Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Reporter recalls Caldwell's slaying by KR

Reporter recalls Caldwell's slaying by KR

Reporter recalls Caldwell's slaying by KR

Retired American journalist Richard Dudman yesterday recounted details of the attack on his travelling party during a 1978 trip to Cambodia, telling the Khmer Rouge tribunal he narrowly dodged being shot before finding British academic Malcolm Caldwell gunned down in his room.

Dudman, 96, a former St Louis Post-Dispatch Washington bureau chief, was among the first Western writers to visit Cambodia during Pol Pot’s reign, arriving in December 1978 with Marxist scholar Caldwell and fellow American journalist Elizabeth Becker, then of the Washington Post, who testified as a tribunal expert in February.

The trio, invited by Democratic Kampuchea leaders, was given a tightly controlled tour of the country before being afforded rare interviews with Pol Pot on their last night in Phnom Penh, just weeks before Vietnam toppled the regime.

Considered a friend of the regime, Caldwell, 47, was murdered hours after his own private meeting with “brother number one” in circumstances still shrouded in mystery.

Testifying yesterday as a witness via video link from the United States, Dudman – who spent 40 days as a captive of the Viet Cong in 1971 and reported from the region a dozen times during the Vietnam War – recalled being woken by gunshots and running to Caldwell’s room.

“I discussed with him what we thought was going on and we decided that we didn’t know and we’d stay in our rooms and hope that it all blew over,” he recalled.

“I started back, but then a young man came, heavily armed.… At some point he pointed his pistol at me and fired a shot and missed me, but I ducked inside my room, slammed the door and stood to one side, and then there were some shots that came through the door.”

Hearing more shots, Dudman waited two hours behind his bed before Cambodian diplomat Tiounn Prasith arrived and revealed Caldwell’s fate.

“[Cadwell] was lying, obviously dead, with a gaping wound in his chest; he was inside the room, but on the threshold … appeared to be the same young man who threatened me, and he was dead, too, in a pool of blood.”

Noting the “many theories”, Dudman – whose journalism career spanned more than three decades and included the Cuban revolution, the Watergate scandal and the assassination of US President John F. Kennedy – said he didn’t know why, or by whom, the group was targeted.

Dudman recalled, during their meeting, Pol Pot repeatedly stated Vietnam would invade but the United States would help Cambodia win.

Confronted with Becker’s criticism of his dispatches, which were less critical of the Khmer Rouge than hers, Dudman said he had remained sceptical and reported what he had seen.

However, he said he had changed his opinion from that expressed in a 1990 New York Times op-ed questioning whether Pol Pot was a mass murderer. He said he now believes the evidence supported mass murder.

Dudman’s testimony continues today.


  • Cambodia’s image problem

    In opening remarks at a recent event, Secretary of State at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Luy David said information can be a double-edged sword. He told a European Institute of Asian Studies (EIAS) briefing seminar that the media has unfairly presented

  • PM Hun Sen says dangers averted

    Delivering a campaign speech from his home via Facebook Live on Thursday, caretaker Prime Minister Hun Sen said his Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) had carried the country through danger in its latest mandate. He was specifically referring to the threat of a “colour revolution”

  • Kingdom's trade deal with EU questioned before poll

    A European Union (EU) mission met with senior government officials at the Ministry of Interior on Tuesday as the 28-member bloc monitors an agreement under which Cambodian goods reach the crucial European market tariff-free. Some 10 commissioners are in the Kingdom as part of a seven-day

  • A new carrier takes off in capital

    Cambodia Airways, the latest passenger airline to enter the Kingdom, launched its first domestic flight on Tuesday. Flight KR801, carrying 145 passengers, left the Phnom Penh International Airport at 9:50am and landed in Siem Reap at 10:35am in an Airbus A319. Cambodia Airways marketing and branding