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Khieu Samphan on Chandler

Khieu Samphan on Chandler

After the publication of Professor David Chandler's review of my book in your

esteemed magazine, Phnom Penh Post (April 23, 2004), I think I can believe that

you are opening your columns to permit a confrontation of opinions on the recent

history of Cambodia. Certainly, your initiative would contribute to bring some

points to light, and consequently, would help to examine all circumstances in

judging the responsibility of one versus another regarding to the sufferings

inflicted to the Cambodian people during these last decades.

I thus do

hope that you would permit me to express my point of view as


Professor David Chandler entitled his comments on my book

Cambodia recent History and the standpoints underlying my actions as: "Khieu

Samphan's 'Mr Nice Guy' tales, hard to swallow". [Editor's note: the headline of

the book review was chosen by the Post.]

I feel that the following

sentence taken from Professor Chandler's text calls for careful


"...the people he [Khieu Samphan] accuses of 'occupying'

Cambodia in 1967-75 were not an occupying army".

From my perception, this

sentence indeed enlightens the philosophy underlying Professor Chandler's

understanding of the events and of the people who were more or less important

actors during these three decades in Cambodia. And this philosophy shows

particularly clearly when Professor Chandler writes: "Some of these 'rightwing'

(quotes are from Professor Chandler) men or women opposed Sihanouk's


Reading these words, I feel as if I were facing again

these intellectuals who "absolutely refused to acknowledge that, whatever

shortcomings one could blame on him, Prince Norodom Sihanouk was the only one

Cambodian leader able to keep the war in check along the eastern


This philosophy may explain for instance Professor Chandler's

following statement: " 1970, when Sihanouk fell from power, North Vietnam,

Lon Nol, Sihanouk, the Khmers Rouges and the United States dropped Cambodia into

the maelstrom of the second Indochina war". Professor Chandler thus ignores the

fact that it is precisely the way how the USA did their utmost to "reverse the

Cambodian trend towards communist neutrality"2 that results, directly or

indirectly, in the 1970 coup and, following immediately the coup, in Cambodia

being invaded by US and South Vietnamese forces, and then in the spreading of

the second war of Vietnam into the Cambodian territory.

This philosophy

may explain that, mentioning my forced departure from Phnom Penh in 1967,

Professor Chandler wrote: "It should be clear to his [Khieu Samphan's] readers,

however that his exile was part of a process that was to continue for over

thirty years, whereby he was used by his superiors in the Khmers Rouges . . .for

purposes he never questioned...".

This prevents Professor Chandler from

understanding what a crucial challenge the survival of Cambodia as an

independent country was, and the very roots of my commitment, as I already

explained them: "Nevertheless, as it was absolutely essential, at least in my

opinion, that our country would survive these so dangerous times, I could not

avoid taking sides. Each crucial moment of this historical period, I thus choose

to side with those forces that, despite their image, despite even severe

contradictions in their actions which were shown as events were proceeding,

seemed to me to remain essentially national forces, as they were decisively

fighting to defend our country's sovereignty".

Khieu Samphan -

1 Cambodia recent History and the standpoints underlying

my actions, p19.

2 See the official report revealed by Shawcross in

his book Sideshow: Kissinger, Nixon and the destruction of Cambodia, p47,

quoted in my book page 16.


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