Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - "Revolutionary Flag" and other methods of Khmer Rouge communication

"Revolutionary Flag" and other methods of Khmer Rouge communication

long debate last week over how supporting documents should be entered into the court record, Khmer Rouge scholar Craig Etcheson was finally allowed to continue his testimony Thursday afternoon. " />

"Revolutionary Flag" and other methods of Khmer Rouge communication

After a long debate last week over how supporting documents should be entered into the court record, Khmer Rouge scholar Craig Etcheson was finally allowed to continue his testimony Thursday afternoon.

The expert witness spent a good deal of time describing the methods of communication used to disseminate party messages throughout the Democratic Kampuchea hierarchy. His testimony suggested more frequent and extensive communication among party echelons than I had previously realized existed under DK.

According to Etcheson, the Standing Committee -- the highest body in DK -- met quite often, sometimes twice a day. Although Khieu Samphan was not a full rights member of the Standing Committee, he was present during a great number of these meetings. Only party Deputy Secretary Nuon Chea attended more, he said.

Minutes from around 20 of the Standing Committee's meetings survive and they help shed light on methods of communication throughout DK.

At times, the Standing Committee circulated directives to all party echelons. Committee members also communicated with subordinates through the Party Training School, where cadre were indoctrinated with Khmer Rouge ideology. These sessions were often led by Nuon Chea or Khieu Samphan.

Film footage still exists from massive rallies attended by members of the Standing Committee, as do documents describing messages to be broadcast on state radio, Etcheson said.

Of particular interest, in my opinion, was Etcheson's description of the magazine Revolutionary Flag. For a regime that put such a high premium on an uneducated peasantry, it still seems somewhat surreal to me that Khmer Rouge leaders would publish their own magazines.

But they did and, as Etcheson explained, Revolutionary Flag was mandatory reading for all full rights party members. It was also pure Khmer Rouge propaganda.

In an issue from June 1977, the party center awarded "Honorary Red Flags" to three different districts that met production targets and exemplified revolutionary values. It also featured a long essay entitled "search for and eliminate burrowing enemies."

A special issue from Dec. 1997 to Jan. 1978 explained the justifications for a number of Khmer Rouge policies that had become unpopular -- evacuation of cities, forced collectivization and destruction of "enemy classes" among them.

After describing "top-down," dissemination of party messages, Etcheson explained how those lower in the Khmer Rouge hierarchy communicated with senior leaders. Numerous reports and telegraphs were sent from the zones to the Standing Committee. Although zone representatives covered a wide range of issues in these documents, they spent a disproportionately large amount of space detailing the hunt for internal enemies. Etcheson believes the zone leadership understood this was what the Standing Committee deemed most pressing.

Meanwhile, horizontal communication among subordinates was virtually nonexistent, Etcheson said. For example, if two leaders of adjacent sectors needed to discuss an issue, they would have to route their communication through their immediate superiors and ultimately to the party center. Thus, the party center was the "central communications node" for DK and only top leadership knew what was happening throughout the entire country, he said.

Sometimes, however, those lower in the chain of command were granted special authority by the party center. Etcheson began to describe a meeting attended by both Comrade Duch and Son Sen. The topic of discussion: planned purges of various zones.

Meeting minutes suggest that Duch "liased upward to the very apex of power" and then used the authority granted by Son Sen to plan purges directly with targeted units.

In my opinion, this would suggest that as head of S-21, Duch was granted special powers even though he was not a member of the top leadership.

However, Etcheson's testimony was cut short by time constraints. I expect the prosecution will continue to explore this issue in the near future.

Journalist Nayan Chanda is scheduled to testify Monday and Tuesday, so Etcheson's testimony will resume at some point after that.

 

 

 

 

* Pictured: Covers of "Revolutionary Flag" on display at the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (above and at left).

MOST VIEWED

  • Cambodia rejects UN rights claim

    Cambodia's Permanent Mission to the UN Office in Geneva on Friday hit back at David Kaye, the UN special rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression after he raised concerns over the repression of free speech and

  • Ex-party leader, gov’t critic named as secretary of state

    A former political party leader known for being critical of the government has been appointed secretary of state at the Ministry of Rural Development, a royal decree dated July 9 said. Sourn Serey Ratha, the former president of the Khmer Power Party (KPP), told The Post

  • Residence cards set for over 80,000 immigrants

    The Ministry of Interior plans to grant residence cards to more than 80,000 immigrants to better keep track of them. The ministry announced the plan on July 10, following the results of an immigration census. “An inter-ministerial committee and many operational working groups have been set up

  • Kingdom, US vow stronger ties

    At an academic forum on Saturday to celebrate 70 years of Cambodia-US diplomatic ties, Cambodian researchers and officials expressed hope of encouraging US investments and for that country to deepen and improve its bilateral relations. Held at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, it reviewed the past 70

  • Fifteen Cambodians from Saudi get Covid-19

    The Ministry of Health on Sunday confirmed 15 more imported cases of Covid. The 15 men ‒ all Cambodian aged 21 to 33 ‒ arrived from Saudi Arabia on Friday via a connecting flight in Malaysia. They were travelling with 79 other passengers, three of them women. The ministry said 80 of the

  • Ministry requests school opening

    The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport on Thursday said it would request a decision from Prime Minister Hun Sen to allow a small number of schools to reopen next month. Ministry spokesman Ros Soveacha said if the request is granted, higher-standard schools will reopen

  • Kingdom eyes India FTA, China deal set for August

    Cambodia is studying the possibility of establishing a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) with India to open a new market with the second-largest regional economy. This comes as an FTA with China is scheduled to be signed next month while similar negotiations with South Korea

  • Judge lands in court after crashing into alleged thief

    Sen Sok district police on Thursday sent a Koh Kong Provincial Court judge to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on manslaughter charges after he crashed his car into a woman riding a motorbike on Wednesday, killing her. District police chief Hour Meng Vang told The

  • Vietnamese workers in Koh Kong questioned

    The General Department of Immigration (GDI) is questioning 49 Vietnamese nationals who were working illegally in Koh Kong province to build a case and send them back to Vietnam, its Department of Investigation and Procedure director Kem Sarin said on Thursday. GDI forces and provincial authorities

  • Preah Vihear court drops charges against villagers

    The Preah Vihear Provincial Court has dropped all charges against eight ethnic Kuoy villagers who were in a land dispute with the Hengfu Group Sugar Industry Co Ltd since 2014. Wednesday’s decision was made by the judge who tried the case on June 10. The eight