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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Interview with Ieng Sary

Interview with Ieng Sary

Australia's ABC television network was among a select group of journalists invited

to interview Khmer Rouge breakaway leader Ieng Sary, and his two immediate subordinates

Y Chhean and Sok Pheap, on August 28, near Malai. The following is a full translated

transcript of the 80-minute conference.

Respected ladies and gentlemen.

Today I invited (you) to interview me in a spirit that you want to help us to put

an end to the war which is still flaring in our country. Today I am happy to warmly

welcome you all to our liberated zone.

First of all I would like to inform you about my decision to break away from the

dictatorial group of Pol Pot, Ta Mok, Son Sen.

This decision is not a tactical move aimed at returning power. It came from a swell(ing),

steaming movement of the masses of both combatants and people who have undergone

war for many years and who aspire to see the end to the war in order to realize the

national reconciliation and national unity and national reconstruction.

We are of an opinion that if Khmer and Khmer continue to shed their own blood, our

nation will be reduced to nothing. But the dictatorial group of Pol Pot, Ta Mok,

Son Sen continues to wage this endless war.

As a patriot, I cannot accept this kind of situation. This is the reason that led

to break away from the dictatorial group of Pol Pot, Ta Mok, Son Sen to form the

Democratic National United Movement (DNUM).

Secondly, the objective of DNUM is to put an end to the war, with an aim to realize

national reconciliation, national unity and national reconstruction under a democratic

regime. In order to reach this objective which is the deep-rooted aspiration of our

combatants and the people, all Khmer, all factions have to negotiate without being

winners, losers, or traitors.

Thirdly, we have to stand on the factual situation of the process of our country's

development. It is not realistic to bring our combatants and people to surrender.

Our combatnts and people can never accept (this) eventuality because they have struggled

for many years for the cause of their beloved motherland.

Fourthly, the current situation in our country is very complicated that we must add

no more complexity to this already complicated situation. First of all, the bloodshed

between Khmer and Khmer must be stopped and unite all Khmer to cooperate in defending

and build an independent, peaceful, unified and democratic Cambodia under the umbrella

within the framework of Monarchy which has lasted since the Angkor era. The monarchy

must be preserved and accompanied by a democratic regime according to the development

of our country and all the countries in the world.

Fifth, I give you the interview because I consider you all our friends who desire

that peace should be restored and national reconciliation and national union be realized

in our country.

Thank you.

I would like to add that you all have freedom to express your opinion on what you

see and how you will write. But I would like to appeal to you all that our country

is under a bloody war without any chance for construction. So whatever you are going

to write, don't expand and aggravate the bloodshed to destroy our country.

Q: What exactly do you want from the Royal Cambodian Government in exchange

for (this) split and what are your conditions?

A: I'd like to inform all of you that our main requests are peace, national

reconciliation and putting an end to the war. The main request, (the) objective,

is to end the war.

Q: Will you be seeking to form a political party inside the country for the

next election and will you maintain control of your own zone in Phnom Malai and Pailin?

Regarding this issue, we have the zone controlled by us from Malai to Pailin.

This region is inhabited by our people and our army for many years already and we

want it (the zone to) be maintained by our army while it is integrated entirely into

the national framework of the government.

Q: Will you be forming a party to participate in the next election?

Presently, we have created a movement called DNUM. This movement will make its

best for the national healing to be materialized.

Q: Shall we understand this movement means a political party?

We had a lot of thought before deciding to call it a movement.

Q: How about the next election, will this movement attend the next election

in 1998?

This issue requires us to talk how to end the war as quick as we can because in

our opinion it is vital for our nation. So the position of Mr. Y Chhean and Sok Pheap

is the same as mine which is how to end the war without any fighting to be launched

from now until a complete solution can be reached. So now we are looking at many

issues in the coming one or two years but we will see how the situation develops.

Q: What is the single most important thing to end the fighting?

In our opinion, all Khmer, all factions must negotiate. Without negotiation, without

trying to understand each others' hearts, there remain accusations, counter-accusations

and suspicions and by that the war, (we) can see no end to it.

Q: Could Pol Pot and his hardline faction ever join you now ?

Concerning this question, I had discussed this issue with them for many years

but they adamantly continue to wage the war until they win. I was convinced that

I was unable to persuade them. I made statements - I'm not sure if you have seen

them or not since August 15 - that I cut myself (off) from Pol Pot, Ta Mok, Son Sen

to form this movement. If they - but I don't hope either - want to negotiate for

peace, I don't have any objection. Through experience of many years of struggle together,

any expectation that this bunch will return to negotiation is impossible. Since the

beginning, I never declared resigning from politics or the leadership. But Ta Mok,

Pol Pot, Nuon Chea used to make that statement [resigning from politics] but in reality

they continue to work in politics. I do according to what I say.

Q: Do you have the intention to join Phnom Penh government?

After some exchanges of view, we've seen that there are many possibilities in

this regard.

Q: Before or after the election?

It's too early to say that now.

Q: Are you seeking a position in the government before the election?

On this issue, I wait to negotiate [with the government].

Q: What will be the condition to join the Phnom Penh government?

We are now discussing this matter.

Q: Now the Phnom Penh government has stated that they are ready to give Your

Excellency amnesty. So is amnesty one of the conditions to join the government?

I have (made) no mistakes for them to excuse me.

Q: You were said to be Mr Pol Pot's right-hand man during the Pol Pot regime,

where so many people died from massacre or starvation or something like that. Do

you take that kind of responsibility?

I am not the right hand of Pol Pot. Obviously, the main right-hand man

is Nuon Chea. And there was a committee which considered all questions about security,

which comprised four people: Pol Pot, Nuon Chea, Son Sen, and Son Sen's advisor Yun

Yat. All decisions were made by the committee of the four. The evacuation of the

people from the cities did not involve my participation in the decision. Because

on 23 April, 1975 I got off the plane from Peking and I saw the town had already

been deserted of its inhabitants. Everything was already decided and it was not worth

talking about it. But frankly speaking, in 1974 I talked with Pol Pot that taking

people out of Stung Treng and Kratie was easy because there weren't many people,

but evacuating people out of Phnom Penh would not be so easy, everything must be

throughly arranged because there were millions of people. I am very regretful for

the deaths of the intellectuals because I was the one who gathered them to come to

help build the country. In 1979 when I attended UN General Assembly, some Cambodian

refugees saw me and said that I was the first to be killed. I would like to speak

my honesty on this matter. Why did I not talk about this since the beginning? Because

it was the reason of solidarity in the period of struggle. Now they've accused me

of being a traitor and I must make everything clear.

Q: Was there anything that you knew at the time about the executions, about

the purging inside the party, things that you know perhaps personally?

Pol Pot is very intelligent to form a secret committee. Sometimes they already

excuted the people then he told me.

Q: During the Pol Pot regime Your Excellency was deputy Prime Minister and

I think it was a very important post? Were you able to ask Pol Pot not to [kill people]?

I have quite a lot of children. They were sent into the jungle to collect traditional

medicine. When they returned they told me "Father, the people are starving,

most of them had only borbor to eat." I had gone to talk with Pol Pot but he

replied to me that I was attacking my own regime. So, after returning from a trip

outside [the country] I had no idea if I would be taken to prison or not. The government

at that time was just nominal; although there might be a government it was meaningless,

everything was managed by the party. Freedom - even for myself as a foreign minister

going abroad - there had to be regulation (as) to what extent could I work or say.

The government at that time had only the name, without any content. In reality in

Anlong Veng, the so-called Provisional Government of National Salvation does have

no right whatsoever.

Q: You knew nothing about the execution of those intellectuals because there

is a case often brought up in publicity?

I was not aware of this problem. When they [intellectuals] got off the plane,

they were taken to different places. I myself had no knowledge about this. Even my

brother-in-law and mother-in-law arrived without my knowldge. Only when my brother-in-law

died did I know that he had died. There was no serious illness.

Q: Is Pol Pot still alive?

To my knowledge, he is presently alive and living in Anlong Veng. I have not seen

Pol Pot for more than three years already.

Q: But is Pol Pot dead, do we know?

To my knowledge, he is alive. Because as far as the distortion against me is concerned,

it is Pol Pot, (and) no-one else [who did it].

Q: Who has the the strongest force now?

As I can see now Pol Pot is alone with that government and another part is Ta

Mok and Nuon Chea in Samlot.

Q: Are all of them one force?

They can be together and can contact each other by telephone.

Q: Is Khieu Samphan sympathetic to Your Excellency or he is a supporter of

Pol Pot?

It is hard for me to say about this because he is already with Pol Pot. He doesn't

enjoy any great deal of freedom either.

Q: Does Pol Pot still have the real power in the DK?

As I can see before he did have real power and for that power he wanted it applied

in the most dictatorial way on regions 450 Malai and 415 Pailin through Son Sen.

Q: So, he is still the leader of the KR?

As we can see, more and more people defy his direction. Because the people have

seen the accusations against 450 and 415 and against myself, so there is nothing

for them to believe in anymore...

Q: There is a law outlawing you right now in Cambodia, do you want that law

repealed as a condition to talk to the government. I know it is sensitive but could

we have a good idea of some more conditions which you are discussing?

I don't know what kind of government you're talking about because at that time

the Yuon installed it and it prosecuted [us]. What kind was that government? How

about the war?

Q: What is the future of your soldiers who will join the government soon?

For this matter, you'd better ask Mr. Chhean and Sok Pheap. In my view, there

must be proper conditions before negotation can produce a satisfactory result...

acceptable to us.

Q: Does that mean you will keep a separate force or will you join the Royal


We are negotiating this issue.

Q: But you want to maintain your area, your own force and then cooperate with

the government or join the government completely?

We are negotiating this issue.

Q: Do you have any intention to go back to Phnom Penh?

I can live anywhere but I ask to be with my army and my people because I love

my nation.

Q: Does it mean that you will remain around this area?

Not sure.

Q: I saw in the town, in the market many people were buying some goods, vegetables,

people are smiling, they want to have opportunity to do business. Is it your policy?

During the past years, especially starting from a few months ago in May, June,

July everything including the people's oxcarts were expropriated. So, the people

became anguished, very angry and now oxcarts and cars have been given back to them.

The people are happy and they want it like that but we also don't want to see anarchy

as well.

Q: Thank you for allowing us to visit Malai but can we ask when can we visit


Let's see the development [of the negotiations] and we will arrange for you to

visit, maybe in 15 days.

Q: Is there still a problem militarily in Pailin?

[Y Chhean's voice] There is no problem in Pailin but in the south of it there

is some problem but not very serious.

Q: Do you expect Pol Pot to send forces against you?

[Pheap's voice] He sent them here but they couldn't fight us. The people are chasing

them now. [Ieng Sary's voice] Not the people in Malai but the people of 519 who fought


Q: Since you left Phnom Pen in 1979, the world has changed. China cut support

for your faction, China itself introduced a market economy system. How do you see

this kind of change?

[Ieng Sary's voice] I accept a democratic regime. I do not add "liberal"

but I accept democracy like that being applied in Japan. Like in Singapore and Thailand,

they practice that [democracy] and we want to do the same.

Q: What has been changed in your mind? Before, I hoped, you were hardline communist

but now you seem to have changed. What is changed?

I was born a Khmer national. So, whatever regime is seen as leading the Khmer

nation toward progress and solidarity, I accept it. So, since 1963 I have had a dispute

with Pol Pot. I saw that in that circumstance political struggle was still possible

in Phnom Penh without the need for us going into the jungle. Although there were

people who opposed us and wanted to kill us but the regime was still ruled by Samdech

Norodom Sihanouk who still had some separation rather and who did not opt to a general

killing. Pol Pot, Nuon Chea, Son Sen said "it was impossible to stay [in Phnom

Penh], we all will have our throats slashed, killed if we show our faces".

Q: So, is this the end of the Khmer Rouge, are you still Khmer Rouge?

I have never been Khmer Rouge (Ieng Sary said with laughter). Samdech [Sihanouk]

named us Khmer Rouge.

Q: You see what I mean as the unity is still Democratic Kampuchea or this is

the end of Democratic Kampuchea?

In my view, it is the beginning of the end. If we negotiate successfully with

a good result, that means the end [of the KR]. But if the negotiation is fruitless,

that means the KR still exists but it's broken.

Like in the statements I have made, there are no tactics hidden but it is simply

that the time for the breaking up has arrived.

Q: Can we see Your Excellency next week?

We will see. I'm quite busy.



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