Bora Touch's suggestion (Post, May 12) that our letter (Post, April 28) is an attempt
to shield current members of the Cambodian People's Party (CPP) who were formerly
members of the Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK) from prosecution is baseless, and
contains serious errors of fact and interpretation.
First, the CPK structure and organization were not based on the model of the Communist
Party of the Soviet Union, but rather on the Indo-Chinese Communist Party (ICP),
out of the institutional legacy of which it was created. Like, therefore, the ICP,
it had no Political Bureau or Secretariat, but only a Central Committee and a Standing
Committee (similar to the Central Executive Committee of the ICP). Despite numerous
transformations, this superstructure was maintained right through to the CPK's purported
self-dissolution in 1981. The existence of both is mentioned in the public announcement
of that self-dissolution, and attested to by dozens of internal documents and interviews.
Second, because the CPK sprang from a regional Committee of the ICP, it never
had a General Secretary or First Secretary, but rather only a Secretary.
Third, Article 23 of the CPK Statutes described its Central Committee as its "highest
leading body", and it was therefore precisely its "statutory" leading
organ, as we stated.
Fourth, the CPK was never "incorporated" into either the Royal
Government of National Union of Kampuchea (GRUNK) or the National United Front of
Kampuchea (FUNK). Rather, the CPK jealously guarded its organizational independence
and strove to maintain and enhance its leadership role during the civil war of 1970-1975.
These endeavors included participating in and thereby infiltrating, influencing and
subverting GRUNK and FUNK in order to preclude any possibility that Sihanouk and
other non-Communist figures who predominated in their Beijing-based exile structures
might wield significant political power in Cambodia once the war was won.
Fifth, it is thus totally misleading to suggest that the FUNK Central Committee and
its Political Bureau were effectively directing events inside Cambodia, much less
that they somehow displaced the CPK's own Standing and Central Committees. There
was overlapping membership, but geographically and politically, there was a wide
Sixth, such members-in-exile of the FUNK superstructure as Chan Yourann, Chem Snguon,
Thiounn Mumm, Thiounn Prasith and Keat Chhon were merely that, and to suggest that
this made them CPK leaders is entirely fanciful. Some, such as Chan Yourann and Chem
Snguon, were not even CPK members.
Seventh, the CPK was not "reorganized" in 1976. It held a Party Congress
in January, which affirmed an expansion of the Central and Standing Committees, and
also acclaimed the formal abolition of GRUNK and FUNK and the establishment of a
Democratic Kampuchea (DK). As a member of the 1976 Central Committee, Khieu Samphan
was indeed in a position to replace Sihanouk when the latter realized he was stripped
of all influence and felt compelled to resign.
Eighth, however, in the cabinet of the DK Government announced in April 1976, Keat
Chhon was not named as Minister of Industry. That post (in the guise of "Chairman
of the Industry Committee") was held by Cheng An until his purge in November
1978. Under DK rule, Keat Chhon was in the "Bureaux Section" of the Ministry
of Foreign Affairs, where he held the title of "Ambassador at Large". It
is inconceivable that he was a member of the CPK Central Committee.
Ninth, as for Hor Namhong, it is tendentious to describe him as "chief of the
Boeng Trabaek Detention Centre". It would be more accurate to describe him as
chairman of the inmates' committee of this facility for the labor re-education of
non-Communist diplomats, intellectuals and others. As such he was, from 1977 until
January 1979, its most senior prisoner, but the person in charge of the camp was
a CPK cadre named Savan, who answered to the authority of Nuon Chea.
Hor Namhong himself does not appear to have been a CPK member. The suspicions of
his fellow inmates that his vociferous denunciations of their supposedly "feudal"
or other "reactionary" characteristics led to the arrest of some prisoners
and their subsequent execution at S-21 ("Tuol Sleng") are not substantiated
by the S-21 records. These indicate that such decisions were made independently by
S-21 itself on the basis of its own interrogations, without reference to anything
Hor Namhong may have said, reported or done.
Tenth, Uk Bunchheuan was never associated in any way with Boeng Trabaek. Until he
fled to avoid purge in May 1978, he was Deputy Secretary of the CPK Committee for
Sector 21 of the East Zone (eastern Kampong Cham), in which capacity he may have
crimes to answer for, but these would not have been committed in connection with
In conclusion, we can only say that the errors in Bora Touch's letter, like the mistakes
in the original Post article, underscore yet again the need for a fully independent
and impartial judicial process that eschews political criteria for limiting (or expanding)
the scope of prosecutions. Otherwise, the truth will continue to be obscured or appear
to be obscured by the political and diplomatic agendas of far-from-disinterested
governments, be they seated in Phnom Penh, Beijing, Washington, Paris, Tokyo, Canberra,
Moscow or elsewhere; by proclivities toward unprincipled deal-making on the part
of some within the UN system; and by the objectives of dedicated friends and foes
of the CPP, inside and outside of Cambodia, Cambodian and non-Cambodian.
Only a genuinely fair trial that is clearly free from political and diplomatic interference
will dispel suspicions like those expressed in Bora Touch's letter, which reflect
the widespread Cambodian distrust engendered by the blatant politicking and diplomatic
spin-doctoring that continue to envelop negotiations over the shape of a trial.
Only a proper trial could definitively evaluate allegations or suspicions relating
to current CPP members who were CPK members, and ascertain whether they bear any
culpability under international law for the crimes committed while the CPK was in
In the absence of such a trial, impunity and propaganda will continue to ride roughshod
over justice and truth, further poisoning Cambodia's politics, polluting the historical
record and sullying the reputation of the international community.
Craig Etcheson, Steve Heder