Your recent article describing the "re-education" and disappearance of
Prince Naradipo reopens a number of questions concerning the fate of children and
grandchildren of King Sihanouk, as well as other non-Communist personalities associated
with him through their membership in the Royal Government of National Union of Kampuchea
(GRUNK) and the National United Front of Kampuchea (FUNK), which Sihanouk headed
from 1970 through 1975.
It has been widely asserted and presumed that these non-Communists, who were allowed
to return to Cambodia after the Communist Party of Kampuchea seized power in April
1975, were invited back to be killed, and that, similarly, Prince Naradipo and other
offspring of Sihanouk were separated from him in order to be killed.
Your article's recounting of what happened to Naradipo, however, appears to confirm
the account given in the "confessions" of the cadre mentioned in it, Cho
Chhan, alias Sreng, the Deputy Secretary of the Communist Party's North Zone, who
was, as your article notes, arrested in early 1977.
According to Sreng's "confessions", "the Organization's policy"
up until the time of his arrest had been to keep "a number of members of the
Royal Family," including specifically Naradipo, alive. Also to be exempted from
the Party's general policy of "smashing" military officers, policemen,
military police and "reactionary" civil servants of the old regime were
two close political associates of Sihanouk who had attempted to prevent the coup
that had overthrown him in 1970: Ung Hong Sath and Y Tuy.
As Laura Summers at the University of Hull has recalled, these "loyal Sihanoukists"
had remained in Phnom Penh after the coup and tried to find a way of ending the civil
war and bringing Sihanouk back into power. They were kept alive after being evacuated
in 1975 to the North Zone. Also kept alive, albeit in "re-education" camps
or while undergoing heavy labour, were most of the non-Communist members of GRUNK
and FUNK who had returned to Cambodia from Beijing, Paris and other places of exile.
Kept alive that is, until late 1976 or early 1977, when many suffered the same fate
as Naradipo, Ung Hong Sath, Y Tuy and others who were swept out of their re-education
camps and killed, at the same time that Sreng and many Party members who like him
were considered "petty bourgeois intellectuals" were also arrested and
Did all of this reflect a preconceived plan, worked out shortly before or shortly
after April 1975? Evidently not. Instead, starting in late 1976, "the Organization's"
policy changed in a way that greatly increased the pace of killings. Why did it change?
It seems to have changed because the Organization's other policies were failing:
on the economic and many other fronts, the revolution had clearly gone terribly wrong.
The Organization apparently needed scapegoats and wanted to preempt the coalescence
of widespread but atomized opposition inside and outside of Communist ranks.
However, neither Sreng's "confessions" nor other documents so far available
make clear exactly who in "the Organization" made this decision, how widely
it was disseminated or to what extent it was implemented through units other than
S-21 (Tuol Sleng). Claims by Ieng Sary and assertions made about Khieu Samphan that
they were out of this decision-making loop cannot be proved or disproved by the existing
Perhaps a proper and fair trial of them and other "senior Khmer Rouge"
would reveal whether they are as deeply implicated in such matters as Pol Pot, Nuon
Chea, Son Sen and Duch.
A less than fair trial, however, probably would leave such questions with only highly
Steve Heder, School of Oriental and African Studies, London