Support Publication of Sympathy for the Devil

The definitive book on Pol Pot’s Cambodia by Nate Thayer, the only Western journalist to interview him in 18 years.

I have been researching and writing my book Sympathy for the Devil: A Journalist’s Memoir from Inside Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge for 15 years. For 25 years, I have conducted original reporting to compile what is now an 800 page, rough, unedited manuscript. I have accumulated millions of words of notes, hundreds of hours of audio and video recordings, and thousands of still photographs during thousands of interviews of people involved in the contemporary Cambodian political tragedy, with a special focus on Pol Pot;s Khmer Rouge.

It is all 100% original research. Not a word of the book relies on secondary, already published sources.

I have compiled this, to date, without any institutional backing or financial support. It is an attempt at portraying contemporary Cambodian political history through entirely original research, told in the first person, through years of interviewing all the major political players that have shaped Cambodia since the 1970s.

I have chosen to give a special focus on that area of Cambodian modern history which has been most neglected and misunderstood–the history of the Khmer Rouge told by the architects of the killing fields themselves. These include extended multiple interviews with all the remaining members of the core elite leadership of the Communist Party of Kampuchea.

These include Pol Pot, all the remaining members of the Standing Committee of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Kampuchea, which include Nuon CheaIeng SaryTa MokKe PokSon Sen, and others, including King Norodom SihanoukPrime Minister Hun SenPrince Norodom Ranaradith, Sam Rainsy and scores of other Cambodian leaders of consequence over the the last 30 years.

It has involved research conducted spanning North America, Europe, and throughout Asia, including every province, every remote corner, and every political faction in Cambodia, as well as relevant interviews conducted in Paris, Washington, Beijing, Thailand, North Korea and elsewhere.

It has been a pleasure and a passion. Now it is ready to be shaped into a version that makes that story of the complex tragedy of the last decades–accurate, sourced, empirical, compelling, and readable–accessible to Cambodians and those interested in the mundane realities of mass murder, state sponsored torture and genocide, and other related tragic issues of interest to Cambodians and foreigners.

But now, in order to bring it to publication, it urgently requires money.

It requires the keen eye of an excellent, paid editor. It requires paid production of layout and graphics and photographs. It requires me to to devote uninterrupted time to ensuring the excellence of its final product.

Concomitant with that, this requires that my bills be paid, as I am a freelancer and have no institutional support or other income.

That means the rent needs to be paid, the utilities paid, the equipment to produce the product be funded, the refrigerator stocked. It means the computer bills need to be funded and the communication technology be available and paid for. It means the copious needs of my pal, my dog, Lamont, be met.

It is this final process that requires concrete costs and my undiverted focus.

This will result in a quality product of which represents a good chunk of my life’s work.

I insist on doing it right.

I am seeking the minimum necessary funding to accomplish this. I am doing this by offering pre-ordered books, limited edition photographs and videos and other rewards which you can see by clicking on this link. The funding will cover the costs of good editing, quality layout and graphics, copious photographs, and my un-diverted focus on completing the job of writing the manuscript to create a serious, but readable, accounting of contemporary Cambodian political history. And aside from the concrete production costs, it requires the underwriting of the bills equivalent of an office and a staff and equipment to support the production of the end product.

This project is intended to ensure that Sympathy for the Devil will be released in a form that it, and its unique contribution to the historical record, deserves.

That means both print book versions as well as digital e-book versions. With your support, now, that means an e-book version will be available in the first half of 2014. A print hard copy version will be available by later in 2014.

Without independent funding, neither will be possible.

That is the reality of the economics of publishing quality journalism and first person history in the current period in the wake of the collapse of print media models that have sustained quality journalism and the rise of the digital era which has yet to find a workable business model to support, fund and sustain quality investigative reporting.

Here is how you can help accomplish this:

This new website marks the launch of a campaign to raise $67,500

That is a lot of money. It has been carefully calculated to reflect the minimum of how much it will cost to accomplish the following:

The current manuscript requires extensive editing and will result in the creation of two separate print books. One a more academically focused compilation of the often dry, but critical minutia of the Cambodian contemporary political culture.

In addition, there will be an approximately 400 page hardcover book, written in the first person memoir style for a broader readership - Sympathy for the Devil. While written in an accessible readable style, it will be crucially a serious history of modern Cambodia with a decided focus on the Khmer Rouge political movement responsible for the deaths of nearly 2 million people in recent years. It is entirely based on my original research and personal interviews and observations and collected documents and other material over more than two decades. There will also be an eBook of Sympathy for the Devil.

This project will also make available for the historical record hundreds of hours of related, un-redacted archive videos, interviews, and transcripts I have compiled over decades of chronicling Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge and contemporary Cambodian Politics. It will include hours of raw video and audio interviews of Pol Pot and the entire senior Khmer Rouge leadership.

In the meantime, I am proceeding with the production process. This requires my full-time attention and resources and will for an estimated six months.

It also requires the resources to retain the services of a number of skilled people essential to produce the above material.

The project needs to secure the expertise of professionals, who, rightfully, need to be paid. They include manuscript editors, graphic artists, and various people with related technical skills for ensuring excellence in quality and presentation of the final product.

All support, no matter how small or large, is welcomed with gratitude

For those inclined or able to support the project financially, without reward, it is both needed and greatly appreciated. You can make a donation through the ‘shop‘. I am also offering the opportunity to pre-order copies of the book, a series of exclusive signed photographs, exclusive video footage and other material to those generous enough to back me. 

In order to succeed, the full funding target goal must be raised. We are hoping to meet the target goal within 45 days from today (5 March 2014) , but significant money, nearly all from my now empty personal cash reserves, has already been spent and without an immediate infusion of capital I will be forced to suspend the efforts to produce the book in order to meet my basic financial obligations of rent, utilities and other rudimentary living expenses through focusing on obtaining income through other means.

The costs for a high quality production of this project are substantial. The details of what it will cost, and the specific funding targeting each aspect of the larger project will be made clear and public.

The costs to bring these projects to fruition will be laid out with entire transparency for this campaign. A detailed accounting of all incoming revenue and all expenditures will be recorded. Meticulous records will be kept for all donations, and a strict budget of specifically calculated and targeted expenditures will be maintained and available upon request to anyone who asks for it:

Here is what the project will produce:

• Sympathy for the Devil: A hardcover book, designed for a popular audience,  with extensive photographs and documents–which is now more than 800 pages. It is composed entirely of first person original research from my years of reporting from and on Cambodia, with a special focus on Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge. It requires a lengthy professional edit to pare it down to approximately 400 pages.

• A more academically oriented book filled with documents, lengthy interviews, and the minutia of the Khmer Rouge internal organization and an explanation from the words of their own leaders of what happened and why. This will include a juxtaposition with other evidence that will keep the book objective and using sound and rigorous methodologies.

• An eBook released for both of the above print edition books in ePub format, good for use with iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch,  Nook, Sony Reader, BeBook and several others. The only major notable device not compatible with ePub is the Amazon Kindle. A Kindle edition will be available later through the Kindle store.

• Scores of hours of raw video and audio interviews of Pol Pot and the entire senior Khmer Rouge leadership who remained alive after they retreated to the jungles in 1979 after their three years in power, all conducted by me and in my personal archives. These include, in addition to a 1 hour and 57 minutes interview professionally filmed, video interviews with Khmer Rouge second in command Nuon Chea, military chief Ta Mok, head of state Khieu Samphan, and the chief executioner in charge of carrying out the political orders of mass executions, Duch, among others.

• Transcripts of these audio and video interviews will also be made available in their entirety.  Summarized video presentations and written synopsis’ and analysis articles written by me will be included, but the raw data will also be available so anyone interested can form their own conclusions, if they choose, based on the raw data.

To accomplish this ambitious and very time-consuming project will be expensive, requiring numerous resources and the retention of the services of technical experts and others with specific professional skills.

Its realization and success depends on your support.

Direct donations of financial support, however small or large, to enable this history to be told and made available, are crucial.

It simply cannot succeed without considerable support, through direct funding. I have no institutional support from any organization and its success will depend on individuals such as yourself.

In addition to direct financial support, also crucial to the success of this effort is sharing the fundraising campaign for the project Sympathy for the Devil over social media (#sympathyforthedevilbook #polpotbook #natethayer #natestarter) by clicking on the buttons at the bottom of this page, and through other means, including to organizations or individuals whose interest, organizational goal, or whose philanthropic abilities may allow support for this project.

It will be a partnership between those who find the goal worthy of supporting and myself and the team of skilled professionals necessary to bring the project to fruition.

The sharing of this project, and how to support it, and information of the objectives and final product with your friends and colleagues and others who might be interested or able to contribute support if they deem the project worthy, is vital to its eventual success.

Thank you

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  1. says

    … Thanks for your courage and commitment . Your work , one day , will be a great source for our Khmer new and next generations to find out WHO and WHAT the real devil and the REAL CREATOR OF THE GENOCIDAL KILLING … !! thanksss

  2. jeff Loeung says

    you are the bravest man ever live .You went through jungle to find the cruelest killer in the planet and
    interviewed him .This is the historical fact and data which will be used many years to come.
    I came from Cambodia and I have been through that period so I knew bad Pol Pot was .
    Thus, nate you are my hero and so I will support you for your courage and strong commitment to find the truth.

  3. Sakada Ly says

    Hi Nate,
    I return home since 2012. I will talk with somes friends about your project.

    I am looking forwards to see your reply.


  4. Val Schaffner says

    Hi Nate– I’ve been following your work for years with great interest and admiration, and I look forward to the completed book. However, when I tried to pre-order it just now, the form stated that shipping is unavailable in the US. Is this indeed so, or is it a computer glitch? How can I get a copy? Thanks– Val Schaffner

  5. Marwan Hanania says

    HI Nate,

    I have followed your work for some time now. Very courageous and inspiring. My one question, though, is why won’t a big time publisher support this project?

    You’re clearly the no. 1 authority on this subject and have a proven track record accomplished over many years. Why won’t a top publisher pay for your project? What a stingy world we live in.


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