The last known photo of Pol Pot alive, taken in
Anlong Veng on April 2, 1998
UNTIL his death, Pol Pot was full of the fear and xenophobia that marked his life,
but the deposed Khmer Rouge mastermind appears to have remained remarkably well-informed
on Cambodian events, despite disintegrating health and nine months of supposed house
Thirteen days before his death - in what was likely the last interview of his 73
years, conducted by a Cambodian journalist who has asked to remain unnamed - Pol
Pot explained why he could never flee Cambodia, expounded at length on his anti-Vietnamese
political analysis and expressed a new-found belief that democracy is the post-military
hope of resistance to the CPP.
"How can I run away from my country? I will die with my people, my rank... I
cannot turn away! I cannot leave [Cambodia]," the ultra-nationalist said during
the April 2 interview in a hut on the edge of Anlong Veng.
Pol Pot denied reports he was spirited out to Thailand after fighting broke out in
the Khmer Rouge stronghold on March 24, and acknowledged that factors other than
nationalism prevented him from going into exile.
"I did not go abroad as there are laws in other countries. I cannot enter other
countries without permission, so I just stayed here," he said, adding that his
weak heart and familiar face handicapped his attempts to leave the house where he
was supposedly held under arrest without being detected.
"I cannot walk far. [And] when I walk, I don't let anyone see me because if
they do they will know where I am," he said.
To the end, he justified all his revolutionary actions with the same nationalist
zeal he demonstrated as leader of the Khmer Rouge, and he claimed his fervent fear
of the Vietnamese was well-founded on past experience.
"Whatever struggle I have contributed to, I didn't do it for my personal interests.
I only [wanted] to prevent our small country from becoming another Kampuchea Krom.
"I know the yuon very well, not just the ordinary yuon people - the ordinary
yuon people are the Vietnamese people, most of whom are good - but the... yuon leadership."
Citing Henry Kissinger's memoirs, in which he claims the US Secretary of State under
President Nixon wrote, "Don't believe the yuon. They are so cunning", Pol
Pot said: "He only met with the yuon over a period of a couple years. But me,
I met with the yuon hundreds of times. Ultimately I, too, was cheated by the yuon
and went to sign Paris [Peace Accords] in 1991. When we didn't agree, they fought
us. And then they said they didn't fight us.
"They are all cruel. I should know, I worked very closely with them. In front
of us they said one thing, behind our backs they said another."
He claimed the Vietnamese government "stabbed us in the back", particularly,
but not exclusively, during the late 1970s on the border issue, only to pretend the
Khmer Rouge government was the aggressor.
"They said they respected the border... but in fact they attacked us - we could
not put up with that - and they said we attacked them!
"We just wanted to live in peace... How could such a small Cambodia with so
few [people] and weapons fight them? We just wanted to live in peace," he said
of the start of fighting that eventually spurred the Vietnamese government to invade
and oust him from power.
He suggested an echo in recent events, citing the fighting in Phnom Penh last July.
"[The CPP] even staged a coup against Samdech Krom Preah, who won the elections,
and then said they were the ones who were attacked."
While the situation was bad after the overthrow of the Khmer Rouge, Pot thought it
worsened in the ensuing years. "When they toppled Democratic Kampuchea in 1979,
they already had a plan. They organized a front... with the hated Hun Sen and Chea
Sim as the leaders."
In Pol Pot's conspiratorial world, Vietnamese influence has evolved, particularly
since being admitted into ASEAN last year. "They took a new road, went in a
different direction. They don't fight militarily, they use Khmers to fight Khmers.
Nowadays, they fight Sam Rainsy's Khmer Nation Party and other parties. They split
parties. Only they remain [untouched]."
While others have cited substantial evidence that the Khmer Rouge have long been
engaged in illegal logging to raise revenue, Pol Pot accused the Vietnamese of involvement
in timber trafficking and the opium trade to fund the CPP power machine. "The
money is used to feed the People's Party and buy people in other parties, the divided
and split ones."
He also asserted that Vietnam, in the last year, has managed to influence Cambodian
affairs subtly enough to prevent the issue from again burgeoning into a major international
political sore, as part of an implicit deal that the international community accepts
as long as it continues to gain greater access to Vietnamese consumers and cheap
labor. This "agreement", according to Pol Pot, allowed the CPP to defend
itself by demanding other countries respect its autonomy.
"It forwards the slogan: 'Don't interfere in the internal affairs of another
country'; that is why the hated Hun Sen dares to say that. That is why the Asean
troika doesn't dare to say anything. In fact they don't interfere."
In addition to the neutralized international influence, the military struggle is
also a wash, as the Khmer Rouge and the resistance have few resources and are left
to fight for parcels of land against an enemy that Pol Pot claimed is still armed
by Vietnam. "It is not a large battle. Now we have no big guns. But the yuon
get them through the eastern border."
With other strategic paths closed off, Pol Pot suggested that democracy was the road
toward getting rid of the CPP.
"Organize a free, fair and democratic election. For this, we need Asean, we
need the United Nations, we need friends. Only these two [groups] can help each other,
both Khmers and foreigners must join together to solve the problem. This is just
my idea. I am no fortune teller.
"The Khmer people don't like Hun Sen and the People's Party. They just say [the
people] love them. They say this because they are powerful. But if there was a democratic
election, like in America, France, Australia, they wouldn't win more than 10%."
The man seen by millions as a genocidal dictator with little regard for the suffering
he caused expressed little hope that the 'yuon threat' could be eliminated and asked
to stop talking about the issue that lies at the core of his belief.
"My head tells me not to talk about this.
"If I talk, I will cry.
"Don't let the yuon take Cambodia... I tell you that when I die I will not be
sorry as long as the yuon have not taken Cambodia."