Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Truth about Cambodia, Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot by John Pilger

Cambodia, officially known as the Kingdom of Cambodia (Khmer: Preăh Réachéa Nachâk Kâmpŭchéa), is a country in Southeast Asia that borders Thailand to the west and northwest, Laos to the northeast, Vietnam to the east, and the Gulf of Thailand to the southwest. The geography of Cambodia is dominated by the Mekong River (Tonlé Mékong) and Tonlé Sap lake.

The kingdom is a constitutional monarchy with King Norodom Sihamoni as head of state, and Prime Minister Hun Sen as head of government. Phnom Penh is the kingdom's capital and largest city, and is the center of political, commercial, industrial and cultural activities. Siem Reap is the main destination for tourism and gateway to the Angkor region. Battambang, the largest province in northwestern Cambodia is known for its rice production, and Sihanoukville, a coastal city, is the primary sea port and beach resort.

Cambodia has an area of 181,035 square kilometres (69,898 sq mi) and a population of 14.8 million people. Theravada Buddhism is the official religion of Cambodia, which is practiced by around 96% of the Cambodian population. The country's minority people number around 1.9 million Vietnamese, 1.2 million Chinese, 317,000 Chams and over 20 various hill tribes,

Agriculture has long been the most important sector to the Cambodian economy, with around 57.6% of the population relying on agriculture for their livelihood (with rice being the principal crop). The country in the last decade has seen rapid economical and industrial growth. Other important sectors include garments, construction, textiles, and tourism. In 2005, oil and natural gas deposits were found beneath Cambodia's territorial waters, and once commercial extraction begins in 2011, the oil revenues could profoundly affect Cambodia's economy.

The Khmer Rouge period (1975–1979) refers to the rule of Pol Pot, Nuon Chea, Ieng Sary, Son Sen, Khieu Samphan and the Khmer Rouge Communist party over Cambodia, which the Khmer Rouge renamed as Democratic Kampuchea.

The four-year period saw the deaths of approximately two million Cambodians through the combined result of political executions, starvation, and forced labour. Due to the large numbers, the deaths during the rule of the Khmer Rouge are often considered a genocide, and commonly known as the Cambodian Holocaust or Cambodian Genocide. The Khmer Rouge period ended with the invasion of Cambodia by neighbour and former ally Vietnam in the Cambodian–Vietnamese War, which left Cambodia under Vietnamese occupation for a decade.

Saloth Sar (May 19, 1925 – April 15, 1998), better known as Pol Pot, was the leader of the Cambodian communist movement known as the Khmer Rouge and was Prime Minister of Democratic Kampuchea from 1976–1979. Pol Pot's leadership, in which he attempted to "cleanse" the country, resulted in the deaths of an estimated 1.7–2.5 million people.

Pol Pot became leader of Cambodia in mid-1975. During his time in power, Pol Pot imposed a version of agrarian socialism, forcing urban dwellers to relocate to the countryside to work in collective farms and forced labor projects, toward a goal of "restarting civilization" in a "Year Zero". The combined effects of forced labour, malnutrition, poor medical care and executions resulted in the deaths of approximately 21% of the Cambodian population.

In 1979, after the invasion of Cambodia by neighboring Vietnam in the Cambodian–Vietnamese War, Pol Pot fled into the jungles of southwest Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge government collapsed. From 1979 to 1997 he and a remnant of the old Khmer Rouge operated from the border region of Cambodia and Thailand, where they clung to power, with nominal United Nations recognition as the rightful government of Cambodia.

Pol Pot died in 1998 while held under house arrest by the Ta Mok faction of the Khmer Rouge. On the night of April 15, 1998, the Voice of America, of which Pol Pot was a devoted listener, announced that the Khmer Rouge had agreed to turn him over to an international tribunal. According to his wife, he died in his bed later in the night while waiting to be moved to another location. Ta Mok claimed that his death was due to heart failure. Despite government requests to inspect the body, it was cremated a few days later at Anlong Veng in the Khmer Rouge zone, raising strong suspicions. Is he really dead?

Year Zero: The Silent Death of Cambodia (1979)
In one of his earlier documentaries, renowned journalist John Pilger looked at the ravaging effect of the Indonesian Khmer Rouge armies invasion of Cambodia, their overthrow by the neighbouring Vietnamese and the inaction of Western governments to help rebuild the country and restore it to democracy.

Pilger focuses a lot on the poverty rampant in Cambodia and the sights of flea-ridden children and adults may be a bit much for some. Pilger also interviews two former Khmer Rouge soldiers and shames and humiliates them for their actions, including mass murder and torture, right in front of the camera. He occasionally over-eggs the documentary with examples of this and some of his footage can be seen to be a little emotionally manipulative and sensationalistic, a charge he has always had to face in his work. Another example of this is when Pilger interviews survivors of the Khmer Rouge regime including some Westerners who have attempted to help the situation.

This is a very good example of Pilger's emotive, provocative style of documentary film-making. His anger at the situation, particularly in his narration and to-camera monologues, is very, very palpable. He is well aware of the political realities that have led to the situation and ends the documentary on a note that very little has been done to help in spite of the attention he and others have drawn to the country's plight. Now released on DVD, this documentary by a flawed but brilliant journalist is well worth a look today.

Cambodia, Out of Sight (52:05 minutes)
John Pilger vividly reveals the brutality and murderous political ambitions of the Pol Pot / Khmer Rouge totalitarian regime which bought genocide and despair to the people of Cambodia while neighboring countries, including Australia, shamefully ignored the immense human suffering and unspeakable crimes that bloodied this once beautiful country...

Note:  Youtube video seems to have some missing segments of the documentary.
Cambodia, Out of Sight - Part 1 of 4

Cambodia, Out of Sight - Part 2 of 4

Cambodia, Out of Sight - Part 3 of 4

Cambodia, Out of Sight - Part 4 of 4

Cambodia: The Betrayal (1990)
What Kissinger and Nixon began [the premeditated destruction of Cambodia], Pol Pot completed. Had the United States and China allowed it, Cambodia's suffering could have stopped when the Vietnamese finally responded to years of Khmer Rouge attacks across their border and liberated the country in January 1979. But almost immediately the United States began secretly backing Pol Pot in exile. Direct contact was made between the Reagan White House and the Khmer Rouge when Dr. Ray Cline, a former deputy director of the C.I.A., made a clandestine visit to Pol Pot's operational base inside Cambodia in November 1980. Cline was then a foreign policy adviser to President-elect Reagan. Within a year some fifty C.l.A. and other intelligence agents were running Washington's secret war against Cambodia from the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok and along the Thai-Cambodian border. The aim was to appease China, the great Soviet foe and Pol Pot's most enduring backer, and to rehabilitate and use the Khmer Rouge to bring pressure on the source of recent U. S. humiliation in the region: the Vietnamese. Cambodia was now America's "last battle of the Vietnam War," as one U.S. official put it, "so that we can achieve a better result."

This "better result" culminated in the murder of 1.7 million people, more than 20% of the country's population. The "better result" of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, according to the Cambodian Genocide Project, "was one of the worst human tragedies of the last century. As in Nazi Germany, and more recently in East Timor, Guatemala, Yugoslavia, and Rwanda, the Khmer Rouge regime headed by Pol Pot combined extremist ideology with ethnic animosity and a diabolical disregard for human life to produce repression, misery, and murder on a massive scale." Add to this the earlier methodical slaughter of 600,000 Cambodians as a result of a particularly brutal and relentless U.S. bombing campaign. John Pilger again: "Phosphorous and cluster bombs, napalm and dump bombs that left vast craters were dropped on a neutral country of peasant people and straw huts. In one six-month period in 1973, more tons of American bombs were dropped on Cambodia than were dropped on Japan during the second world war: the equivalent of five Hiroshimas. The regime of Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger did this, secretly and illegally."

Part 1 of 5

Part 2 of 5

Part 3 of 5

Part 4 of 5

Part 5 of 5

Cambodia: Return to Year Zero (1993)
Despite condemning the leaders of Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge as war criminals, the United Nations have argued that to leave this faction out of any settlement was to "invite instability". John Pilger looks behind the facade of the peace process and shows how the Khmer Rouge has grown stronger and more powerful since the arrival of the UN.

Children of Genocide - Cambodia (April 1995)
Produced by ABC Australia
Watch at: Journeyman Pictures
Cambodia is a still deeply scarred by Pol Pot's holocaust. More than a million people may have died during his reign. The Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot were at the heart of the circumstances which brought the USA into the Vietnam War - one of the cruelest of the Cold War disputes. This feature paints a picture of a people still struggling to forget the devastation of Pot's own special brand of social reform. Mental illness is rife and neighbour still fears neighboru.

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