Supporting the Khmer Rouge: Conversations with Cambodians

My Friend ‘Sor Hong’ When Young – Proud Khmer Rouge

By Adrian Chan-Wyles PhD 

‘The war cost America around $300 billion. Eight million tons of bombs were dropped on Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia – four times the total amount dropped in the whole of World War II. 4865 helicopters were lost and 3720 other aircraft were downed. 46,370 US servicemen were killed in action. More than 10,000 died in Vietnam from other causes. Over 300,000 were wounded. Some 2500 were listed as missing in action. 695 were taken prisoner in Vietnam, nine in Laos, none apparently in Cambodia.’ 

Nigel Cawthorne: The Bamboo Cage – the full story of American servicemen still missing in Vietnam, Mandarin, (1992), Page 6 

According to Chinese language sources, in a war which officially lasted between November, 1955 and March 1975, the North Vietnamese (and Viet Cong) suffered between 500,000 to 1 million deaths, with probably about 500,000 more wounded. The South Vietnamese (fighting for US imperialism), suffered between 220,357-313,000 deaths. It has been speculated that over-all casualties for the Vietnamese people (North and South) might well be as high as 3 million – which includes around 1 million people ‘still missing’ presumably blown to pieces in the nightmarish US bombing of civilian targets, or lying in unmarked graves hastily dug by US bulldozers.   

The ‘Pheonix Program’ was developed by the CIA as a means to ‘destroy’ the ability of Communists to ‘organise’ at the grass-roots level throughout Southeast Asia (but has also been used within South America for the same purpose). This was designed as an American blueprint for genocide and mass killings with no legal ramifications. Indeed, the effect of this mass killing strategy killed hundreds of thousands of people throughout Southeast Asia, and is an exact ‘reflection’ of exactly what the US government (and its allies) informed the world that the Khmer Rouge had carried-out against its own people within Cambodia (between 1975-1979)! The problem that there is absolutely ‘no reason’ for the Khmer Rouge to ‘kill’ its own population – the population it had just ‘freed’ from the ignorance and backwardness of feudalism and murderous US imperialism – is left unexplained. One fact is beyond dispute, whereas the Khmer Rouge were small in number and never possessed either the ‘will’ or material ‘ability’ to commit mass murder, the United States, by way of contrast, had been committing ‘mass murder’ throughout Southeast Asia probably since the defeat of the French at Dien Bien Phu (in 1954)!  Between 1945 and 1975, the Communist Parties of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia coordinated their efforts to free the region from Western, imperialist occupation and domination. In reality this meant militarily confronting the French and the US – although the US more or less forced Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan, South Korea (which suffered 5,099 deaths), and the Philippines to reluctantly provide small numbers of troops (to give the false impression of an ‘international’ effort), whilst Germany and Spain provided medical units. In the meantime, Socialist Cuba – the small island under an illegal US embargo – provided a detachment of its troops to Vietnam to assist in the ‘struggle’ for ‘International’ freedom! Chinese language sources state that from 1965-1969 there were around 170,000 Communist Chinese ‘Volunteer’ troops fighting in Vietnam (of which 1,446 were killed). However, these troops were withdrawn following the death of Ho Chi Minh as anti-China factions in the Communist Party of Vietnam strove for dominance in policy decisions.  

Until the death of Ho Chi Minh, there was Communist unity throughout what the French called ‘Indochina’. Westerners (including Americans) routinely turned-up to join the Communist Forces and fight US imperialism! Today, and as a response to this type of self-determination, a virulent racist nationalism is propagated within Western countries which is designed to ‘de-humanise’ any perceived enemy of the United States, and brain-wash the youth into mindlessly supporting any aggressive war regardless of the reason or justification. The Pheonix Program was administered by hardcore professional murderers serving in the US Military and Intelligence Organisations. People who were ‘Communists’ were considered ‘sub-human’ and not entitled to any civilised treatment whilst in custody. As most the enemies the US confronted were non-White, the familiar racism of the US System came into play quite naturally. Beatings, bone-breaking, teeth-pulling, burning, starvation, electric-shock, being kept awake and mock executions were all part of the US treatment of Communist prisoners (and probably still is): 

‘The high-ranking communist officer who planned the spectacular attack on the American Embassy in 1968 was kept in solitary confinement in a chilled, windowless white room with the lights o day and night for four years while being subjected to the most ruthless psychological probing. When all attempts to break him failed he was dumped out of a helicopter into the South China Sea from 3,000 feet.’ 

Nigel Cawthorne: The Bamboo Cage – the full story of American servicemen still missing in Vietnam, Mandarin, (1992), Page 16 

The South Koreans operating in Vietnam under US orders, specialised in the interrogation of female Viet Cong soldiers captured in combat. These Vietnamese women were forced to strip whilst a phosphor flare was inserted into their vaginas – and then ‘lit’. Many of these ‘South Korean’ criminals either fought for the brutal Imperial Japanese Army during WWII, or were related to those who had. They had invaded China and participated in the murder of millions of Chinese men, women and children. Asa consequence, their murderous skills were well practiced. What is important is to observe how the murderous tactics applied by the Americans during the ‘Pheonix Program’ are identical to the alleged atrocities said to have been carried-out by the Khmer Rouge between 1975-1979! Interestingly, the US POWs were treated very well due to the fact that many were non-White, and most were from working-class backgrounds. Communist morality ensured their fair treatment despite the hardships the war was causing, or the criminal military activity being carried-out by the American Military: 

‘In the North and on the Ho Chi Minh trail 1.20 North Vietnamese dollars a day were allocated to feed an American POW while only sixty-eight North Vietnamese cents a day was allotted to feed their own troops. In the South 100 South Vietnamese dollars a day were set aside to feed the Americans while only forty-five South Vietnamese dollars a day had to feed each South Vietnamese soldier taken captive. Canned meat, Manioc – the local variety of cassava – and rice seems a pretty standard diet.’ 

Nigel Cawthorne: The Bamboo Cage – the full story of American servicemen still missing in Vietnam, Mandarin, (1992), Page 17 

‘Some prisoners were guarded by women, and though some could be brutal, this usually meant a softer regime. One report talks of a camp in Ha Tay province North Vietnam, where the US POWs got coffee, beer or liquor before bedtime. A movie was shown once every two weeks. There were ping pong, volley ball and basketball for recreation and once a week fifty POWs were taken by bus for sightseeing tours of Hanoi, Son Tay or Ha Dong.’ 

Nigel Cawthorne: The Bamboo Cage – the full story of American servicemen still missing in Vietnam, Mandarin, (1992), Page 17 

‘The military were instructed to protect airmen from angry peasants and even to disarm any locals nearby. The capturing unit was allowed to hold a prisoner for only twenty days to elicit tactical information. After that h had to be passed on up the chain of command. American POWs were also defended from airstrikes as they made their way up the Ho Chi Minh trail.’ 

Nigel Cawthorne: The Bamboo Cage – the full story of American servicemen still missing in Vietnam, Mandarin, (1992), Page 21 

We know from Chinese language sources that ‘Polpot’ (the General Secretary of the Khmer Rouge Communist Party) visited Mao Zedong in Beijing a number of times during the 1970s, and that these meetings were friendly and very much like a ‘father – son’ meeting, where Mao Zedong would discuss current issues and give the benefit of his experience and knowledge about particular situations and circumstances that the Khmer Rouge were facing. Mao Zedong continuously advised Polpot to adjust the ideology of Marxist-Leninism to prevailing circumstances, and through comprehensive debate, always seek the policy best suited to the prevailing circumstances, that relieves the greater number of the people from their daily suffering due to poverty, war and oppression, etc. As time goes by, this policy only strengthens as the life-experiences of the masses improve. Above all, Mao cautioned, Kampuchea is not China, and it is not as simple as just ‘copying’ what China is doing. However, it is clear that after the death of Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam, the policy of the Communist Party of Vietnam changed. The Chinese were immediately asked to withdraw their supporting troops at what might have been viewed as an otherwise ‘crucial’ time for military operations in 1969! This was because the new leadership of Vietnam was shifting toward supporting the USSR and away from siding with Communist China. As the Khmer Rouge (and the Pathet Lao) said loyal to China, this change of allegiance led to tensions between these groups and Vietnam: 

‘Two reports talk of sixty-four American POWs being held in a ‘museum’ near Kratie City in 1971. The NVA and the Khmer Rouge fell out over their fate. The NVA thought they should be taken to Hanoi for safekeeping. The Khmer Rouge said that, as they were captured in Cambodia, they should be kept in Cambodia. However, in 1973 Dr Kissinger maintains that he was told there were no prisoners in Cambodia. 

By and large those that were held by the VC or the NVA were lucky. They seemed to have been relatively well treated and moved on, eventually, to North Vietnam or back to camps in the South. Whether they came home or not is another matter. It is, however, extremely unlikely that any Americans captured by the Khmer Rouge lived to tell the tale. One intelligence document even reports the Khmer Rouge’s tactic of grabbing VC and NVA stragglers – at that time the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese were their allies. They’d hold them for a bit to see if anyone missed them. If not, they’d kill them. The members of a Mike force – a major, a captain and a sergeant – were captured by the white scarf faction of the Khmer Rouge when their helicopter was downed in the early months of 1968. They should not have been in Cambodia and don’t appear to be on the DIA’s missing list and I don’t give much for their chances. A Department of Defense study blithely speculates that it may have been the Khmer Rouge general policy to kill all foreigners.’ 

Nigel Cawthorne: The Bamboo Cage – the full story of American servicemen still missing in Vietnam, Mandarin, (1992), Page 28 

In the above extract we begin to see the US policy of ‘demonising’ the Khmer Rouge probably beginning in written Intelligence documents from around the late 1960s and early 1970s. I suspect that the US was well aware of the change of allegiance by the North Vietnamese as early as 1969, and planned a Vietnamese-led military invasion of Cambodia to ‘crush’ the Khmer Rouge who were still loyal to China. We are told to believe that the Khmer Rouge not only kills its own Cambodian people, but when it is not doing this, it is killing foreigners as well! With such a high body-count it is surprising anyone I left alive in modern Cambodia to tell the tale! The Vietnamese Army invaded Kampuchea in 1979 and stayed until 1989. Cambodian people today tell me that KGB and CIA Agents mingled freely whilst the Cambodian people lived under a harsh martial law. Those who resisted were ‘shot’. The Americans used to joke with the local Cambodians – saying that if they didn’t behave, they would end-up in the ‘bone museums’ that were being constructed! The Americans also established schools for Cambodian children to be indoctrinated with the ‘new history’ that was being fabricated about the Khmer Rouge. The Khmer Rouge were no longer to be viewed as ‘liberators’ of the people, but rather as ‘rakshas’ or demons re-born into human form! If the small number of Russians protested, they were asked to leave. Cambodian peasants were paid to go out into the countryside and gather-up any bones that they could find. These remains were littered everywhere due to the US bombing and US military action carried-out in the country. Sometimes, entire supply-trains were hit from the air killing thousands of Vietnamese (and other people) pushing the bikes laden with supplies. Quite often the bodies were not cleared-up because of the unexploded ammunition and bombs that laid nearby. This often-vast areas of devastation is what the US termed ‘killing fields’, but the people lying dead in them, were killed not by the Khmer Rouge, but rather by the US! This is the position that Polpot held for decades until his death – and exactly the story I am told by the Cambodians I talk to today. The Khmer Rouge fought a rear-guard action and retreated into the jungles where they held their ground for decades, cut-off from the world.  

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