Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Khmer Rouge docs shed light on journalists' 1978 visit

Khmer Rouge docs shed light on journalists' 1978 visit

Khmer Rouge docs shed light on journalists' 1978 visit

An internal Khmer Rouge report posted to the website of the Khmer Rouge tribunal offers a rare glimpse into the unvarnished thinking of the regime – including a seeming acknowledgement of regime shortcomings, a fondness for communist scholar Malcolm Caldwell and an apparent deep irritation with American journalist Elizabeth Becker.

The document, from December of 1978, less than a month before the regime fell to invading Vietnamese forces, offers an account of the travels of three foreign visitors – Caldwell, Becker and fellow American journalist Richard Dudman – around Democratic Kampuchea under the strict supervision of their Khmer Rouge handlers.

The report notes with annoyance the tendency of the Americans, particularly Becker, to focus on the regime’s failings.

“The American journalists, especially the woman, mostly photographed what was bad, such as children working at the traditional medicine-producing office in Kampong Cham, naked children, children walking in lines from the rice paddy wearing ragged clothes,” the report reads. “They also photographed our good points but not as actively as they photographed our shortcomings.”

Becker and Dudman also sought meetings with persecuted groups such as city evacuees and members of the former regime – “those who used to be with the contemptible [Lon] Nol”, in the report’s words – though handlers rebuffed their requests, insisting that “the Kampuchean people still hate the American imperialists a great deal”.

The report expresses fondness for Caldwell, a professed regime sympathiser who was murdered by Khmer Rouge cadres in the middle of the night.

“The guest, the British professor, was easy and gentle. He did not ask much and did not take many photos either,” the report reads. “Upon his return, he would try to explain [the regime] to his government and British people.”

Becker has said that she suspects Caldwell’s assassination was an attempt to discredit then-Foreign Minister Ieng Sary, who had facilitated their visit.

The document also makes the regime’s feelings towards Dudman and Becker quite clear:

“The two American journalists clearly serve the American government and the CIA as we have precisely identified,” it reads. “Specially [sic], the woman, Elizabeth Becker, just keeps collecting information and spotting our weak points.”

MOST VIEWED

  • CNRP supporters rally in the streets of Tokyo

    Supporters of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) on Monday rallied on the streets of Tokyo, demanding Prime Minister Hun Sen’s resignation and urging the Japanese government to “save democracy in the Kingdom”. Some 400 protesters in the rally, which was organised by

  • GMAC makes EU plea to consider job losses

    In a statement set to be published on Monday, the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC) said the EU’s possible withdrawal of Cambodia’s Everything But Arms (EBA) access would harm 750,000 workers and three million families. The GMAC statement, seen by The Post on

  • Four dead in Preah Sihanouk, Ratanakkiri flooding

    At least four people have died and thousands of families affected by flooding in Preah Sihanouk and Ratanakkiri provinces following recent heavy thunderstorms. Preah Sihanouk provincial spokesperson Kheang Phearum said on Sunday that a Cambodian husband and wife were killed on Thursday when a concrete

  • Over 100 Chinese nationals to be deported for online scam

    The Ministry of Interior is planning to deport 128 Chinese nationals after they were arrested in Preah Sihanouk province on Wednesday for their alleged involvement in an online money extortion scam. Y Sokhy, the head of the Department of Counter-terrorism and Transnational Crime, told The Post