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Pourquoi les Khmers rouges? Understanding Democratic Kampuchea. Dr Henri Locard

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Published on February 18, 2014

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Pourquoi les Khmers rouges? Understanding Democratic Kampuchea. Public Lecture at CKS Siem Reap with Dr. Henri Locard
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Pourquoi les Khmers rouges Comprendre les Khmers rouges Why the Khmer Rouge Understanding Democratic Kampuchea

What happened under Democratic Kampuchea & why such horrific crimes were committed • The origin of my book, Pourquoi les Khmers rouges (Why the Khmer Rouge) was a request, on the part of ADHOC (Association de défense des Droits de l’Homme au Cambodge) to write a report detailing the reasons why the Democratic Kampuchea regime was so lethal. • That was part of its outreach mission while the Duch trial was taking place at the ECCC. Later, a French publisher made me sign a contract to expand my report into a book. • A History of democratic Kampuchea by Dc-Cam : what happened, not much about the whys. Genocide.

Prince Souphanouvong

Itinéraire d’un intellectuel khmer rouge ou: Les Bonnes intentions de l’enfer • Testimony of perpetrators. See: Red Undertow from Kieng Sieu Lim, 2010. • How a youth became politicized in post-war C. • Years in France; the Marxist-Leninist Circle. “The Parisians” & Angkar, • Beijing In early 1970s • How the Ministry of Foreign Affairs operated, • Negotiations up to 1991 Paris Agreement • DK was divided in 1991-93 and UNTAC did not take advantage of that.

The Khmer Rouge Trap • Much more humane, practical vision of Ministry of Foreign affairs; daily life under DK: children, food, re-education, KR newspeak. • Another view SS who is a “political beast & therefore not a man”. In SS’s memoirs his wife (on the side-lines), but great heroine. • Estranged couple and personal tragedy, rejection of any responsibility for what happened to her: a believer. 1882 photos. Rejection of 1991 letter through Japanese journalist. “I wished to be civil party to the Tribunal: my wish was rejected” (414)

A vade mecum, a handbook, a Que sais-je? about Democratic Kampuchea (DK) • Not claim to bring many new pieces in the DK puzzle – except in my research on provincial prisons-torture-execution centres and the significance of the myth of Angkor for the KR. • My purpose has been to make DK accessible to the layman among the labyrinths of interpretations, revisions and denials. Students, journalists & Cambodia’s watchers or visitors. Most useful researchers David Chandler & Philip Short. Vast amount of life stories of the victims. Perpetrators or KR intellectuals. Some archival material. Living in this country and understanding its culture & history.

Ultra-Maoist revolution • Very banal; but further evidence of this are cropping up all the time. • E.g. the Chinese had the compulsive habit of using code numbers for referring to institutions and people. That was to cloak them with secrecy. Mao was Mr. 87, Liu Shaoqi, Mr. 89. During his first visit in 1965-66, Saloth Sâr-Pol Pot (Ta Pouk, then) could have been mesmerized by this ploy : he would add a 0, one of the most brilliant inventions of mankind, and become “Mr. 870”.

Questionable assertions – Inaccuracies Falsehoods • Falsehoods during PRK regime: “Pol Pot-Ieng Sary regime” – No, Pol Pot – Nuon Chea regime. • One prison: Tuol Sleng  150/200 • East Region milder :  local leaders fled to Vietnam because feared for their life, not because they disagreed with policies. • The KR planned to conquer Kampuchéa Krom. • Was autarkic  entirely dependent on China: AK-47, Kalashnikov. Hoes, bicycles …

Inaccuracies - 1 • A peasant revolution: none of main leaders were from poor farming families. • Freewheeling independent farmers were turned into slave proletarians tied to great machine Angkar. • Besides, the KR did all they could to develop industry, revived factories and built new light industrial centres like weaving or traditional medicine plants. • The model was the Great Leap forward. Marx’s definition of proletarians as the appendixes, simple cogs of Angkar. • No Ministry of Agriculture, just an agricultural committee, with Nuon Suon, purged in April 1976.

Emblem of Democratic Kampuchea

Inaccuracies • There were great regional variations and the big regions were appanages of local war lords. • Not so: the tandem, the duo Saloth Sâr – Nuon Chea have always been in charge since 1960. Only variation: from centre to periphery. • Communications through messengers or radio. Reports. Re-education sessions in the regions or at the Centre. • Highly structured and centralized repression system and Duch, with Son Sen and Nuon Chea at the apex.

Why the Khmer Rouge came to power ? The revolutionary regime could come into existence only through the combination of three factors : the geopolitical context in Southeast and East Asia in the last phase of the Cold War: in particular the capital rôles played firs by Communist Vietnam and next by Maoist China. The existence of a coterie of ruthless politicians determined to exercise absolute power over their fellow citizens, together with the rôle of Sihanouk from 1970 to 1975. The historical, political, religious and cultural environment in Cambodia itself.

All manner of political regimes in the past century • 1904-1947, colonial protectorate, with the King as de facto constitutional monarch and the Résident supérieur as de facto PM. • 1947-1955: a budding democracy with the first constitution and the Democratic Party. • 1955-1970: and autocratic one-party system with the Sangkum Party and Sihanouk as the autocrat. • 1970-75: Second attempt at establishing democracy, but the ineptitude of Lon Nol and the civil war turned the regime in one more autocracy. • 1975-1979: a ultra-Maoist totalitarian communist regime. • 1979-1991: a Vietnamo-Soviet type of communism. • 1991-1997: third attempt to bringing democracy to Cambodia with UNTAC. • 1997-2013: one more autocratic regime along with a de facto one Party-State under Hun Sen who will have been soon PM for 30 years. Today 4th Attempt ? : One-party system or 2-party system ?

Why all the evacuation-ruralisation of the entire urban population? • Not just the capital, not just provincial capitals, but down to every township. • KR said: American bombings; humanitarian, food in the countryside, terrible state of hospitals. Nuon Chea • Real reasons, according to KR: towns a nest of spies and traitors.; in China, revolutionize existing institutions had failed: destroyed mad race with Vietnam: totally collectivize before them. • In fact: KR unable to control cities, unlike Vietminh. Impossible to establish people’s communes. Rice=hard currency. First purge of bad elements: problem had to be solved. Automatic creation of one class: wandering paupers.

External causes: France • France: At the time of the creation of the revolutionary movement, many were ex Khmer-Vietminh, like Nuon Chea, Ta Mok, Mat Ly, Chea Sim, Heng Samrin, Yun Yat, Ney Sarann, Koy Thuon, Kaè Pauk, Sao Phoem etc. Others had been students in France, but not in universities or came back with no higher education diplomas: Pol Pot, Ieng Sary, Son Sen, with two exceptions Khieu Samphân, and Ieng Thirith. All the others were only marginal to the regime: Thiounn Mumm & his brothers (Chum, Thioeun, Prasith) Suong Sikoeun … and none among the decision makers. • For the latter, everything came from France was a model, like the US today – including the fast food. Communism was an ideal. Robespierre a hero.

External causes: Vietnam • The Cold War, along with Lenin could make his October 1917 coup because of WWI, similarly the KR entered PPenh because of the Second Indochinese War: war is the matrix, origin of all upheaval & revolutions. • From the Indochinese Communist Party (ICP) 1930: Christopher Goscha, Stephen Morris & Steve Heder tell the whole story. • The Vietminh routed the inexperienced Lon Nol army in 1971-2, making it possible to handle to The KR marge swathes of rural Cambodia. Only from 1973 did the civil war really become a civil one.

Mao’s China • Some historians and mainly Sihanouk claimed that the Chinese advised the Khmer Rouge not to repeat their mistakes and tread carefully the road to communism. • Andrew Mertha in forthcoming Brothers in Arms: the present day Chinese embassy claims that Chinese aid was purely humanitarian: medicines, rice and hoes to cultivate rice. • Sihanouk boast having been a very intimate friend with Zhou Enlai. Very urbane, diplomatic and clever. What he fails to mention is that Zhou never opposed any of the most radical policies of Mao. Quite the opposite; e. g. during the Great Leap Forward, or Great Famine (Hungry Ghosts of Jasper Becker or Mao’s Great Famine of Frank Dikötter), Zhou insisted that quotas established with Soviet Union and therefore was pushing for greater requisitions: starvation of the people mattered less that the demands of the State.

The two lines • In the 1970s, Mao’s last years, was the years of 2 strategies: the headlong pursuit of demented policies with the “Gang of Four” or the more pragmatic approach to the economy of a Deng Xiaoping. Who had the upper hand and who escorted the KR leaders in their journey or long re-education in China ? • Duch gave the answer at the Tribunal, 30 April 2009: the slogan of “the super Great Leap Forward”. And that was when the country started to make 10 steps when china had only made on. Pol Pot’s theory was more radical that the Cultural revolution and more cruel than the Gang of Four”.

Radicalisation of the radical line • « In Mao’s China, there were 4 classes: the workers, the peasants, the petits-bourgeois, the capitalists. They were represented of the flag by 4 small stars, the large one being the Communist Party. • On the DK flag, there were the 3 towers of Angkor Wat: the central one represented the Party, the two others, the workers and the peasants. • If someone opposed becoming a worker-peasant (kamekâr-kasekâr=proletarian), he became an enemy.

The chain of power: the decision makers & the technicians • Which China are we talking about? That of the radicals? That of the pragmatist? That of the thousands of experts who staffed all technical services under DK? Or that of the decision makers at the time, and Mao himself ? • Mao died just half way through the DK regime, but radical ideas prevailed with his successor Hua Guofeng till late 1978 and the return of Deng. Is not this a curious coincidence that the KR regime collapsed with the collapse of the diehard Maoists in China ?

Mao « the Supreme guide » • Pol Pot: « Chaiman Mao had personally led the famous Cultural Revolution and succeeded in smashing counterrevolutionaries and anti-socialist headquarters of Liu Shaoqi, Lin Piao and Deng Xiaoping.” • His works “summed up the experiences of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin, they illuminate Marxist-Leninist literature and are immortal”. (FBIS, 20 Sept 1976) • Chinese experts in their thousands: military, irrigation and agriculture, communication and railways, health. Well-paid, well-fed, well-housed. Lived apart. Aware people were suffering and helped when Angkar did not see. Kompong Som oil refinery problems. Gone through the Cultural Revolution and some the Great Leap Forward. Submission and loyalism.

Travellers & decision makers • Pol Pot made number of travels and stays in china where he soon felt quite at home: late 1965, 1970, 1975, 1976, 1977.. Some stays secret, some public. Who did he meet? What revolutionary places did he visit? • 21 June 1975: fully approved PP’s radical plans? • Nuon Chea, Khieu Samphan, Son Sen, Keo Meas, Sit Chhê, Ney sarann, Sao Phoem and their children or trainees of every description • In 1965 PP met Chen Boda (Mao’s secretary) & Zhang Chunqiao, a rising Shanghai leader . Kang Sheng ? Head of CPC International Liaison Department & Mao’s security chief. • Approval of launching the People’s war. Unlike Vietnam

A few Chinese radicals who came to DK or/and had contacts with KR leadership • • • • Kang Sheng (1898-1975) Mao Zedong (1893-1976) Zhang Chun-qiao, (1917-2005) Chen Yonggui, (1915-1986), connu aussi sous les noms de Chen Yung-kuei, M. Dazai ou, en khmer, Ta Chay, • Hua Guofeng (1921-2008) • Wang Dong Xing ( 1916-1996)

Kang Sheng (1898-1975) • Could have met Saloth Sâr in 1965-66 at a time when the Cultural Revolution was conceived by Mao and his faithful supporter like Jiang Quing, Chen Boda et Lin Biao: it would make revisionism unconceivable by eliminating all those who were lukewarm about a radical communism. KS was still to be in charge of security during the Cult. Rev. He is the link between Stalinist repression & Maoist. • At his death in 1975, flowers were brought to the chinese embassy with thos words: « Our sincere and deeply felt condolances fot the sad death of his excellency Kang Sheng, this remarkable figure of the Chinese revolution and this comrade-inarms of the Cambodian people. » (FBIS 24/12/75).

• • • • • Political career of Zhang Chunqiao « Le Cobra » or the brains behind the Gang of Four Born in 1917 in Shanghaï. A typical apparatchik : journalist, head or propaganda propaganda à Shanghaï. In 1958, he created the le slogan “Destroy bourgeois ideas of legal property! » and became on of the most fervent partisans of Mao Party Secretary of Shanghai in 1966, met Jiang Qing and launched the Cult Rev in the city with Wang Hongwen & Yao Wenyann. Deputy Prime Minister in 1976 Arrested just after Mao’s death in September 1976 and was sentenced to death like Jang Qing, commuted to life imprisonment. Freed in 1998 for medical reasons and lived in obscurity. Under the new name of Robin Zhang, he created an NGO whose aim was to put an end to purges in the entire word. He died in 2005..

Sihanouk triomphant in Beijing on 11 April 1973, after « the success of his inspection tour of liberated zones in March: Zou En-lai, PM, Li Sien Nien Finance Minister, Zhang Chunqiao & Norodom Yuvaneath (1943).

The leader of the “Gang of four,” Zhang Chunqiao, escorts Prince L Norodom Sihanouk, Princess Monique & Ieng Sary to a banquet in Beijing

Zhang Chunqiao • This notorious member of the “Gang of Four”, had taken a special interest in Cambodia. After having over the years established special links with KR leaders, he came on a secret visit in January 1976. • He was the one who contributed to the first draft of the DK constitution du KID. • He opposed (1971 - 1975) any peaceful solution to civil war. • Information from: A Personal Reflection on Norodom Sihanouk and Zhou Enlai: An Extraordinary Friendship on the Fringes of the Cold War. • Julio A. Jeldres, Monash University

The Constitution of DK : a few elements: • Proclamation of a single unified class (worker-peasant). What happens to the rest of society ?Do they disappear as a class or as individuals ? ? • Total absence of the word freedom or liberty. • Work is totally collectivized . • Art. 12 : « There is absolutely no unemployment in DK » =slave labour for all ? Including children and old people ? • « People’s courts » to try dissidents. Nothing about how they are established & run. • Art. 10: Sanctions: more minor deviations: re-education within the people’s communes. « Hostile & destructive actions that threaten the people’s State will be dealt with by the most severe form of punishment ». Death ? . • Abolition of all traditional religions.

Zhang Chunqiao • Zhang Chunqiao found enthusiastic disciples among the leaders of Angkar, and Pol Pot could declare after that visit : «There is a continuous, nonstop struggle between revolution and counter-revolution. We must keep to the standpoint that there will be enemies 10 years, 20 years, 30 years in the near future … Are these enemies strong or not? That does not depend on them. It depends on us. If we constantly take absolute measures, they will be scattered and smashed to bits » (Short, p. 357)

Hua Guofeng (1921-2008) N 1 from February 1976 to September 1980 • He is the one who lavishly welcomed Pol Pot on 29 Sept. 1977 for the October celebration of the 28th anniversary of Mao’s entry into Beijing in 1949, on the day after his longest speech on 27th • This was the first official journey of the PM. « Tens of thousands are on Tienanmen square to welcome him to express their revolutionary friend ship and solidarity with the Kampuchean revolution and the CPK.” (FBIS, 03/10/77) • HG was dismissed from power by Deng Xiaoping in December 1978, exactly at the time the KR were chased from Phnom Penh.

Chen Yonggui - Dazhai – Ta Chay (1915-1986)

Ta Chai • Slogan : «Learn from Dazhai» was drummed into the Chinese people from to time of the Great Leap Forward to that of the Cultural Revolution. « Implement Mao’s thoughts! » «Move mountains to create fields! », « Work diligently and ardently to turn your village into a Dazhai within 3 years ! ». • Not just manicured rice fields and plentiful crops, but entire irrigation networks in hilly and dry terrain. Magnificent dams, aqueducts spanning deep valleys, workshops; • The whole base on the principle of self-sufficiency and self-help, with no financial or technical aid. • A gigantic fraud: massive aid from Revolutionary Army.

Dazhai in Shanxi province

Ta Chai comes to DK Six weeks after PP’s long stay in China from 28 Sept. to 22 Oct. 1977, Chen Yonggui comes to DK fro 3-15 Dec 1977. He visited all the model sahakor, accompanied by PP, and the 2 deputy-PM, Ieng Sary & Vorn Vet: « realized in 3 years what we could not do in 30 » Admired the complete collectivisation. The model for the KR utopia. Dazhai was discredited from 1980s

Wang Dongxing ( 1916-1996) • Vice-President of the CPC & ex-chief bodyguard of Mao accompanied by Hu Yaobang, future Party General Secretary, made a visit 4 – 8 November 1978. • Wang Dongxing had been in charge of the arrest of the Gang of Four in n1976. • Came to explain to Angkar that they will not send military personnel, and advised the KR to return to guerrilla tactics and kill as may Vietnamese as they could : 50,000. • Lost all power at the beginning of the 1980s.

Internal causes • Political: impossible democracy with the 4 attempts to establish it : 1946-55, 1970 & 1991-97 & 2013. • The rôle of Sihanouk • The criminal incompetence of Lon Nol. • Massive use by the KR of child soldiers and the indigenous peoples of the periphery. • Khmer leaders have always « eaten the kingdom » rather than administer it. Gulf that separates the governors and the governed. • Weak modern State, hence the temptation for total control on the part of the State. • “That thirst for the most pompous titles, honours and powers has already caused many troubles in the kingdom” 30 June 1916 François Baudoin.

Cultural Tension between submission to authorities and a violence that can burst out any time. But submission and the gentleness of the vast majority of the Khmer people leave those prepared to take advantage of power free to exploit the population. An implicit caste system : big people/little people. Fanatical individualism. Collectivism could only be imposed through terror. • Low level of education; prevailing superstitious beliefs: lynching of so-called sorcerers. No Age of Reason or Enlightenment. No Voltaire. • Confusion of chauvinism/jingoism with patriotism and sense of public good and public service. • Tradition of the patronage system and nepotism leading to endemic corruption. Under DK not corruption of money but of absolute power. Led to the abolition of money • Tradition of slavery: endemic in industry and home workshops . A Slave State, Philip Short. • The myth of regaining a lost paradise: return to the grandeur of Angkor or the original communism of the ethnic indigenous groups of the Northeast. The future is in an imaginary past, not in constructing the years to come.

Religious • Ideology becomes a religion and an instrument of political control: Pol Pot-Nuon Chea-ism is similar to the rules of a fundamentalist sect based on Buddhism: generalisation of monastic rules to the entire population who must all become ascetics and … • - renounce all worldly possessions • - renounce all family bonds • - renounce all individual conscience and in the end one’s own self: the dissolution of the individual, of the self in my collection of slogans. • In order to merge into the Supreme being the Angkar-God, to empty one’s mind and slavishly submit to all the diktats of the Party. • According to Short, everywhere communism seized power, it has cast itself into the mould of the dominant religion – Confucianism in China, Buddhism in Cambodia.. • Declarations de Nuon Chea at the Tribunal.

In the end … • .. The ingredients of the Khmer Rouge bomb were essentially an uncompromising Maoist ideology implemented to the extreme degree of its logic, • a strong belief in the matchless greatness of Khmer civilisation able to achieve wonders, • the necessity for the entire society to renounce all pleasures and attachments and become ascetics who withdraw from worldly enjoymrnts, • and in the end a coterie of leaders prepared to see their dreams come true – whatever the human cost. (p. 242)

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