It is almost 30 years since John Pilger revealed the horror of post-Khmer Rouge Cambodia in his film “The Silent Death” which I featured back in May [link]. The Mirror has run two stories to commemorate the anniversary of Pilger’s documentary and they remind me again of the mindless and tragic evil that occurred in Cambodia. I don’t usually read Mirror articles let alone link to them but today I shall make an exception.
Phnom Penh After Khmer Rouge [Image source]
Link: Beyond the imagination of mankind [Mirror.co.uk]
This is an incredibly poignant article written by John Pilger as he remembers arriving in Phnom Penh. I feel as if I could quote the entire article but instead, I will quote two small snippets:
“The aircraft flew low, following the Mekong River west from Vietnam. Once over Cambodia, what we saw silenced all of us on board. There appeared to be nobody, no movement, not even an animal, as if the great population of Asia had stopped at the border. Whole villages were empty. Chairs and beds, pots and mats lay in the street, a car on its side, a bent bicycle. Behind fallen power lines lay or sat a single human shadow; it did not move”
“Today, Pol Pot is dead and several of his elderly henchmen are on trial in a UN/Cambodian court for crimes against humanity. Henry Kissinger, whose bombing opened the door to the nightmare of Year Zero, is still at large” – John Pilger, Mirror.co.uk
Tortured and Killed at S-21 [Image source]
Link: 'They will kill our parents tonight... we must escape' [Mirror.co.uk]
This is the story of Somaly Lun a young Cambodian who lived through the US bombing of Phnom Penh as a child and was captured and sent to work in a Khmer Rouge labour camp as a teenager. Remarkably, she escaped and made it to Thailand and was then brought to the UK by Oxfam’s Marcus Thompson.
The story in this article was so typical of the experiences of families who survived the Khmer Rouge regime and reminded me of the book First They Killed My Father which I reviewed earlier this year. The book has received a lot of criticism as it was written as an autobiography yet contains information the author could not have possibly known or remembered. As with my review of A Long Way Gone though (a memoir of a boy soldier), I still believe these books to be of great value and authentic enough to give a realistic portrayal of conditions in Cambodia and Sierra Leone respectively.
The Khmer Rouge was a communist, Maoist party that ruled Cambodia from 1975 to 1979 under the leadership of Pol Pot. They set up a radical form of agrarian communism where city dwellers were forced to leave cities and work on farms. Their murderous regime resulted in genocide - between 850 000 and 1.5 million people died from execution, torture, forced work or starvation, representing between 20 to 25% of the total population.