who exercised their  rights were targeted, they did nothing to help.”

American embassy sources said they had no clearance from Washington to offer political asylum and claim they were not approached directly by any Cambodians for sanctuary on embassy grounds.

The U.S. also set up a sanctuary on the grounds of the Cambodiana hotel in downtown Phnom Penh during the fighting that raged in the city. Some Cambodian parliamentarians who have since fled the country said they were denied access to the sanctuary in the hotel’s ballroom. The correspondent for Voice of America, Cambodian citizen Som Sattana, was refused access to the ballroom by embassy personnel, despite having received death threats, according to human rights workers. He has since left the country.

“We set up a U.S. embassy reception centre at the Cambodiana hotel early on Sunday (July 6) for American citizens,” said an embassy spokeswoman, who added: “ We were not open for visas during the fighting.”

The able to flee are regrouping in newly formed resistance zones in northern Cambodia. Several thousand heavily armed troops backed by tanks and artillery control a swath of territory across several provinces abutting the Thai border, including the contested northwestern provincial capital of Samrong.

Hundreds of Funcinpec members, exhausted from days of trekking across the country to reach Funcinpec-controlled areas, spoke of being hunted by Hun Sen’s forces. “ They are arresting people in their houses, in the jungle, along the road—anybody they think works for Funcinpec,” said Sok Nuon, a policeman who fled from Kampong Chhnang province.

Gen. Long Sereirath, formerly deputy commander of the 5th Military Region in the north, fought his way out of Siem Riep city four days after the coup. He said he went without food for three days before reaching Samrong. “ We will blow up key bridges to keep them from coming north with artillery,” he said, but added that his forces were desperately low on ammunition.

His commander, Lt. Gen. Khan Savouen, who is now leading resistance forces, appealed for foreign assistance from his front-line command post near national Route 6 in Siem Riep province.” We will fight even if we don’t get foreign assistance,” he said, surrounded by Russian T-54 tanks, armoured personnel carriers, heavy artillery and anti-aircraft guns. Heavy fighting raged a few kilometers away and his position was overrun the day after the REVIEW interviewed him.

November 12, 2011

 

POL POT: THE END

COVER STORY