I read with interest the article "Good intentions paved road
to mass murder" (Post April 14-27). However I cannot agree with the views of an
anonymous interviewee of a "revenge theory" to put blame on innocent people and
to intend to relieve the guilt of those who engineered the killings during the
Khmer Rouge period.
To put it simply, revenge means "If you do harm to
me, then I'll do the same to you." Those who seek revenge must have a traumatic
mind to go with their act of revenge.
The interviewee said people took
revenge on Lon Nol soldiers who had killed their relatives before 1975. I agree
with this idea to a small extent because some Lon Nol soldiers might have killed
their relatives. But were all the people killed by the Khmer Rouge really Lon
Nol soldiers? He described a 12-year-old boy killing a 6-year-old boy. Did the
latter do something bad to the former?
Millions of people were killed by
the Khmer Rouge, but if you accept the revenge theory only the 200,000 Lon Nol
soldiers would have been killed. This figure may include the ghost soldiers
created by Lon Nol generals for corrupt purposes. Not all Lon Nol's soldiers
were killers or bad people. In addition many of those killed by the Khmer Rouge
were innocent people, including monks, students, poor farmers, small vendors,
medical staff, teachers, children and even retarded persons.
suggest another theory to bring to light why there were so many killings all
over the country during the Khmer Rouge time. It was the "culture of hatred"
nurtured by the Khmer Rouge revolutionaries.
In several speeches
published in the series of booklets Tung Padevoat (Revolutionary Flag) produced
to educate Khmer Rouge cadres, Pol Pot repeatedly spoke about the underground
enemies among the people under his regime. He frequently linked the acts of "the
enemy" to the large numbers of broken ploughs and disappearance of so many
draught animals. That there were so many killings of farmers whose ploughs had
broken while ploughing indicates that the cadres learned their lessons well.
Surely, this is not revenge. It is a product of "the culture of hatred" nurtured
by Pol Pot's analysis.
Chuon Prasidh, the DK Ambassador to the UN,
submitted a biography to the Communist Party of Kampuchea in which he denounced
his parents and siblings for being "feudal, comprador capitalists, and
traitors". Likewise during the Khmer Rouge period many young children denounced
their own parents and disowned them, and this action sometimes led to the death
of the parents at the hands of the Khmer Rouge cadres.
so-called "criticism and self-criticism meeting" usually organized at night the
cadres gave long, sleepy lectures about "imperialism, capitalism, and
oppression". They accused the people of being imperialists, comprador
capitalists, middle-class intellectuals, or exploiters, who in reality were poor
fellow villagers living next door. They stirred hatred among the "base people"
(people who were living in the Khmer Rouge-controlled areas during the 1970-75
The KR claimed that they had been exploited by the business people
(even village vendors) for selling goods at higher price or acting as middleman
in the business channels, and by officials who had collected land taxes
(normally 5 riels a year). All these lessons had been taught since the time of
the fighting against the Lon Nol government.
Many students who had
supported the cause of the Khmer Rouge and demonstrated against the Lon Nol
regime were killed. This is not revenge, but discrimination against all people
who were not believed to be the real followers of Pol Pot. The Khmer Rouge
cadres were even vigilant about anyone whoever complained about salty soup or
anyone who said that there was lightning without rain. These remarks were
interpreted to mean the speaker referred to subversive acts intended to destroy
In Region 13 in the southwest, believed to be controlled
firmly by Ta Mok people, there was a three-tiered class division: The full-right
cooperative (sahakor penh sidh), the preparatory cooperative (sahakor triem),
and the provisional cooperative (sahakor phnaeu).
All members of the
full-right cooperative, who had no blood links to people in Lon Nol areas,
enjoyed all privileges from having better food to controlling all acts of the
provisional cooperative. Even young children could spy on and punish the members
of other groups, especially the provisional cooperative.
cooperative, who lived in the Khmer Rouge areas but had family links with people
in the Lon Nol areas, enjoyed fewer privileges than the full-right cooperative
The provisional cooperative members were the most disadvantaged
and had no rights at all. They were the people evacuated from Lon Nol areas.
This group was completely subject to, and frequently abused by, the full-right
Now there are some people who think that to stop the
cycle of revenge there should be no Khmer Rouge tribunal. There is a
misunderstanding of Buddhist concept of non-revenge.
Revenge in Buddhism
means settlement outside the framework of Dhamma (or law). To bring the Khmer
Rouge before a legally established tribunal is not revenge. The tribunal will
attempt to show the offenders their karma. It is the law that determines which
sanctions that are appropriate for certain karma.
It is my belief that
the Khmer Rouge "culture of hatred" turned its adherents to commit terrible
inhuman acts. For people like myself who suffered under this "culture of hatred"
we are still haunted in our dreams by fears which will never leave
- Koy Neam, Phnom Penh