With Pol Pot removed - publicly at least - from the scene, KR nominal leader Khieu
Samphan remains the guerrilla movement's key political face. Craig Etcheson,
Acting Director, Cambodian Genocide Program, Yale University, looks at the Khmer
Rouge's "Mr Clean".
KHIEU Samphan has always had a reputation as "Mr. Clean." Ever since his
days as the publisher of the leftist newspaper, L'Obervateur, and his time as Minister
of Commerce in Norodom Sihanouk's cabinet during the early 1960s, Khieu Samphan has
cultivated the image of an incorruptible intellectual. In part it was this image
which caused the Interior Minister of the Kingdom of Cambodia, Kou Roun, to strip
Khieu Samphan naked in the streets of Phnom Penh in 1960. Despite this humiliation,
fame lay ahead for Khieu Samphan. After the Khmer Rouge seized state power in Cambodia
in 1975, Khieu Samphan became President and Head of State of Democratic Kampuchea.
A man who presided over the barbaric slaughter of two million or more of his people
cannot be called "moderate." The Head of State for a genocidal regime cannot
conceivably be "uncorrupted." It is high time for Cambodians to expose
this false propaganda image of Khieu Samphan as a moderate, uncorrupted, intellectual
Mr. Clean, and to understand that Khieu Samphan's real claim to fame is that he is
high on the list of the greatest mass murderers of all time.
People sometimes say, oh, it was Pol Pot who committed genocide. But Pol Pot could
not kill millions of Khmers all by himself. On the contrary, he had a great deal
of help from his loyal fellow communists. And during the genocidal regime, Pol Pot's
most loyal helper was none other than Khieu Samphan. In Stephen Heder's memorable
characterization, Khieu Samphan was "Moloch's Poodle," a lap dog to one
of the most vicious monsters of the twentieth century.
During the Khmer Rouge regime, Pol Pot's office for enforcing mass killing was known
by the code name "870." Through Office 870, Pol Pot arranged the killing
of Khmers on a scale rivaling anything known in human history. The Chairman of Office
870 was none other than Khieu Samphan. Through Khieu Samphan's hands flowed forced
confessions from Tuol Sleng detailing the final, begging pleas for mercy by Cambodians
who were being crushed to death, all to satisfy Pol Pot's blood lust to exterminate
every conceivable threat to the power of Angkar. Through Khieu Samphan's hands flowed
Pol Pot's merciless orders to find ever more victims to feed his diabolical engine
of death, the Santesokh. Khieu Samphan cannot deny he knew about the genocide. Quite
to the contrary, Khieu Samphan was a key cog in the machine, the bureaucratic link
between the beast and his victims, the man whose black-hearted efficiency allowed
so many innocent Cambodians to perish in the flames of Pol Pot's hell.
There is a principle in the laws concerning war crimes, genocide and other crimes
against humanity known as the Doctrine of Command Responsibility. In layman's terms,
the Doctrine of Command Responsibility holds that a person in a position of high
authority is responsible for the actions of his subordinates. If those subordinates
carry out criminal activities, and the leader takes no action to stop the crimes
and to punish those who are committing the crimes, then the leader himself is implicated
in those crimes even though he may not have actively participated in criminal activities
such as actual murder.
Under this rule of law, Khieu Samphan will have a lot of explaining to do before
an international tribunal. For Khieu Samphan, the President of Democratic Kampuchea,
there can be no escape from this responsibility. It is no excuse to say "I never
killed anyone." Under the law, giving the orders to murder is worse than actually
carrying out the murder.
It is clear Khieu Samphan knew very well that regime over which he presided was exterminating
massive numbers of Cambodians in an industrial scale killing machine, ordering Khmer
to kill Khmer. We know that he knew because the Khmer Rouge kept very careful records
of everything. For example, a declaration of the Central Committee of the Communist
Party of Kampuchea dated March 30, 1976, issued a decision on "the right to
exterminate people inside and outside the ranks." Khieu Samphan, alias Comrade
Hem, President of Democratic Kampuchea, attended this meeting, confirmed the decision
to exterminate Khmers, and carried out his assigned tasks in implementing this decision.
There is no doubt about it; these orders to kill came from the core Khmer Rouge leaders,
showing that Khieu Samphan was one of those top leaders, and that he participated
in the decisions to annihilate millions of Cambodians. Khieu Samphan was one of the
masterminds of the genocide. He is drenched in the blood of his countrymen. This
is the ultimate corruption.
He has never shown the slightest remorse or regret. Far from it. Some time ago, hoping
to evoke an expression of regret from this master of genocide, a journalist asked
Khieu Samphan if his government had made any mistakes during the Democratic Kampuchea
regime. Khieu replied, "Yes. We did not move quickly enough against our enemies."
Two million dead was not enough Khmer blood to satisfy Khieu Samphan's lust. His
job is not done because there are still more Cambodians to kill.
Khieu Samphan's so-called National Solidarity Party is nothing more than a secret
vehicle meant to carry the world's most notorious living genocidists back into state
power. The pathetic effort by the Khmer Rouge to wash the blood from their hands
by sacrificing Pol Pot is a transparent farce, a ridiculous attempt to put a clean
new suit of clothes on the bloody old Khmer Rouge. Yet Khieu Samphan's hypnotized
robots in Anlong Veng still chant, "Crush, Crush, Crush."
The Khmer Rouge may have changed their top leader from Pol Pot to Khieu Samphan,
but they have not changed their genocidal mentality. It does not matter what new
clothing Khieu Samphan puts on; his naked guilt cannot be hidden from sight. One
day soon, he will answer for his crimes before an international tribunal. Anyone
who works with Khieu Samphan and his National Solidarity Party both betrays the will
of the Cambodian people and offends the souls of the millions of dead.