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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - A warning from the dead: the fury of a strongman

A warning from the dead: the fury of a strongman

In November 1976, a prisoner at the S-21 detention center in Phnom Penh named

Non Suon wrote a 'confession' which included his biography and comments about fellow

Khmer Rouge "Brothers". Suon was formerly in charge of a sector in the

KR Special Zone led by Von (or Vorn) Vet. After 1975 he was slated to be in charge

of the Democratic Kampuchea National Bank but (as it was unnecessary after the DK

decided not to use money) was instead appointed to its Agriculture Committee. It

is unclear who ordered his arrest. It is also not known whether his confession, presumably

sent to his superior, Von Vet, was ever read by Mok. Suon was later executed. The

following are translated extracts (courtesty of historian Steve Heder) of what he

had to say in his confession about Ta Mok.

Mok was born in Tram Kak district (Takeo) in a family that was, for the peasants

of the district, a rich one. All of his relatives were rich peasants.

[...] Mok is a bright person who quickly grasped the Party's political, ideological

and organizational lines and is able to grasp our situation and that of the enemy

in a timely manner.

Mok made a vital contribution to the Party Organization in the Southwest, fulfilling

major assignments for the Party. He built up a solidly reliable base both for the

countryside and the city. He was able to build up...steadfast revolutionary forces

in every circle, such that throngs of people supported and sustained every Party

assignment. He was able to build up and develop massive armed forces rapidly and

indoctrinated cadres and combatants with a valiant combat stance [...] This is a

great virtue of Mok's, and there are many more.

At the same time, there are some shortcomings that I could observe, as follows:

1. Zonism. He thinks only his zone is important, and doesn't give much

thought to other zones. For example, during the storming attacks all around Phnom

Penh in early 1974 he... still kept aside some troops for the zone. After attacking

for a while, [others] were withdrawn to go back and fight within his own zone. This

put pressure on the Special Zone. At the time Von felt that this was a base of a

big zone looking down on a little zone. When they were studying together, Von was

hardly on speaking terms with him, and he reported to the Brother Secretary that

Von was angry with him about something.

2. Individualism and Nepotism. For example, he is quick to become angry

and even furious... His attitude is displayed in loud rages and cursing. I myself,

for example, was intimidated by him and didn't really have the nerve to converse

with him. When I was in Sector 31 he cursed me about Overseas Chinese and about letting

combatants go to Vietnam... He again sent me letters cursing me about corn, kerosene

and so on. A lot of other cadres in addition to me have been cursed by him...

[Neptotism] is the general opinion as it is seen with regard to a younger brother

of his named Chong...

3. His posture is not yet one of revolutionary simplicity and modesty.

He still has an obdurate and boastful personality and clings stubbornly to his understanding

of things. Whatever he says has to be done is to be done...

For example, Mok said that the soil of the Southwest was not inferior to that of

Battambang, and not to go on just singing the praises of Battambang. He said this

at the Agriculture Bureau in front of all the comrades... when he came to get [tractors]

to construct the dam at Angkor Borei.

Mok has major virtues as regards his class origins and his activities in the service

of the party, as related above. However, there remain some vestiges of his class

origins, and he does not yet possess a completely and steadfastly proletarian class

stance. If this is not curbed in time, it could transform him into an authoritarian

"strongman", which would not be a gain for the socialist revolution and

the construction of socialism.



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