The last ideological diehards who will fight to the bitter end, a group of desperate
bandits with nowhere else to go, or just waiting for the best offer to switch sides?
The following are the Khmer Rouge chiefs who, for now at least, are keeping Ta Mok
at the top of the pile.
All of them (except possibly Kong and Non Nou) are members of the new KR standing
committee put in place by Ta Mok after he deposed Pol Pot last June. They are listed
here in rough order of military, economic and political importance.
KHEM NGUON: Ta Mok's army chief-of-staff. Aged about 48. Believed to have
joined the KR early 1970s. Mid-level cadre of Navy Div 164 in the first two years
of the Pol Pot regime, then sent to China to study naval warfare, returning after
1979 Vietnamese invasion. Worked in Mok's Sector 1003 office in the 1980s, and later
supervised Mok's strongly loyal Div 912. In 1992 nominated as commander of Div 946,
a merger of Divs 912 and 980 (Siem Reap, greater Anlong Veng area) for them to demobilize
under UN peace operation. Merger cancelled; KR withdrew from elections. Until 1997,
senior commander in the north. Named by eyewitness as having personally taken British
hostage Chris Howes to Anlong Veng after his abduction in southern Siem Reap. Emerged
into public limelight after Pol Pot's overthrow, giving an interview in which he
invited foreigners to go to Anlong Veng to see how the KR had changed. Key contact
between journalists, foreign governments and the KR. Nguon offered to hand over Pol
Pot to international trial just before his death and asked for medicine and food
from the world. "I will shoot myself before I work with Hun Sen and the Vietnamese,"
he told the Far Eastern Economic Review April 11.
TA (Grandfather) THEM: Senior military commander, appointed Defense Minister
by Mok after Pol Pot ordered Son Sen killed last June, defectors say. Aged about
49. May be from Mok's home province of Takeo; loyal to Mok for years. Role in DK
regime unclear. Vice-chairman of Div 912 from 1982-1990, then head of division, and
later responsible for military technology (hand-made landmines, etc) in north and
east, according to defectors in 1995. Identified to UN by KR as "Ok Them",
deputy to Khem Nguon in Div 946, in 1992. Possibly commander of special Mok unit
called Regiment or Unit 27; led clashes with defectors who broke away from Anlong
Veng on March 24.
DUL SAROEUN: Aged about 49, one-eyed, from Kampong Chhnang. Reportedly in
charge of nationwide radar during Pol Pot regime. Believed with Div 519 (based in
Banteay Meanchey in more recent years) since 1979. Appointed chairman of 519 in mid-1980s.
Only 519 commander to remain in KR ranks; most defected with Pailin, Phnom Malai
breakaway in 1996. Reportedly led KR reinforcements to help Funcinpec resistance
chief Nhek Bun Chhay near O'Smach last year.
KONG: Aged about 53, commander of Div 912, previously in charge of logistics
for the division. Feared for ill-temper and cruelty. Described by defector in 1995
as "strong, doesn't know fear, cruel; if you do something wrong, he'll beat
you". Another said he was "old Khmer Rouge... famous for attacking very
strongly and being very cruel". Remembered for once shooting one of his own
bodyguards/messengers. Allegedly ordered kidnapping of Chris Howes by Div 912 forces;
may have directly ordered the killing of Howes' translator Houn Hourth. Contacted
on radio by defectors after Anlong Veng breakaway to try to get him to defect; reportedly
he wasn't too friendly. Recent defectors speak of him with fear. "He thinks
the same as Ta Mok: fight, fight, fight," said one of them.
NON NOU (or Nov): Apparently Ta Mok's money-man. Smooth-talking political
cadre, aged in 40s, maybe Mok's nephew or nephew-in-law. Emerged on Thai border to
talk to journalists after Pol Pot's death. Identified himself as Pol Pot's jailor
and an economics adviser to Ta Mok. Previously in charge of "economy" for
Sector 1005. Most trusted by Mok, responsible for KR finances from logging, etc since
Pol Pot's overthrow, according to recent defectors. Certainly knows inside story
of Pol Pot's death; has denied murder or that Pot died on Thai soil. Has excellent
contacts with Thai military and businessmen. "If they arrested Nou, Ta Mok couldn't
do anything. He would have no money," said one, adding that Nou would never
be arrested because "he has so much money, he can go anywhere".
KHIEU SAMPHAN: Most senior political leader still with Mok; he, Mok and Nuon
Chea are the only top Pol Pot regime leaders still in the movement. Born in 1931
in Svay Rieng. MP under Sihanouk government, later fled to join resistance. Chief
of State of Democratic Kampuchea regime. Officially replaced Pol Pot as Prime Minister
of DK government-in-exile late 1979; nominal leader of KR for years. KR diplomat/negotiator
during peace process. Responsible for KR radio. Reportedly took Pol Pot's side in
Anlong Veng split last year, but was captured by Ta Mok soldiers. Purportedly still
well-respected within movement, and is its only real political leader. Likely has
no choice but to support Mok. Rumored (but denied by KR) to have been negotiating
with government in recent days. Certain to be under the close watch of Mok.
NUON CHEA: Highly secretive former Brother No 2 to Pol Pot for decades, known
as "Prahok" for liking of fish paste. Born 1927, Battambang. President
of DK "parliament", and briefly Prime Minister in Pol Pot regime. In charge
of KR political wing since 1979. Reportedly ill in recent years. May have sided with
Pol Pot against Ta Mok, but surrendered to Mok. He, Mok and Samphan would be at the
top any list of KR leaders wanted for international tribunal.
(- Compiled by Jason Barber with information from Anlong Veng defectors,
Khmer Rouge refugees in Thailand, and KR researchers David Ashley and Steven