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The road to mass murder

Dear Editor,

I read with interest the article "Good intentions paved road

to mass murder" (Post April 14-27). However I cannot agree with the views of an

anonymous interviewee of a "revenge theory" to put blame on innocent people and

to intend to relieve the guilt of those who engineered the killings during the

Khmer Rouge period.

To put it simply, revenge means "If you do harm to

me, then I'll do the same to you." Those who seek revenge must have a traumatic

mind to go with their act of revenge.

The interviewee said people took

revenge on Lon Nol soldiers who had killed their relatives before 1975. I agree

with this idea to a small extent because some Lon Nol soldiers might have killed

their relatives. But were all the people killed by the Khmer Rouge really Lon

Nol soldiers? He described a 12-year-old boy killing a 6-year-old boy. Did the

latter do something bad to the former?

Millions of people were killed by

the Khmer Rouge, but if you accept the revenge theory only the 200,000 Lon Nol

soldiers would have been killed. This figure may include the ghost soldiers

created by Lon Nol generals for corrupt purposes. Not all Lon Nol's soldiers

were killers or bad people. In addition many of those killed by the Khmer Rouge

were innocent people, including monks, students, poor farmers, small vendors,

medical staff, teachers, children and even retarded persons.

I would

suggest another theory to bring to light why there were so many killings all

over the country during the Khmer Rouge time. It was the "culture of hatred"

nurtured by the Khmer Rouge revolutionaries.

In several speeches

published in the series of booklets Tung Padevoat (Revolutionary Flag) produced

to educate Khmer Rouge cadres, Pol Pot repeatedly spoke about the underground

enemies among the people under his regime. He frequently linked the acts of "the

enemy" to the large numbers of broken ploughs and disappearance of so many

draught animals. That there were so many killings of farmers whose ploughs had

broken while ploughing indicates that the cadres learned their lessons well.

Surely, this is not revenge. It is a product of "the culture of hatred" nurtured

by Pol Pot's analysis.

Chuon Prasidh, the DK Ambassador to the UN,

submitted a biography to the Communist Party of Kampuchea in which he denounced

his parents and siblings for being "feudal, comprador capitalists, and

traitors". Likewise during the Khmer Rouge period many young children denounced

their own parents and disowned them, and this action sometimes led to the death

of the parents at the hands of the Khmer Rouge cadres.

During the

so-called "criticism and self-criticism meeting" usually organized at night the

cadres gave long, sleepy lectures about "imperialism, capitalism, and

oppression". They accused the people of being imperialists, comprador

capitalists, middle-class intellectuals, or exploiters, who in reality were poor

fellow villagers living next door. They stirred hatred among the "base people"

(people who were living in the Khmer Rouge-controlled areas during the 1970-75


The KR claimed that they had been exploited by the business people

(even village vendors) for selling goods at higher price or acting as middleman

in the business channels, and by officials who had collected land taxes

(normally 5 riels a year). All these lessons had been taught since the time of

the fighting against the Lon Nol government.

Many students who had

supported the cause of the Khmer Rouge and demonstrated against the Lon Nol

regime were killed. This is not revenge, but discrimination against all people

who were not believed to be the real followers of Pol Pot. The Khmer Rouge

cadres were even vigilant about anyone whoever complained about salty soup or

anyone who said that there was lightning without rain. These remarks were

interpreted to mean the speaker referred to subversive acts intended to destroy

the angkar.

In Region 13 in the southwest, believed to be controlled

firmly by Ta Mok people, there was a three-tiered class division: The full-right

cooperative (sahakor penh sidh), the preparatory cooperative (sahakor triem),

and the provisional cooperative (sahakor phnaeu).

All members of the

full-right cooperative, who had no blood links to people in Lon Nol areas,

enjoyed all privileges from having better food to controlling all acts of the

provisional cooperative. Even young children could spy on and punish the members

of other groups, especially the provisional cooperative.

The preparatory

cooperative, who lived in the Khmer Rouge areas but had family links with people

in the Lon Nol areas, enjoyed fewer privileges than the full-right cooperative


The provisional cooperative members were the most disadvantaged

and had no rights at all. They were the people evacuated from Lon Nol areas.

This group was completely subject to, and frequently abused by, the full-right

cooperative members.

Now there are some people who think that to stop the

cycle of revenge there should be no Khmer Rouge tribunal. There is a

misunderstanding of Buddhist concept of non-revenge.

Revenge in Buddhism

means settlement outside the framework of Dhamma (or law). To bring the Khmer

Rouge before a legally established tribunal is not revenge. The tribunal will

attempt to show the offenders their karma. It is the law that determines which

sanctions that are appropriate for certain karma.

It is my belief that

the Khmer Rouge "culture of hatred" turned its adherents to commit terrible

inhuman acts. For people like myself who suffered under this "culture of hatred"

we are still haunted in our dreams by fears which will never leave


- Koy Neam, Phnom Penh



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