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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - The Gecko: 05 february 1999

The Gecko: 05 february 1999

How much did Ieng Sary know about Toul Sleng? New York Times corespondent

Henry Kamm asked the DNUM chief that question some years ago. In his recently published

book Cambodia: report from a stricken land, Kamm quotes Sary on the S-21 torture

center: "I thought it was a reeducation center, and after reeducation people

would be sent back. But later I noticed they didn't come back. I knew people were

accused there without justification. I don't know if Pol Pot knew. Only two people

knew for certain, because they must have been there: Nuon Chea, who was responsible

in the party for security, and Son Sen, who was responsible for state security."

What about starvation in the countryside? Kamm asked about that too and when did

Sary find out? He replied: "From my children, in 1976. All four lived in communes

around Phnom Penh and were often sent to the countryside to gather herbs for traditional

medicines. They came to me and said, 'Papa, people are dying of hunger. They are

eating gruel, not rice.' I confronted Pol Pot, not at a meeting but in tete-a-tete

and questioned him. He said I was against the regime. From then on, whenever I came

back from a foreign trip...I asked myself, 'Will I go home or to (S-21)?'"

** Was the US trade delegation visit a high-profile VIP affair? You

bet. They made a side trip to Siem Reap to check out the temples. With the size

and seriousness of the advance security party at Angkor Wat, local hawkers thought

the Prime Minister had come to town. Vendors were hustled out of the way and pesky

kids given a whack on the head to get them moving. The next morning two of the delegation

went for a jog, with a truckload of AK-toting security and four escort cars in tow.

** Burma still likes the idea of throttling the press and manages to

get away with it. The defections of Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan made banner headlines

in the New Light of Myanmar and other media outlets. The arrest and detention of

General Pinochet in London didn't get a mention.

** If you like Jazz and Blues, guess what? There's a new club in town offering

both. Check out the Mata Hari Club just behind the Riverside Bistro.

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