Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Accusations fly



Accusations fly

Accusations fly

Philip Short accuses me of "unworthy tactics" (Phnom Penh Post, February 25 - March 10, 2005) because I expressed some criticism of his book about Pol Pot, although I had qualified it as "fascinating". I still do. It is a master-piece of journalism and so fascinating that it tends to overpower the reader's critical sense.

A basic criticism to apply to any work concerns the author's choice of sources. Mr. Short disqualifies Ieng Sary, Pol Pot and other leaders of Democratic Kampuchea as liars. Yet he often quotes them. Just one example. He writes that Ieng Sary told him that on April 17, 1975, Politburo member Le Duc Tho had asked for free passage through Cambodia for Vietnamese troops on their final offensive on Saigon (p. 4). But why should their armies make a detour into Cambodia, when they were already approaching Saigon? The roads lay open after they had taken Ban Me Thuot in March, and the Saigon army was on a panicky retreat. Mr. Short accepts Ieng Sary's statement unreflectingly. But it should invite reflections, as Democratic Kampuchea's leaders draw an important conclusion of their victory preceding that of the Vietnamese communists by 13 days: They were the first in the world to defeat U.S. imperialism, and they were a model for the world. This hubris became an important element in their thinking.

Mr. Short disqualifies me as unable to discuss Cambodia's history calmly and rationally. I am sorry, but I cannot see the rationality in explaining the atrocities of the Pol Pot regime by a Khmer "national character" and slumbering "savage forces and disconcerting cruelties which may blaze up in outbreaks of passionate brutality." Shall we tell the traumatized survivors of the "killing fields" that they are part of a culture of "appalling cruelties"?

Maud Sundqvist, Stockholm (Sweden)

MOST VIEWED

  • Phnom Penh placed in two-week lockdown

    The government has decided to place Phnom Penh in lockdown for two weeks, effective April 14 midnight through April 28, as Cambodia continues to grapple with the ongoing community outbreak of Covid-19, which has seen no sign of subsiding. According to a directive signed by Prime Minister

  • Cambodia on the verge of national tragedy, WHO warns

    The World Health Organisation (WHO) in Cambodia warned that the country had reached another critical point amid a sudden, huge surge in community transmission cases and deaths. “We stand on the brink of a national tragedy because of Covid-19. Despite our best efforts, we are

  • Hun Sen: Stay where you are, or else

    Prime Minister Hun Sen warned that the two-week lockdown of Phnom Penh and adjacent Kandal provincial town Takmao could be extended if people are not cooperative by staying home. “Now let me make this clear: stay in your home, village, and district and remain where

  • Businesses in capital told to get travel permit amid lockdown through One Window Service

    The Phnom Penh Municipal Administration has issued guidelines on how to get travel permission for priority groups during the lockdown of Phnom Penh, directing private institutions to apply through the municipality's One Window Service and limit their staff to a mere two per cent. In

  • Vaccination open to foreigners in Cambodia

    The Ministry of Health on April 8 issued an announcement on Covid-19 vaccination for foreigners residing and working in Cambodia, directing the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training and local authorities to register them. Health minister Mam Bun Heng, who is also head of the inter-ministerial

  • Ministry names types of business permitted amid lockdown

    The Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training singled out 11 types of business that are permitted to operate during the lockdown of Phnom Penh and Takmao town, which run through April 28. Those include (1) food-processing enterprises and slaughterhouses; (2) providers of public services such as firefighting, utility and