[IWAR] CAMBODIA Pol Pot, other killers

From: 7Pillars Partners (partnersat_private)
Date: Thu Apr 23 1998 - 22:25:13 PDT

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    Cambodia's other madmen 
     Just as it seemed Pol
     Pot's old international
     allies were conspiring
     to snatch him and put
     him on trial, the ailing
     mass murderer turns up dead in his jungle redoubt. 
     "Natural causes," claim his former comrades in the
     Khmer Rouge, burning his remains on a pyre
     before an autopsy could be performed. They say
     their former leader had been under house arrest for
     ordering the assassination of his own defense
     minister and 12 members of his family, including
     his grandchildren. 
     But nothing will ever seem "natural" about the
     terror Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge rained on
     Cambodia. And while the near 20-year search for
     the elusive Saloth Sar ("Pol Pot" was his nom de
     guerre) could make for a great Hollywood
     journalist-in-action movie, it presents a false,
     celebrity-style view of history. The millions of
     Cambodians who died beginning in 1970 -- and
     continue to die today -- did not perish simply
     because a single madman seized power in their
     If Pol Pot had been tried in an international war
     crime tribunal, as the United States wanted, would
     he have stood alone in the dock? His most recent
     captors, the high-level leaders who held out with
     him in the jungle after the overthrow of the Khmer
     Rouge, men like Ieng Sary, Khieu Sampan and the
     guerrilla commander Ta Mok -- known to
     Cambodians as "the butcher" -- certainly should
     have been co-defendants. 
     And what about the high-level officials of the Hun
     Sen government? Most of them were powerful
     Khmer Rouge leaders themselves until they
     mutinied against Pol Pot's purges in 1976-78. Yet
     they helped carry out the brutal march back in
     history that emptied Cambodia's towns, wrecked its
     agricultural economy and medical system and
     turned the country into a mass labor camp so that
     hundreds of thousands died from malnutrition,
     disease and overwork. 
     Thousands more were killed in a labor-intensive
     bloodletting by Khmer Rouge cadres wielding clubs
     -- bullets were scarce. Should those cadres, many
     of them in their teens at the time, be tried? 
     What about King Norodom Sihanouk, who threw
     his royal lot in with the Khmer Rouge after he was
     overthrown in 1970 by Gen. Lon Nol. 
     What about those who created the political vacuum
     that permitted a group of marginal jungle fighters to
     seize power? The Vietnamese communist leaders
     who undermined Sihanouk by using Cambodia as a
     staging area for their war to unify Vietnam? The
     Americans who encouraged Sihanouk's overthrow
     and drove Cambodian peasants into the arms of the
     Khmer Rouge by one of the most intense bombing
     campaigns ever recorded -- and then invaded the
     country in 1970? Should Richard Nixon's ghost,
     Nobel Prize-winner Henry Kissinger and the late
     U.S. diplomat Thomas Enders, who chose targets
     for the bombing, join the ghost of Pol Pot before a
     war crimes tribunal? 
     And what of those who sustained the Khmer Rouge
     after the Vietnamese invasion in 1978 -- the Thais
     who gave them sanctuary, the Chinese who armed
     them, the U.S. officials who encouraged the Thais
     and Chinese and the U.N. members who voted to
     keep the Khmer Rouge as Cambodia's
     representatives in the United Nations? 
     Pol Pot may be dead, but his legacy lives on.
     Former Khmer Rouge comrades led by Hun Sen
     still rule Cambodia with an iron fist, routinely killing
     political opponents, newspaper reporters and labor
     activists. Hundreds of candidates were killed in the
     U.N.-supervised 1993 elections while observers and
     journalists -- desperate to herald the arrival of
     democracy -- looked the other way. 
     Four years later, the jerry-built coalition
     government was vanquished in a coup. Opposition
     parties and a budding labor movement are being
     repressed. This July's elections promise to be
     A "great madman" theory of Cambodia's history
     can hardly do justice to what has happened to these
     people and their country. "Killing Fields" are not
     built in a day. Neither is democracy. Both take
     many, many hands. 
     SALON | APRIL 24, 1998 
     Judith Coburn covered the war in Cambodia from 1970 to
     1973 and has reported from there regularly since then. Joshua
     Phillips, a freelance journalist, reported for the Pnomh Penh
     Post in 1997.

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