Former King denies responsibility for creation of Khmer Rouge
Former King denies responsibility for creation of Khmer Rouge
(Somne Thmey, August 13, 2007 - translated and published in English by Development Weekly)
A few days after an unidentified group scattered anti-Sihanouk leaflets near Phnom Penh’s Wat Phnom demanding the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) try former King Norodom Sihanouk and China for forming the Khmer Rouge, the retired monarch wrote a letter in French on his website seemingly in response. The six-page-long letter is entitled “Who were the real people responsible for the complete victory and rise to power of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia on April, 17, 1975?”
In the letter, the former king said, “men and women from Field Marshal Lon Nol’s republic groups, have alleged that I bear the greatest responsibility for the matter, an accusation made in early August 2007.” In response, the retired monarch said, “from 1940 to 1950 and 1960, the Khmer Rouge considered itself as my long-term enemy with whom I couldn’t seek compromise and decided to do anything to topple me and dissolve the monarchy.”
“During the Sangkum Reastr Niyum regime, I strongly supported the Khmer Rouge’s young intellectuals. My administration gave them good positions based on their abilities. The Khmer Rouge intellectuals even received positions as chiefs of various services in the Cambodian government. Some worked as National Assembly members, while others were government members holding positions as ministers, secretaries of state or undersecretaries of state,” Norodom Sihanouk said.
“Finally, the Khmer Rouge decided to abandon, criticize and severely slander me. Moreover, they ran into the forest to struggle against Sihanouk and the Cambodian monarchy including the rebellion in Battambang province’s Samlot district,” the former king added.
In 1967 a peasant uprising broke out in Samlot, though its significance was not appreciated at the time, Sihanouk later claimed the attacks had been carried out as a group he labeled the “the Khmer Viet Minh,” or the “Khmer Rouge.”
On March 18, 1970, a military coup was staged by Lon Nol and his accomplices against Sihanouk and the monarchy, said the 85 year-old retired king, adding, “a short time after the successful coup, former senior Khmer Rouge leader Ieng Sary and several other Khmer Rouge leaders went to Beijing. They went there not to support me, but to seek all possible means to establish and operate a strong movement in Beijing against Sihanouk and Cambodia’s monarchy and to use the capital of China as an important base to destroy other nations.”
“With unexplainable excitement and pleasure, Ieng Sary kept on saying in Beijing that ‘[I] would like to say “thank you very much” to Lon Nol and Sirik Matak! The historical coup to overthrow Sihanouk is what we, the Khmer Rouge, never expected. Our fight to end Sihanouk’s regime and Cambodian monarchy is a process which we thought would require a very long time. In regard to the coup by His Excellency Lon Nol on March 18, 1970, we, the Khmer Rouge, had expected to spend at least 20 years trying to get rid of Sihanouk’s regime, Sihanouk’s groups and monarchy,” the former monarch stated. “With the greatest pleasure and unlimited boasts, the Khmer Rouge who supported Ieng Sary but opposed Sihanouk and many other Cambodian royalists dared to come to my residence in Beijing to shout out in front of me “we would have spent at least 20 years trying to overthrow you!”
To confirm that what he claimed is true, the aging monarch said, “Both General Oum Manorin and General Bour Hol, who currently reside in France, can act as witnesses.”
“Since, 1973, the Khmer Rouge never stopped its policy of cruelly destroying anything established by Sihanouk,” the retired king added.
With regard to the Khmer Rouge’s victory in April 1975’s, Norodom Sihanouk said “because the US air forces kept bombarding and destroying our Cambodian people’s rice fields, plantations, villages and properties and lives. The situation encouraged compatriots to join a struggle to liberate their nation from the claws of corrupt traitors whose bosses were imperialists, colonists and South Vietnamese; among those who precipitated hardship, robbery, and destruction of pagodas in Cambodia and who encroached on our villages, communes, districts, land, islands and sea.”
Authorities hunting the leaflet’s distributors
To date, there has still been no light shed on who spread the leaflets though authorities are focused on the investigation, claimed Daun Penh District Police Chief Phorn Pheng. He added that police at all levels have been taking action to uncover the distributors, but that he had very little hope of apprehending the perpetrators.
The leaflets which demanded the retired king and China be prosecuted by the ECCC, come as the Khmer Rouge tribunal is selecting five Khmer Rouge leadership suspects deemed most responsible for the deaths of nearly two million Cambodians during the reign of the Democratic Kampuchea (DK) from 1975 to 1979.
Kaing Khek Iev, better known as Comrade Duch, chief of the S-21 detention center, is the first Khmer Rouge suspect to be charged by the ECCC with committing crimes against humanity. In reference to the claims made on the leaflet, ECCC spokesman Reach Sambath has stressed that the ECCC does not have any jurisdiction to try the retired monarch or China, stressing that “the Cambodian constitution states that the king is inviolable.”
“The jurisdiction of the ECCC can try only two groups of people, top Khmer Rouge leaders and people who bear the greatest responsibility for crimes against humanity committed during the DK regime between April 17, 1975 and January 6, 1979,” the spokesman said, adding that the ECCC is not entitled to try any countries or organizations.
Criticism of the anti-Sihanouk leaflets
Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia (CD-Cam), said the anonymous perpetrators should not have scattered pamphlets publicly accusing the retired monarch and China, reasoning it is unfair to the former king.
“Today, we have the ECCC, so [we] should let the court complete the work,” the director said. The former king has repeatedly said that he is also a Khmer Rouge victim, adding that during the regime he was detained in the Royal Palace and that some of his relatives were killed during the brutal regime. The aging monarch had also demanded the cremation of the remains of Khmer Rouge victims so that their spirits can reach a peaceful place.