Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - From Pol Pot's winter to the Malai-Pailin spring

From Pol Pot's winter to the Malai-Pailin spring

From Pol Pot's winter to the Malai-Pailin spring

L aurence Picq's Oct 4 letter to the Post, accusing Ieng Sary of culpability of Khmer Rouge crimes, has prompted

this reply from her former husband, Sary's assistant Sikoeun. In it he describes the "impetuous mass movement...,

the spring of Malai-Pailin", that saw the splitting apart of the communist rebels.

Malay, 5 October, 1996, Laurence, I have been apprised of the tenor of the article published, under your signature,

in the October 4, 1996 issue of the Phnom Penh Post.

It is hardly my intention to engage here in a polemic or to justify anything whatsoever. However, as the old saying

has it, Render unto Cæsar that which is Cæsar's , don't confer a reward or inflict a punishment on

those who have not deserved it. In this case, Bâng Ieng Say should not be accused of crimes he has not committed

or even inspired. Let us allow the facts to speak for themselves.

April 1975, Phnom Penh has been liberated. Like the vast majority of Cambodians residing in Beijing (China), you

had requested to come to Cambodia. You knew perfectly well that your wish could not be fulfilled without the guarantee

given in your favor by Bâng Ieng Sary, who in this matter was answerable to Pol Pot himself. For my part,

I was acting as your guarantee to Bâng Ieng Sary.

This reminder is necessary, as the Laurence Picq affair was to have some effects on our political future, as we

will see below.

When towards the end of 1980 you left, with his consent, for France, where you were supposed to work at the Permanent

Delegation of Democratic Kampuchea to UNESCO, as you preferred to go back to your family home, Bâng Ieng

Sary had to shoulder the responsibility for your departure with the Khmer Rouge leadership, which is to say, vis-à-vis

Pol Pot. His position was to get worse after the publication in May, 1984 of your book Au-delà du ciel:

cinq ans chez les Khmers Rouges (Beyond the horizon: Five Years with the Khmer Rouge). I have to tell you that

he himself, without uttering a word, brought me on an afternoon of August, 1985, a copy of this book in which you

very unfairly implicated him from start to finish, whereas on the contrary you were singing the praises of Son

Sen and Nikorn, who are widely known as the real butchers of the Khmer people.

As for me, if I had then been under the authority of any other leader, my fate would have been settled. And yet

Bâng Ieng Sary did nothing of the kind, and not once did he even allude to the book. I was infinitely grateful

to him for his thoughtfulness and his magnanimity.

Moreover, before your departure for Paris via Geneva on 19 November, 1980, Bâng Ieng Sary had told you to

keep the ten thousand US dollars, intended for the opening expenses of our Kinshasa Embassy, which I had entrusted

to you before my departure for New York in early October. Better yet, when he still held the responsibility of

Foreign Affairs, he had agreed to my request to provide for the needs of the children, during the two years when

he remained in charge (1981-1982), and this at a monthly rate of 1,500 French francs, much more than the 600 francs

you had asked for. This was an exceptional effort, given the circumstances, as you had to admit. This grant was

withdrawn as soon as the responsibility of Foreign Affairs was taken away from Bâng Ieng Sary.

About all this consideration shown you, you have not breathed a word. On the contrary, you have grabbed every opportunity

to deal repeated blows, often below the belt, to someone who in fact was your benefactor, showing in this an ingratitude

worthy, if you'll pardon the expression, of a crocodile, as we say in Cambodia.

Don't you think that you went a little too far, when you ascribed crimes of "genocide" to Ieng Sary?

Let us rather listen to Stephen Heder, an American specialist of the Khmer Rouge problem. He stated over the waves

of "[Radio] France Inter-nationale", on 22 August and 10 October, 1996, that "according to the documents

I have referred to, Mr Ieng Sary is the only one, among Khmer Rouge leaders, about whom I have so far been unable

to gather tangible evidence showing that he initiated or applied purges against intellectuals". You could

not but know that those who have survived until now owe it to the fact that they were working in the Ministry of

Foreign Affairs, under the responsibility of Bâng Ieng Sary. These were, among others, the cases of Keat

Chhon, Minister of Economy and Finance, of Thiounn Prasith, former Cambodian representative to the U.N., of Chan

Youran, former Ambassador to China, of Ok Sakun, former Permanent Delegate of Cambodia to UNESCO, of Peh [sic:

usually Pech] Bunreth, former Cambodian representative to ESCAP, and of In Sopheap, Cambodian Ambassador to Egypt.

So Sê, your great friend in Bangkok, is in a position to know. Originating from the Eastern Zone (Phum Pheak

Bopea), and a close collaborator of So Phim, who was the chairman of that zone, she owed her life to Bâng

Ieng Sary's intervention. As for Toch [sic: usually Touch} Kham Doeun and his wife, they had been dismissed from

the Ministry in March 1977 in the absence of Bâng Ieng Sary who was then on an official visit to Malaysia.

So, when you stated in your book that "the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was the antechamber of death",

either you were badly mistaken or you were shamelessly engaging in pure slander, for the regional leading cadre

spending some time there had been dismissed from their responsibilities and brought there until decisions were

taken about their lot. In no way did they come under Bâng Ieng Sary, but under the secret security Committee

comprising Pol Pot, Nuon Chea, Son Sen and the latter's wife Yun Yat. So it was not Bâng Ieng Sary who summoned

them to the Ministry, later to send them to their deaths.

The same holds for the visit of Von [sic: usually Vorn] Vet, then Vice-Prime Minister in charge of Economic Affairs,

who had come to see Bâng Ieng Sary at the Ministry. You were probably unaware that they were old friends

and that Bâng Ieng Sary's children, among them Mrs Ieng Vani and Mr Ieng Vuth, were taken care of in the

maquis by Bâng Von [Vorn] Vet, whose real name was Sok Thuok, and who was in charge of Democratic Kampuchea

in Phnom Penh during the clandestine war.

I have no wish to dwell on the untruths, if not calumnies or lies, with which your book is replete. For instance,

when you were stating, with apparent seriousness, that "Heng Pich was a former general in the Sihanouk army"

(page 102), it is clear that you were beautifying things at whim. Likewise, when you translate the Cambodian word

"Bâng" with the pejorative "Grand" ["Great"] instead of "Aîné"

["Elder"], when applied to the name "Ieng Say", the pique, if not hatred, seething in you is

discernible. Which leads me to wonder who can have suggested to you the latest charges of "power-mad, corrupt

and a liar" leveled against Bâng Ieng Sary, whereas they were absent from your book. Why did you "update"

the accusations, as in the quite novel one in which you impute to Bâng Ieng Sary the initiative of opening

political prisons, after a trip to China.

From what source have you drawn this important, confidential piece of "information"? Why are you implicating

China, which you claimed to "love passionately"? Aren't you taking part in a campaign, led by certain

circles which view unfavorably the achievement of Cambodia's national reconciliation and are insinuating that the

"Ieng Sary affair" is the result of a maneuver hatched by China, Vietnam and Thailand, as these countries

desire an alliance between Hun Sen and Ieng Sary.

But the reality is quite different, as we can see.

After the 1993 elections, organized by the United Nations, responsibility for the Malay region was taken away from

Bâng Ieng Sary, who thereafter no longer belonged to the Khmer Rouge leadership. Moreover, he was seriously

ill, and had had to undergo some delicate surgery. Meanwhile, exactly on 28 June, 1994, the Khmer Rouge High Command

was reorganized, confirming his ousting. From then on, the area controlled by Democratic Kampuchea was divided

into two fronts: the one north of National Road N°5 was placed under the command of Pol Pot and Ta Mok.

The southern front was placed under the responsibility of Nuon Chea and Son Sen. The latter was directly in charge

of the region including Malay, South Sisophon and Pailin.

Coming directly under Pol Pot, Son Sen subjected that region to a reign of terror, similar to the one prevailing

in Cambodia from 1975 to 1978. All freedom of expression, of opinion, of religious belief, of association was suppressed.

Collectivization affected all areas. Private property of land was limited to 1.5 rai per family - individual cars,

tractors, fruit (coconut) processing equipment and even oxcarts were confiscated. Pagodas were demolished and monks

defrocked. Small business was forbidden, as was movement from one region to another. Son Sen had projected to drive

collectivization even further by confiscating motorbikes, television and radio sets. Collective meals had been

gradually re-established, as had compulsory fatigue duty. Half one's time had to be devoted to the imperatives

of the front. Anyone who shirked this would be jailed. The assassination of German researcher Mathias Wolf, on

16 December, 1994, shows the unspeakable cruelty of Son Sen, as he had only come a few meters inside Khmer [sic]

territory. The latest collectivization measure, the confiscation of oxcarts, was the last straw - the popular masses,

comprising combatants, their families as well as the inhabitants of Malay and Pailin, unable to stand it any longer,

rose up as one man and on 15 August, 1996, they chased out of the area Son Sen and Nikorn, as well as Nuon Chea

and Ta Mok, who had been sent by Pol Pot to the rescue of the former two. Nikorn later surrendered to the new authorities.

Earlier, the cadre and combatants, their families and the inhabitants of Malay, South Sisophon and Pailin had asked

Bâng Ieng Sary, who was still in hospital, to assume leadership over the region. This impetuous mass movement,

this ground swell which swept all at once the bloodthirsty, dictatorial clique of Pol Pot, Nuon Chea, Ta Mok and

Son Sen, we have dubbed "the spring of Malai-Pailin".

As you can see, Bâng Ieng Sary's return was only a response to the wishes unanimously expressed by the masses

of the people, including the cadre and the combatants in the army. It is in no way the result of a maneuver or

the manifestation of some political ambition on the part of Bâng Ieng Sary, as Polpotists have unceasingly

stated, [a version] which you seem to be echoing. It is odd to notice how once more extremes meet. In this case,

unquestioning anti-Khmer Rouge elements and Khmer Rouge hardliners of the Pol Pot, Nuon Chea, Ta Mok, Son Sen strain

are frantically beating the same drum to oppose the irresistible wave leading to national reconciliation and to

the ending of the fratricidal war between Khmers, which Bâng Ieng Sary represents for the Resistance.

That you should have taken up almost verbatim the charges leveled by the Polpotists at Bâng Ieng Sary seems

unusual to say the least, especially that concerning his so-called corruption, which hadn't even crossed your mind

when you put the finishing touches to your book. I couldn't accept [the idea] that you should have fallen into

such a situation. I am still clinging to the thought that you are simply ill-informed, otherwise I have no choice

but to admit that you have been paid by Son Sen and Pol Pot to slander Bâng Ieng Sary. Remember these lines:

"For the honor of our three children, it is best to turn a new page of your life while it is still time. Do

not again sell yourself to the Devil for the money, soaked in the blood of the Khmer people, of those monsters

Son Sen and Pol Pot. Desire on the contrary that Cambodia shall be freed of foreign occupation, that it shall be

reborn of its ashes and that it shall live again"!

It is precisely so that peace shall come back, and for blood to cease being shed between Khmers, that all Cambodians,

regardless of their past and their political affiliation, shall unite again, together to reconstruct a prosperous

country, that the "Democratic National United Movement" has come into being, and it is entirely normal

that its chairman should be reinstated in all his civic and political rights.

Opposing this can only be considered anti-Cambodian, for it is contrary to the higher interests of the Khmer

Nation, which fervently aspires to peace, to the end of hostilities between Khmers, to reconciliation and to national


- Sincerely, Sikoeun. (Translated from the French original by Philippe Hunt.)


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