Thoughts on the Death of Mass Murderer Ieng Sary: The Khmer Rouge and North Korea
It is the Cambodian Political Culture which Should be Indicted
By Nate Thayer
(c)Nate Thayer. All rights reserved. No republication in whole or part without express written permission from the author
Pol Pot’s brother in law, Khmer Rouge foreign minister Ieng Sary, one of only five people allowed to be charged and put on trial by this modern day version of a Stalinist style political show trial funded and given credibility by the UN, for killing 1.8 million Cambodians, has died at 87, Cambodia’s UN-backed court announced today.
I am the only one to have interviewed all five of the defendants, all of whom are guilty as sin, so I have a few thoughts on the passing of Mr. Ieng Sary.
That leaves two more octogenarians the Cambodian government and world community are hoping will die soon so this charade of bringing justice to those responsible will never happen.
That should be soon, and the Cambodian government can finally dispense with this political nuisance of having the harsh glare of public scrutiny focused on their ugly and very much alive political culture.
Thirty years after the Khmer Rouge did what they did during their unspeakable three years, eight months and 30 days in power–committed crimes against humanity, war crimes, mass murder, torture and slave labor as official state policy, and, arguably genocide–this is the current state of justice for those millions dead and those, in many ways, who have suffered a worse fate and were unfortunate enough to survive, shattered and traumatized, their entire culture brought to its knees where the ex Khmer Rouge who control the country today demand they remain.
Of the five predetermined and given political permission to be charged as culpable of these crimes, this is the current status ofjustice dispensed: One mid level party technician who carried out the political orders to execute 16,000 men women and children, after being tortured and interrogated, has been found guilty. One octogenarian woman had charges dismissed as she was determined to be senile. Two senior officials, both in their 80’s and will die of old age before being found guilty remain on trial after ten years and $300 million dollars paid by the properly organized world to fund this monument to a mockery of justice run by the United Nations but controlled by ex Khmer Rouge now running the current government.
And Ieng Sary died today.
The 87-year-old was on trial for genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. His indictment for those crimes, came 30 years after he committed them, which followed by 16 years of being funded armed and diplomatically supported by the world community to rebuild them as a political power, then pardoned for all crimes by King Sihanouk, and appointed to be a senior government position where he returned to the legitimacy of mainstream Cambodia political culture by the current dictator, Hun Sen, who himself served Mr Sary, the other defendants, and Pol Pot, loyally as an officer in the Khmer Rouge army when they did what they did.
What happened to rest of the Khmer Rouge? They are back in power.
The current prime Minister, Foreign Minister, Defence Minister, Finance Minister, Interior Minister, other minister, thousands of general and officers in the military and security services, and thousands more provincial governors, and heads of districts, sub districts, and villages are former Khmer Rouge officials.
I knew Ieng Sary quite well, and met and dined with and interviewed him numerous times over the years. I even slept in his house a couple times. He was guilty as sin of being a mass murderer. But he seemed, in all honesty, probably on the more reasonable spectrum of the batch of current leaders in Cambodia today.
The real scandal is the farcical mockery of justice for the victims of what happened sanctioned, paid for, and using the credibility of the properly organized world that its only real consequence is the new modern day model of a Stalinist era political show trial, the UN War Crimes Trial known as the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia.
A Stalinist show trial was structured where a political judgement was already pre-concluded for those deemed politically acceptable to be dispensed with, but uses the farce of a judge, a defence lawyer, a prosecutor, and pre-selected approved witnesses to give the process an insulting veneer of judicial legitimacy, but the entire process is politically controlled and the conclusion is a fait accompli. Only those witnesses, or defendants or evidence that would not complicate the actual process of presenting evidence without political interference before the predetermined conviction can be dispensed with is allowed. There is no remote semblance of an independent judicial process, driven by first collecting evidence, which if sufficient results in indictment, and then that evidence weighed impartially and a judgement reached.
This is as opposed to the Maoist style “People’s Tribunals”, which shared a politically predetermined conclusion controlling the judicial procedure, but dispensed with the fatuous irrelevancies of judges and lawyers and witnesses etc and just denounced the already condemned before they did away with them and shot them with a bullet to the head in the public square a few hours after the ceremony took to complete from start to finish.
Both procedures have, obviously, no connection with the legitimacy of an independent judiciary trying to present facts of interest to the common good, but at least the Chinese model didn’t try to dupe people they were doing otherwise, like the United Nations and world community are today in cahoots with the ex Khmer Rouge thugs who run the current Cambodian government.
Pol Pot’s Cambodia bears a stark resemblance to the Kim family dynastic rule that runs North Korea today. There is a reason they were each others closest ideological allies.
Which raises the issue of why? The dirty little secret is that Khmer Rouge weren’t communists. They were Cambodian. In the heart of far to many Cambodian’s, there lurks a Khmer Rouge in varying degrees of dormancy. And while the Khmer Rouge philosophy was on the extreme end of mainstream Cambodian political culture, it fit then and fits now quite comfortably into today’s Cambodian political culture, which is being rehabilitated by the UN court to give it legitimacy and released back to run the Cambodian society.
Who were the Khmer Rouge? Although theoretically a communist party, the personal statements in multiple interviews of all the Khmer Rouge top leaders who remained alive after 1996 (including the five charged and the two alive who remain on trial now), suggest the Khmer Rouge were more accurately characterized as ultra-nationalists and xenophobic racists (with many similarities to fascism) intent on creating their own version of organized power deeply rooted in current Khmer political culture and history based on no external models.
Of the 18 members of the central committee of the communist party that took power in 1975, only four spoke a foreign language. Since neither Mao, Lenin, Stalin, Marx, or Engels were ever translated into the Khmer language, it is hard to argue that the unspeakable failure and suffering that occurred under the Khmer Rouge was a result of communist—or, for that matter, any outside–ideology. The Khmer Rouge movement was in essence very Khmer.
It’s demand for obsequies loyalty to a single entity; its refusal to allow for even internal debate or opposition political thought or organization; its fixation on being a victim of foreign designs or trickery; its racial hatred towards non-Khmer; its unspoken inferiority complex to that of its more properly organized neighbors; its use of harsh violence as a central tool of consolidating and maintaining power; and its belief that it had only to unleash its unique abilities superior to other nations to achieve a superior society than the world had previously known were all central psychological and concrete ingredients of the feudal monarchies and regimes which had preceded the Khmer Rouge for centuries. These were all tenets in the tradition of their predecessors but allowed the Khmer Rouge, with its Stalinist power structure, to metastasize like an inoperable cancer throughout the body politic. Within three years of seizing power in 1975, 18 of the 22 members of the central committee of the Party had been executed or named as targets for execution.
The irony is that, the Khmer Rouge so weakened the Cambodian nation and provoked its neighbors, that it guaranteed the requirement of its delusional prophecy come true–a foreign invasion by Vietnam, not to swallow and eliminate the “Khmer Nation, Race, and People”, as they believed, but to save the very nation and race from self extermination by the Khmer’s themselves.
The Khmer Rouge sought the elimination of any vestiges of recent Cambodian political, social, and economic society. They refused assistance, advice, and even diplomatic relations with most every other nation. They demanded absolute obsequiousness to their policies from the citizenry, attempted to create an agrarian utopia, through “self reliance” based on emptying of the population from urban areas, demanded anti-intellectualism as state policy and demonized all things foreign—particularly Vietnam–as irredeemable historical enemies intent on conquering Cambodia and eliminating it as a sovereign nation.
They families of the entire population were separated, their children taken to live separately in labor brigades in an attempt to destroy traditional loyalties to be replaced by supine and unmitigated allegiance to the party. There was a near total renunciation of foreign trade, foreign expertise, or foreign technology. There was a radical sealing of the borders and all access of information to and from the outside was halted. Their largest manufacturing plant recycled old rubber vehicle tires to make shoes.
Perhaps their primary focus was an impossible to exaggerate paranoia of enemies everywhere, both “internal” from within their own ranks and the external designs of all foreigners as enemies—with a particular focus on Vietnam—who, the Khmer Rouge leadership were convinced, were poised and aggressively intent on conquering and eliminating Cambodia as a nation and the Khmer as a race. As and example, it was central party belief that their was a vast conspiracy by Vietnam, the U.S., and the Soviet Union operating in coalition colluding together and carried out by their Khmer agents who simultaneously were taking order from their coalition of KGB, CIA, and Vietnamese masters. tens of thousands were arrested under those charges, and tortured until they confessed they were true, then executed.
In the process of implementation of these policies they combined the failures of Cambodia’s political culture–of which they vowed to eliminate and instead mimicked and exacerbated–with delusional, absurd, ill-planned and technically impossible utopian fantasies of what they deemed the “Super Great Leap Forward” in an economic strategy implemented in 1977. This was a direct reference to being more capable than China itself (in its Great Leap Forward), the Khmer Rouge’s main benefactor, and was designed to prove their superior talents and abilities demonstrating they were racially, culturally, and as a nation-state more advanced than any other economic model in world history, not just rejecting any foreign model but unsupervised by any Cambodian cadre with foreign training.
They forced compliance to these policies with rule through the centrally directed harsh use of violence and forced implantation of delusional central agricultural, economic, and social policies. They relied on manual labour, and arrested and executed cadre who suggested that mechanized machines such as tractors would be a superior method than the forced labour of a starving population.
When impossible production quotas weren’t met, the KR cadre in the area were deemed as foreign agents intentionally sabotaging the Cambodian nation. These combined to create a recipe destined for disaster.
They allowed no internal debate for their policies contributing to the astonishing failures of central policy as a whole, utter collapse of any normal government functions, extraordinary suffering of the population, a petrified and robotic Party rank and file, and finally a war they provoked which ended in the loss of their country to Vietnamese occupation. These dominant features underlined their tenure in power.
These themes are all consistent with the Khmer Rouge absolute policy of what they called “self reliance-self mastery” and their belief that they were capable of alone creating an agrarian utopia that harked back to their glorious Angkorean past.
Pol Pot’s “Super Great Leap Forward” was an example that Cambodia could make achievements superior to that of even China, and reflected both the fact they were far from subservient minions of Beijing and a psychological penchant for vengeance against all things foreign which, they believed, had stripped them of their cultural and racial dignity.
The fact that Cambodia had been a failed state in the 600 years since the demise of the Angkor empire created an inferiority complex of which they were determined to prove a misconception or a reflection of the rapacious, corrupt, and incompetent rulers that preceded them. In the end, they proved themselves even more incompetent and inhumane than their political enemies. Those who resisted or questioned their impossible vision for a utopia unique in history were often killed with the sincere belief they were enemies of the very Cambodian race, people, and nation.
Ieng Sary may be dead, but those who share this extreme national inferiority complex are back in power. They may have abandoned proving themselves correct as a temporary tactical decision, but the essential strategy to exact vengeance on those they maintain a deeply psychology embedded. seething hatred for, and are determined to one day exact vengeance upon to prove they are correct, remains alive.
Ieng Sary’s death is only near the end of the process of 30 years of avoiding a proper judicial process to avoid having the harsh glare of public scrutiny and self examination that would reveal the dark secret that not five men, but the entire political culture requires it be indicted and examined for anything to fundamentally change.
If the Cambodians in political power don’t want to do so, at least the world community shouldn’t abet and lend credibility to such a process, which it is by funding and sanctioning the current war crimes court.