How a remote hamlet became a Khmer Rouge holdout

Pol Pot’s burial in Anlong Veng
Pol Pot’s burial in Anlong Veng. AFP

How a remote hamlet became a Khmer Rouge holdout

A new book has, for the first time, told the story of how a remote hamlet in the far reaches of northwest Cambodia became the final stronghold of Pol Pot’s communist revolution.

A History of the Anlong Veng Community, produced by the Documentation Centre of Cambodia (DC-Cam), explores Oddar Meanchey’s Anlong Veng district, charting its course from the French Protectorate era to the present.

“It is important to record this last chapter of a movement that took almost 2 million lives of their own people, so that post-conflict Cambodia can move forward to a better future,” said Dy Khamboly, who co-authored the book with fellow DC-Cam employee Christopher Dearing.

DC-Cam’s aim, added Khamboly, is to circulate the book in Phnom Penh by the end of January, before distributing it in Anlong Veng itself.

About 600 former cadres were interviewed by the authors, who wrote that Anlong Veng residents tend to view the Khmer Rouge with a mixture of sorrow and nostalgia.

Between violent purges, they explained, the guerrilla leadership gained support with its essential social services.

“While nearly everyone recognised that horrible crimes occurred during the [Khmer Rouge] regime and even after, there was still a sentimental affection for the past,” reads the introduction.

Youk Chhang, director of DC-Cam, said the book, which was funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and the Swisspeace Foundation, is to be distributed in Anlong Veng for use in classrooms and by tour guides. It is the first study of its kind, he added, due to the area’s remoteness.

It is particularly important, said Chhang, for the general public to empathise with the hundreds of former guerrillas who still live in Anlong Veng.

“We look at them as a people with daily lives that people can get to know,” said Chhang.

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