Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Pol Pot expert talks war and communism

Pol Pot expert talks war and communism

Pol Pot expert talks war and communism

KRTalk logo

Violence inevitably breeds hardship for those caught in the crossfire, according to Philip Short, journalist and author of Pol Pot: History of a Nightmare.

“In any violent upheaval, whether war or revolution, innocent people suffer. US officials speak of collateral damage. Maoist officials talk of breaking eggs to make an omelette,” he said, testifying before the Khmer Rouge tribunal yesterday. “In Democratic Kampuchea, collateral damage knew no bounds.

“In that sense, Pol Pot and the Kampuchean Communist Party pushed the logic of communism to its extreme, and the result, as you know, was a terrible catastrophe.”

In his testimony, Short made the case that the sheer inflexibility of the Khmer Rouge’s ideals were, in fact, the source of its greatest blunders, and that the regime’s blind commitment to ensuring absolute equality – even in the realm of its subjects’ thoughts – only resulted in its subjects being equal in their abject poverty.

“I just want to say that there is a great deal of logic in this,” said Short of the Khmer Rouge’s policy of collectivisation and co-operatives. “It is possible to imagine that a system like this could have been just and fair and equitable, and carried out many of its goals, without the suffering that was carried out.”

However, the implementation, he said, had been irredeemably botched. The party’s own twisted internal logic, unflinchingly adhered to, resulted in some of its greatest crimes, including the starvation of more than one million Cambodians.

Small, practical steps that would have alleviated much of the population’s suffering – but would have also softened the party’s ideological stance – were “not permitted in Democratic Kampuchea on principle”.

“The Democratic Kampuchea regime did itself unnecessary damage and the people unnecessary damage, because it was wedded to iron principles,” Short said.

The one place where the logic broke down, according to Short, was the glaring disparity between party cadres and everyday peasants – a disparity that far outstripped even other radical regimes.

“The [Communist Party of Kampuchea] was, in many ways, like a monastic sect, with the same rituals, with the same abnegation of material things, with the same embrace of hardship and suffering, with the same idea of sacrifice, with the idea that you should sacrifice everything,” Short testified.

However, he later added, such asceticism wasn’t evident in photos from the era showing “bloated” party officials – including co-accused Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan – while tens of thousands starved.

“It was particularly shocking in both extremes because the people of Democratic Kampuchea had nothing – so little,” he said. “It [was] made more flagrant by this preaching of abstinence.”

MOST VIEWED

  • Diplomatic passports issued to foreigners to be annulled

    The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation will move to annul diplomatic passports issued to those not born in Cambodia. Analysts say the move may be in relation to reports that former Thai prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra used a Cambodian passport to register as

  • Hun Sen warns Irish MP of EBA ‘mistake’

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Saturday told former Irish premier Enda Kenny, still a member of the EU nation’s parliament, that the 28-nation bloc should not make a “third mistake” regarding Cambodia by using the preferential Everything But Arms (EBA) agreement to “take 16 million

  • The hairy little heroes saving many lives in rural Cambodia

    IN RURAL Siem Reap province, rats dare to tread where no person will, as these hairy little heroes place their lives on the line each day for the good of the local community. The rodents are the most important members of a special team, leading

  • PM warns EU and opposition on 34th anniversary of his rule

    HUN Sen reached the milestone of 34 years as Cambodian prime minister on Monday and used the groundbreaking ceremony for a new ring road around Phnom Penh to tell the international community that putting sanctions on the Kingdom meant killing the opposition. “Please don’t forget