Search

Search form

Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Burned like old rubbish: Pol Pot's funeral

Burned like old rubbish: Pol Pot's funeral

Burned like old rubbish: Pol Pot's funeral

090429_06.jpg
090429_06.jpg

THIS WEEK IN HISTORY

Vol. 7, No. 8

April 24 to May 7 1998

WHEN a young Khmer Rouge civilian who happened apparently to be passing nearby took out his yellow plastic cigarette lighter and ignited the gas-soaked funeral pyre containing the body of Pol Pot, it was just another chore in a day of work.

There was no grief at the demise of a loved one - his wife and daughter stayed away. There was no elation here at the passing of a despot. Aside from the witnesses - his jailer, Non Nou, and a single Thai army officer - there were only the barest number of people needed to build a simple box and burn it.

Pol Pot died empty. He had long ago rid himself of humanity and compassion.

His final usefulness as a doddering old man was as a political bargaining chip, and in death his body was a devaluing public relations prop for the "revamped" hardline Khmer Rouge.

Even as a symbol, he was at best worthless and, recently, little more than an embarrassment.

He had nothing else to offer. Even the ashes of his disease-wracked body, soaked in formalin as it had been, are unlikely to provide much nourishment to the soil - soil in which he once saw the future of the Cambodian proletariat.

"Pol Pot is dead, and I am very happy." With those words, Non Nou confirmed the rumours on Thursday morning, April 16 - the day before the 23rd anniversary of the Khmer Rouge takeover of Cambodia.

He told reporters that Pol Pot had died at 11:15 the previous night in the two-storied house the family lived in just north of Anlong Veng. He was apparently discovered by his wife Mea Son when she went to put a mosquito net over him.

From there, the curtain went up on a bizarre freak show, with Thai soldiers acting as ushers as Khmer Rouge wheeled out the main attraction.

Most people were wearing the traditional Mao-style hats and green fatigues, though one soldier had opted for a Cindy Crawford T-shirt.

Grief was not evident.

RECOMMENDED STORIES

  • Breaking: PM says prominent human rights NGO ‘must close’

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has instructed the Interior Ministry to investigate the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) and potentially close it “because they follow foreigners”, appearing to link the rights group to the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party's purported “revolution”. The CNRP - the

  • Rainsy and Sokha ‘would already be dead’: PM

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Sunday appeared to suggest he would have assassinated opposition leaders Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha had he known they were promising to “organise a new government” in the aftermath of the disputed 2013 national elections. In a clip from his speech

  • Massive ceremony at Angkor Wat will show ‘Cambodia not in anarchy’: PM

    Government officials, thousands of monks and Prime Minister Hun Sen himself will hold a massive prayer ceremony at Angkor Wat in early December to highlight the Kingdom’s continuing “peace, independence and political stability”, a spectacle observers said was designed to disguise the deterioration of

  • PM tells workers CNRP is to blame for any sanctions

    In a speech to workers yesterday, Prime Minister Hun Sen pinned the blame for any damage inflicted on Cambodia’s garment industry by potential economic sanctions squarely on the opposition party. “You must remember clearly that if the purchase orders are reduced, it is all