Whenever guns are fired, let’s wake up. But suppose it’s over and that you say you’re glad to have been a part of it. Now you want to go home. Can you? If not, what was the use of the conflict?
Enough time has been given to the revolution. Now comes the time to go home. The sad thing is no doubt, very sad, that you can’t go home. And in many cases, there’ll be no home to go back to. Therefore let’s make the best of a bad situation.
Remember why you were disenchanted. This was the logic of a sensible man, who no longer had a choice. What happens next?
Maybe we’ll have the satisfaction, perhaps, of knowing that the killing was what made the difference. The entire world took notice. It was not just an ill wind. Victory had its day, a new day: so new that nothing of the old survived. A new age emerged, while one man’s terrorist was another man’s freedom fighter.
As for the bombing, there never was a better example of the use of terror by a state. Note a description of the scorch-earth tactics. Above all pay attention to the great number of civilians who died. After the bombing, we hardly had the strength to raise our voices louder than a whimper.
It was the peasants who suffered the most. Had the greatest number of casualties. Men, women, and children. Whole villages were destroyed. How were we supposed to respond? We lynched hated bomber pilots.
Cooperating as best he could with the United States, Lon Nol tried to break our backs. There’s your justification, if you need one. And yes I believe that a coercive approach was necessary.
The challenge was ours. But how could we justify terror? No one could remain indifferent to tyranny for long. No one could ignore the destruction of his or her land.
The seeds of dissent were easily sown. It’s a shame it took so long. Needless to say, we weren’t daunted by failure. But all indications, therefore, were that those who keep track would charge us with genocide and forgive the Americans for the bombing.
“Communist are ruthless.” How did that sound in Vietnamese? It meant losing our generally even temper. But they lied about us and said that we shot thousands of people. According to them, some killings continued even after the order to stop was given.
Let’s refer, for a moment, to the surrender of Phnom Penh. How like firecrackers the small arms fire sounded. Weren’t people celebrating the Cambodian New Year and firing any weapon they had? Then as Lon Nol left for the United States, a hundred battalions took the city, and the evacuation started.
To now come to 17th of April 1975, which we celebrate as Day One of the Democratic Kampuchea, or the new Cambodia: optimism reigned. Naturally peace was favored over years of war. There followed a call for cooperation.
Our troops, looking serious and exhausted, moved into Phnom Penh. The Americans jumped ship. Filled with jubilation over the end of the war, the people of the city soon learned, to their surprise, that everyone had to leave their homes at once. They were ordered to return to their native villages. Carrying their belongings, people ran this way and that. Like scared chickens, they probably paid little attention to the fact that the order to leave was an ultimatum. As they joined the exodus, most people readily dispensed with the trappings of the west.
Execution was a form of political expediency. It was impossible to take control without it. Other means of ruling were less effective. On that day we instructed people to leave for three days and that after three days they could return. We were told to shoot people who refused. There were instances when whole families were shot, babies and all.
North of Dacum Thkou Market, there were piles of bodies in civilian clothes. We were serious about implementing the order to evacuate all of the population. The executions that followed were all necessary, necessary to make sure people were pure.
We never said kill but used the general word scatter. Smash meant kill. Killed Hou Yuon, who stupidly took a stand against the Party, killed by one of his bodyguards. Killed Koy Thuon because Angkar no longer trusted him. Killed Chakrey and Chakrey’s wife, Moeung Heng, who confessed she belonged to an espionage network directed by the Vietnamese, the CIA, and the Soviets. That didn’t happen until May of the next year. Did that really happen? Chakrey’s coups attempt failed. No government would’ve been tolerant. Killed Chhouk and then Mao Zedong died. Now Mao was not murdered. As for the others, our leadership gave the orders, “kill Lon Nol’s soldiers, kill the monks, and scatter the Vietnamese!”
Because we purged people we considered a risk, we were called barbaric. But there was always due process. We went to extreme links to obtain confessions and build solid cases. It doesn’t surprise me that we’re still being criticized. Why wasn’t American interference equally condemned?
The planned assassination of the Prince was doubted by many. Yes, his murder was planned. I would’ve considered his murder a sacrilege because he was still our prince. He deserves our respect. We have a place in our hearts for him.
There is another category of killing that has continued since our victory. I am talking about the execution of parents by their children. The memory of that happening has sometimes haunted me. Comrades, spies were everywhere, or, at least, were potentially anywhere. One was never certain that they could trust anyone. Rest assured children have to learn to stand up to their parents.
In those days, Pol Pot wouldn’t have killed a chicken. Our leader was a self-effacing, charming gentleman. Never brash or uncultured, as we were, but the perfect gentleman. All he wanted to do was to gain recognition for Kampuchea.
There was a difference between internal and external enemies. The former, without much danger, could be spared until the scab drops off by itself. Others had to be immediately killed to pacify a geographic area.
The common perception of us is that we indiscriminately kill people. Perhaps that sometimes happens, but those who die at Tuol Sleng deserve to die. Prison’s archives, thousands and thousands of pages of testimony, confessions, prove our case.