Academic Henri Locard offers a four-point plan to solve the guerilla
"C'est follement amusant de jouer au vrai
Norodom Sihanouk, Chroniques de guerre ... et d'espoir,
N ews from the Cambodian countryside is not too good. The Khmer
Rouge leadership has decided to send its ingratiating messengers back to the
villages to try and engineer a replay of the fatal 1970-75 years. Too many
candid politicians, with the unwitting aid of irresponsible journalists, seem to
want to do all they can to help revolutionaries succeed in their sinister plans.
No fear, history does not repeat itself. The KR movement is weak and has no
future. However, to save the lives of yet more innocent Cambodians, leaders of
this country must do all they can to help this terrorist group die its natural
death, as peacefully as possible. How ?
First by exposing four untruths or illusions about the
1) They can still enlist a certain amount of support among
poorer sections of Khmer society. Poverty and corruption are said to be still
the root cause of the so-called popularity of Polpotism today, among a forgetful
section of the population in outlying areas. Rural development would be the key
to the eradication of the appeal of revolutionaries-turned-social-workers. This
is naive sophistry. First because there can be no real development at the
grassroots until peace and security prevail in this country. Secondly, the Khmer
Rouge, during their reign of terror, brought nothing but poverty, famine and
death. Why should the same people, with the same inane ideology and policies
behave differently in the future? Thirdly, if the eradication of poverty is the
precondition for the Polpotist movement to die, it could take some time before
we see the end of it. Finally, all KR leaders are the most corrupt, since they
are drunk with power, absolute power - the power of life and death over every
one of their fellow citizens!
2) The KR movement is not one more
"faction" whose opinion should be listened to and absorbed into a wide national
reconciliation and peace process. It is merely a terrorist group, which must be
held responsible, despite its own vigorous denials, for the violent deaths of
some two million of their compatriots, including almost half the population of
Phnom Penh, between the fatal April 17, 1975 and Jan 7, 1979. It is still led
today by the same white-collared international terrorists. For instance, no-one
will forget Khieu Samphan's petulant reply to a journalist who asked him, at the
Non-Aligned Conference at Colombo in September 1976, what had happened to the
missing one million Cambodians. Samphan said: "It's incredible how concerned
you Westerners are about war criminals". For once Khieu Samphan was sincere!
Since 1986 and the protracted peace negotiations, the KR have never been able to
transform themselves into a "faction", let alone a modern political party. It
came to power as a terrorist group, ruled the country as a terrorist group, and
is desperate to regain power as a terrorist group - even if this means mentally
torturing a sick monarch. Democratic Kampuchea did not dare to put up candidates
for last year's Untac supervised elections because it would have obtained such a
ridiculously low number of votes - outside the areas it controls - that it would
not have had a single member elected to the National Assembly.
The KR leadership is but a group of pseudo-intellectuals which can only
impress ignoramuses. Most members of Angkar's Politburo have no university
degrees - Ieng Sary or Son Sen being among the most notorious. They were failed
students. Painstaking Khieu Samphan wrote a postgraduate dissertation in which
he merely repeated the economic theories then prevailing in academic circles in
France in 1959, at the height of the Cold War. He advocated economic measures
which were poles apart from those implemented from the middle 1960s by Lee Kuan
Yew in Singapore - basically integration into the world market economy. Those
with sounder academic credentials were purged - one thinks of Hu Nim and Hu Youn
As to Mr Saloth Sar [Pol Pot], his school and
"university" career is pathetic. In spite of all the efforts and the money
forked out by his wealthy relatives, the hard-working, docile model pupil could
successfully pass neither his primary school certificate (le Certificat
d'Etudes), nor the Diplôme (at the end of the lower secondary school), nor
the Baccalauréat, nor any technical degree in Paris. The only certificate he has
ever been able to produce is a membership card of the Parti Communiste Français!
The entire "intellectual" training he and many of his power-hungry fellow
"students" could absorb was the elementary programme in basic
Marxist-Leninist-Stalinism concocted by the Party school's special branch,
purpose-built for absentee Indochinese students.
Having gone through
thousands of pages written by these "intellectuals", read their speeches,
collected their slogans, listened to their revolutionary songs, I can claim I am
definitely not impressed by their wits!
4) The KR movement is not
a genuine and patriotic Cambodian movement. When US Ambassador Charles H.
Twining, then Foreign Service Officer based in Bangkok to observe the Cambodian
scene, testified on July 26, 1977 before a Congressional Subcommittee in
Washington, he summarized the numerous testimonies on the KR from Khmer refugees
most succinctly: "These people are not Cambodian." Nothing could
have been more perceptive. The leadership was by then almost entirely made up of
failed students, all trained abroad, their set of creeds was a crude
fundamentalist Maoism, the instruments for implementing their demented policies
were children mostly torn away from their families at an early age. Many came
from non-Indianized ethnic minorities and illiterate peasants from the
periphery, barely influenced by Buddhism. King Norodom Sihanouk himself, in his
Chroniques de guerre ... et d'espoir, explained it in so many words:
"on ne recrute que des payans pauvres, des montagnards, des habitants des
régions forestières et des villages les plus excentriques, les plus délaissés
par l'ancien régime. [...] Les recrues commencent leur carrière à l'âge de douze
Polpotism is an aberration in Khmer history, and is totally
alien to mainstream Cambodian culture. It was born on the Vietnamese border,
received its lifeblood from Peking, when it ruled the country, and is dying
today on the Thai border. Had it not been for an extraordinary combination of
geopolitical factors in the 1970s and the interventions - military and
intellectual - of almost the entire world community, it should never have come
to power. It never defeated America: Americans abandoned the country. The only
Americans the Polpotists defeated were a few journalists found in the capital on
April 17, 1975, who had mostly reported favourably on the "heroic struggle of
the Cambodian people"!
The world community should now stop playing
politics with the Cambodian people's lives. Four courses of action urgently need
to be taken:
1) The policies of the present day KR leadership
can be assimilated to paranoid behaviour. Therefore they must be treated as
such. Practically, Khmer Rouge-held territory should merely be cordoned off,
just as madmen are shut off in lunatic asylums. They must on no account be
attacked, and their present attempt to seep back into the villages must be
monitored. Angkar only knows terror and violence - they can never be defeated at
their own game. They must not be allowed to set the rules but fought with
peaceful means, as far as those can realistically be applied. Peace is their
direst enemy, war their dearest friend. Like all paranoiacs, the leadership has
delusions of grandeur and persecution, and has always seen enemies and plots
everywhere: those delusions must not be nourished.
2) The Monarch
can beseech his "children" and "grandchildren" on both his bended knees to
return home and be forgiven - his appeals fall on deaf ears; monks and nuns,
along with representatives of the international humanitarian lobby, can organize
a peace march through KR held territory - they get shot at. The KR recognize
neither king, nor religion, but Angkar - the Party.
propaganda campaign towards the rank-and-file must be stepped up, including the
use of the minority languages - Kuay, Tampuan, Jaraï, Krueng-Brou, Phnong-Biat
and Stieng. The Royal Government must relentlessly talk calmly on the radio,
write leaflets, organize study groups (once again !) at the grassroots, to
persuade every KR soldier - and everyone in the KR target areas - that the big
war game is over. Those who "entered the forest" are expected back in their
villages. They must come out into the open to be undeceived and deprogrammed. No
effort must be spared to combat fear and hatred, and drain the leadership dry of
Journalists must also contribute to winning the propaganda
war and stop giving an echo to press releases from Democratic Kampuchea ...
"sources close to the Khmer Rouge confirm"... or phrases to that effect.
Is it not sickening to read such words in reputable journals?
present crimes should be reported as succinctly as possible. An atmosphere of
calm and normality must be developed in the country. Sowing the seeds of panic,
with inflated war-mongering rhetoric, is not doing this country any service.
3) Never should the mouthpieces of Pol Pot - Khieu Samphan and
Son Sen in particular - be treated like statesmen. With the upcoming issuance of
Kingdom of Cambodia passports, the KR will have to acquire these new documents,
otherwise they will be barred from international travel. Their representation in
Phnom Penh should be closed down and their movement declared illegal by the
Perhaps the People's Republic of China could be
generous and hospitable enough to find comfortable mental homes for the entire
leadership where they could spend cozy final years - Pol Pot is now over 70,
according to my reckoning. There, they could write their own mémoirs - long,
long provaterups (life-stories) for future historians to feast on. Pol Pot would
be closer to Khieu Ponnary, his dear first wife, finishing her life in a lunatic
asylum there, I believe. What a sweet reunion!
pressure on Thailand must be stepped up. The government is no doubt sincere when
it says it wishes to see its turbulent eastern neighbor at peace. Yet it is also
obviously disingenuous when it claims that it cannot control a 800 km border.
Thailand is now a developed country, it has a sophisticated bureaucracy, a
modern army and police and can utilze all means of communication. It certainly
cannot spot every smuggler with pockets bulging with rubies and sapphires, but
it can monitor the log trade and check the numerous business and personal links
between Angkar and a number of Thai nationals.
War-torn Europe has
created the European Union; borders have very little meaning for its citizens,
now. To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the end of the Second World War,
President Mitterand has just invited a contingent of German soldiers to march
side by side with the French army, along the Champs Elysées on July 14. When
will the four Indochinese countries - Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam -
forever bury the hatchet of the Cold War, and cooperate harmoniously -
commercially, culturally and simply as fellow Southeast Asians who have such a
rich common history and are so blessed by nature ?
- Henry Locard,
author of Prisonnier de l'Angkar, is a visiting lecturer in the History
Department at the University of Phnom Penh. He is currently researching the
revolutionary culture of the Khmer Rouge.