Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Even biased sources can be worth considering



Even biased sources can be worth considering

Even biased sources can be worth considering

Dear Editor,

I was interested to read the criticism by Sophal Ear and Geoffrey Cain of Stuart Alan Becker’s article on Noam Chomsky (October 18), but a little perplexed at the seeming dismissal of Hilderbrand and Porter’s book Cambodia, Starvation and Revolution because it contains a “propaganda picture” of a Khmer Rouge hospital operating room.

My copy of the book, published in 1976, contains a small photograph of an operation in what is said to be an NUFK rural clinic. Things look pretty basic.

Medical staff, one of whom is holding a syringe, wear masks and work by the light of a hand-held electric light.

That, however, is as far as modern equipment goes, and I doubt anyone looking at it would think it had any propaganda value at all.

The general tenor of the book is predictable, which is not surprising as it came from the socialist Monthly Review Press, which was, and is, devoted to what has been called “committed left publishing”.

Nonetheless, the first chapter, “The Politics of Starvation in Phnom Penh”, gives a graphic and fair overview of the situation in Phnom Penh before it fell.

The sources are mostly drawn from United States official publications and major newspapers, and international organisations like the IMF.

Whatever view is taken of the obvious bias in the rest of the text, the authors should be given credit for this chapter, at least.

The evacuation of Phnom Penh after the Khmer Rouge took over was such a dramatic event that the terrible conditions prevailing before April 1975 are sometimes overlooked. And they were terrible, particularly for the children of poor families who did not have access to food aid and could not afford black market prices.

Let the record speak for itself. With Lon Nol still in power, the Office of the US Department of State Inspector-General of Foreign Assistance made this comment about the condition of the thousands of starving and malnourished children in Phnom Penh: “It requires little imagination to picture these wretchedly frail and sickly little bodies, borne away in their weak mother’s arms, carried to an alley somewhere, to die; certain to suffer, untreated, unhospitalised, unfed.”

It does no service to the victims of the Khmer Rouge to gloss over this situation and ask why it occurred. Hilderbrand and Porter gave their opinion and it is worth considering.

Michael Hansen
Phnom Penh

Send letters to: [email protected] or PO?Box 146, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The Post reserves the right to edit letters to a shorter length.
The views expressed above are solely the author’s and do not reflect any positions taken by The Phnom Penh Post.

MOST VIEWED

  • Phnom Penh unveils rules for post-lockdown transition

    The Phnom Penh Municipal Administration issued a set of detailed guidelines for the seven days to May 12 after the capital emerges from lockdown at the onset of May 6. In the 14-page document signed by municipal governor Khuong Sreng released on the evening of May 5, the

  • SBI LY HOUR Bank Launches Cross Border Money Transfer Service between Cambodia and Vietnam on RippleNet, utilizing DLT

    SBI LY HOUR Bank Plc and Hanoi-based Tien Phong Commercial Joint Stock Bank (TPBank) on Friday launched the first Cambodia-Vietnam money transfer service in real currency via RippleNet, provided by SBI Ripple Asia Co Ltd to provide safe, fast and convenient services. SBI LY HOUR

  • Gov’t issues guidelines as lockdown nears end

    The government has issued a five-page set of instructions to be enforced when the three-week lockdown of Phnom Penh and adjacent Takmao town in Kandal province ends on May 6. According to an announcement signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen on May 4, the instructions cover a

  • Cambodia ready to exit LDC status

    Cambodia is well-prepared to minimise economic risks when it graduates from its Least Developed Countries status, according to a senior official at the Ministry of Commerce on May 7. Four LDCs – Cambodia, Laos, Bangladesh and Nepal – met at a virtual workshop last week to explore potential

  • Nine US franchises eye Cambodia debut

    Nine famous US franchising companies are looking for business opportunities and expansion into Cambodia to build a footstep for a strong foundation in Southeast Asia. The US embassy in Phnom Penh, in partnership with the US Foreign Commercial Service and with support from the American

  • Lost in translation: ‘Starvation’ in capital’s designated red zones

    “DACH bay” is a Khmer slang meaning a “loss of income”, that could also be literally translated to «deprived of rice”, which alludes to starvation. However, civil society organisation (CSO) officials have independently confirmed the government’s prior assertions that there are no cases of